Becky Says...

February 2005

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Of Growth - February 7

As I write this, it's very late. I'm just going to lay out the words and not worry too much about the flow. I thank you in advance for reading, and I apologize for making that a little hard to do.

An alcoholic was killed in an automobile accident today. In and of itself, that fact is sad. A behind-the-headline of it is that he was the husband of someone I know online, and I had known for a short while of his troubles with the substance.

It is hard for me anytime I have to deal with the topic of someone being an alcoholic. And that topic has been in my face for a while now, in terms of my local friend (whose sobriety hits eight months tomorrow), and in terms of people I mainly know online. I do any such dealing because I know how hard it can be for those who love an alcoholic to cope, and if anything can be learned from my experience, or any support felt, I'm glad to share.

The topic itself depresses me. The memories it dredges up, of being the child of an alcoholic mother, horrify me. I rarely tell people that she nearly burned the house down one night, and that had I not smelled the smoke who knows what would have happened. I rarely tell people of the times I was called on to lie on her behalf. ("You can't tell anyone I drink; they'll tell it all over town and I'll get fired.") That, by the way, is the root of why I so deeply hate lies.

I rarely tell anyone that my mother drank herself to sleep, rather than participating in my fifth birthday party. It was saved from being a disaster only because an adult friend of ours knew what was happening and took over the hostess duty shortly before the guests arrived.

I rarely tell people the horror of realizing that as her child (and for that matter, my father's too, but he had been in recovery a lot of years by the time I was born) I have a higher-than-average chance of being the next alcoholic in a family filled with them.

I rarely tell anyone how damned angry the whole thing makes me.

But there it is. I am the child of two alcoholics, one who was in recovery the whole of my years with him, so his drinking did not directly affect me, and one who started drinking to excess in my presence when I was just past age four and who continued to do so until I could no longer take it when I was eighteen. At that point, I told her that she was on her own if she drank. That I would no longer cover for her, and that I wished her well.

It was difficult, but I meant it. I would hang up on her if she called me (I was in college) and I could tell she was drinking. I found some moral support for myself. I realized that I would fight against becoming an alcoholic because I consider myself a creative person and I did not want that creativity to be tainted by booze. I buried the whole thing pretty deeply inside myself, and began actively avoiding being around drunks if I could help it.

I won't say I never drank too much; I did a few times in my twenties. But I never developed a craving for it, and I decided that stopping that particular behavior was a wise thing to do, before I had a chance to get hooked. I do drink occasionally, but so rarely that I can tell you dates (last drink for me was at my fiftieth birthday party in 2003).

The outcome of Mother's drinking was that at some point a few years after my declaration of Beckyian independence she told me that every time she had a drink of alcohol it upset her stomach, so she used that as a reason to refrain. I don't know, to this day, if that was the truth, but it worked for her and it accomplished what I wanted to see, a sober Mother, so I never challenged it. She never thought of herself as an alcoholic, and I never pushed her to do so.

And I'm writing these words this late night to acknowledge that my past and present coming together has left me raw and having to work extra hard to grow up all over again. It has made recent depression episodes harder, I've realized. But there is much strength and growth in the realizing, and I'm determined the growth will continue.

Text © copyright 2000-2005 Becky