A part of my own life story that I rarely talk about is that I grew up with an alcoholic grandmother. The effect of experiencing alcoholism in the family didn’t really become apparent until I was older, however I do have distinct memories at various points throughout my childhood of less than rosy moments.
There are times I remember spending time at my grandparents house, and when my mom would pick me up she would ask my grandmother about what she was drinking over and over. My grandmother would reply that it was just coffee. I wondered why my mom was so concerned about the number of cups of coffee my grandma drank that day while I was over and why she threatened not to bring me back because of it.
I remember my grandmother asking me the same questions over and over and over and over again within the same visit. I thought she just had a really bad memory.
I remember several family interventions. Some at my grandma’s house, and one in particular at my aunt’s. They were always the same – stories, tears, denial, and a refusal to acknowledge or change.
As my grandmother got older she was placed in a home when it was clear she needed more care and wouldn’t be able to live on her own any longer. The pleasant side effect of this was that the amount of alcohol she was able to consume in a day was dramatically reduced. I felt like for the first time in my life I got to meet the real person that existed before alcoholism took hold of her life. She was funny – like stitches in your sides from laughing so hard – funny. She gave good advice. She was kind and loving and clearly cherished her family more than anything. I’m glad I got to know her in this way before she passed.
As for myself, knowing that alcoholism in the family can be genetic, I chose not to drink at all until I moved to Calgary in 2006. I was 22 years old before I really had any alcohol at all. To this day I never drink more than a glass or two at most at a time and have never been what would be considered “drunk.” There is too much carnage in my family in the wake of alcoholism and I would never take the risk that I ever might fall under the same spell.
Today…I am so pleased to bring to you a guest post from a mother who is brave enough to share her own story of alcoholism in the family. It is a story of despair and hope and recovery. If you are struggling with similar demons, know that you are not alone and there is help available.
How Treating My Alcoholism Made me a More Present Parent
Guest Post By: The Recovery Village
Although I thought I had it all together, I was a wreck. I could go days even a week or two without drinking at all but then I would have something go wrong and I would be right back at it. In my mind, I was not an alcoholic. In my mind, I was not an absent parent. And in my mind, my kids never saw me drink. But I was wrong. I didn’t know how wrong until I started treatment.
The day I finally realized that I was spiraling out of control was my youngest child’s birthday. The cake I ordered was wrong. The store was out of numbered candles. Things were going all wrong and it was still so early in the day. My mother-in-law called to say that she was not going to make it to the party after all but would drop by sometime over the weekend. Sighing, I mixed a little bit of vodka in my soda. Just enough to take off the edge, I told myself. I was going to get through this day and I was going to do it totally sober.
I was wrong.
In the time between me bringing the cake home and the hour leading up to the party I managed to drink the rest of the bottle and start on another. My husband woke me up, obviously angry and disappointed in me. None of the decorations were up. The cake was a melting wreck on the counter. The phone was in the sink, ruined. This time there was no hiding my condition. The bottles were in the pantry. My mostly empty and ever present “soda” cup was beside me. I was full on, slurring my words, staggering around drunk and in one hour there were going to be a dozen small children whooping and having a good time.
I needed help.
My husband and his brother ran through and got up all of the decorations. They made a quick run to the store and bought a generic cake and got back in time for the first guests. Me? Humiliated and terrified, I spent my son’s entire birthday in my room glumly staring out the window and wishing I was a better person.
After the party ended and my kids were all in bed I heard my husband plodding up the stairs. By then I was relatively sober or at least, not nearly as drunk as I had been. He spoke softly, his voice quavering with raw emotion. He blamed himself, he said, for not saying something sooner. He should have confronted me when he first started noticing the drinking. He should have never let me get to this point. I was shocked. I had thought I was so clever all this time.
I had fooled only myself.
We spent that evening draining every bottle of liquor in the house. We talked about what I needed to do to get better and then him and I called an alcohol addiction treatment center together. We all agreed that it would be best if I started my journey away from home. I kissed my kids and then I left them.
But, you see, I had left them a long, long time before that.
When I came back I was dedicated to making up all of my lost time. The time I lost with my kids because I was trying to figure out how to get alcohol or how to hide what I was already drinking. The time I lost with my husband because I was in bed, already trashed by the time he came home from work.
I go to plays and school events now. I sit and play board games and if my soda cup is with me, it is soda. I struggle from time to time but seeing my kids smile and laugh helps me to stay strong. They count on me to be a good mom. I count on them to help me be a good mom.