Hi. My name is AJ and my mother is an alcoholic.
For as long as I’ve known my mother she has been an addict in some way or another. Before I came along it was heroin. After that it was marijuana. Now it’s alcohol. But when I was little and we first moved to California I remember living in a constant state of fear. For a long time she was a dealer.
And while her supplier was never mean to me, (I remember one time I found this black and white kitten in one of the driveways behind our apartment complex and quickly named him Oreo. But Buster, my big fat gray tabby with eyes the color of grass, did not take a liking to him. So we gave little Oreo to her supplier and he paid me $5 for taking such good care of his new companion.), you knew that he meant business. I know he was a little crazy in the head. I know he took steroids. I know he was a man not to be reckoned with.
At a young age I worried about my mom all the time. I worried that she wouldn’t come home, I worried she’d get arrested. I knew the consequences. But as I got older I started taking more responsibility. Sometimes she’d leave me at a softball game and my coach would take me with him when his family went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, (it was my first experience with authentic Chinese). Sometimes she’d come home so drunk that I had to undress her and get her into bed. Sometimes she didn’t come home and I’d call every police station and hospital asking if she was arrested or hurt.
I don’t think she ever realized how much anxiety she caused me. Her motto was, “No news is good news”. I could never come to terms with her addictions. One time she was so drunk that she left me at the skating rink. Finally at 2 a.m. I called the police and asked for them to give me a ride home. Another time she refused to pick me up at a friends house. Around midnight I started walking and ended up hitch hiking home.
Then in one year she lost everything. Her supplier. Her business. Her friends. We lost our home and lived in a motel. For some time I had to curl up in the backseat of a Dodge Duster and sleep in the car. And for a while we stayed at her job only after everyone left. Of course, we had to be out of there by 5 a.m. when people started to file in through the doors. Most nights I ate baked potatoes, potatoes are cheap. Sometimes I had noodles. And other times, well, I just didn’t bother to eat.
After Shawn and I met and moved my mother wouldn’t move with me. I gave her the opportunity. The stipulation of not drinking never crossed her mind. She holds a death grip around a tall can of Budweiser.
Two nights ago after taking me to the doctor, for yet another problem, she drank 5 beers and about 3 shots of Southern Comfort that had lingered in our cabinet for months. I tried taking her keys away from her. I begged her to stay. I bribed her with clean laundry, Sweet and Sour chicken, a warm bed and me dying her hair. She resisted. Jem followed her to her car and said she was walking into things. Shawn followed her home, again. Not five minutes after they left he called to tell me to call the sheriffs. She was going 80 on the freeway and swerving in and out of traffic.
The hardest thing I’ve ever had to done. I called the CHP, crying. When they asked me if we knew the person in the car I replied, “It’s my mother”. The police never did catch up to her because she took off in another direction and Shawn couldn’t find her. She left him a voicemail, “I’m home. I’m in the driveway. I’m fine.”
But she’s not fine. You see, I can no longer tolerate the disease that is affecting us all. I have been blamed for her being the way she is. I’ve done this to her. I won’t accept that. So I got to work and took a few sheets of copy paper and began writing. I let my words unfold. I let back no detail of my disappointment and hurt. I placed the blame on her, her behavior, her choices. Ending the letter was the hardest. I have finally said what I’ve always wanted, needed, desired, to say. That as long as she chooses alcohol as her friend, companion, drug of choice, I cannot, and will not, be her daughter. That as long as she must drink herself in a stupor that she is no longer my children’s grandmother. I can no longer be her mother. I need her to be mine.
I have to move on. I have to protect my children. I will never allow her to put the pain and hurt into my children that she has caused me for 28 years. I try to remember the “good” times, but they are veiled by the “bad”. I want a mother so badly that it hurts. A mother that’s happy to make me teddy bear pancakes for breakfast. A mother to help clean my wounds. A mother who reads to me at bedtime. A mother to confide in. Just a mother. I know now that I have to be this kind of mother to my children.
Lastnight I lit some candles. To bring me some peace. To bring me some light in the darkness that shrouds me and suppresses my true self. I hope that she will encounter some light and ask for help. I will be here if she does.