Filling in the Blanks: Confronting Alcoholism

A Grown and Flown friend and wonderful writer sent us this heartfelt post about her painful moment of truth with alcoholism.

mother and toddler

When I introduce myself from here on out, I am supposed to say, “Hi, my name is ______________, and I’m an alcoholic.” That’s the first step, according to the brochure some nice woman handed me as I entered my first AA meeting day before yesterday.

As I have left that space in my introduction blank, it’s fairly obvious I’m not all the way there yet. That step, and all the subsequent ones I’m going to have to tread, are not entirely clear to me yet.

It’s not that I have any doubt that I’m an alcoholic. I know what alcoholics look like, and they look a heck of a lot like me. And my mom, and my aunt, and my grandfather, and my cousin, and my great-grandmother. I am well-acquainted with alcoholics, and the specter of all those slurry words and empty, glassy stares loom large in my childhood memories.

I hated it. Hated them sometimes, and I swore that no matter what, I’d never end up like them. I’d never allow my children and grandchildren and nieces and great-grandchildren to equate me with “alcoholic.”

For a long time, I simply avoided alcohol, figuring that would be the best way to circumnavigate my inheritance. In high school and college, I was everyone’s designated driver, the responsible one who, as a bonus, could lord all that moral superiority over my drunken classmates, mother, and grandfather, knowing I was above all that. I would never be like them.

When I had my own children, and it came time to deliver an ultimatum to my mother – she’d have to choose, alcohol or her grandchildren – I had already begun to slide down the same slope she’d traveled. I knew I was slipping, and I knew where that slope led, but to reveal that reality to anyone else would be to admit I might just be like my mother, and I was too angry at her to allow any such comparison.

When my children were young, avoiding that comparison was easy. My children were too little and too oblivious to comprehend how many glasses of wine I’d had. I figured I’d get the drinking back under control by the time they were old enough to be observant. Because, of course, I could stop any time I wanted to.

I just didn’t want to.

This year, we started to talk to our oldest, very observant child about alcohol. We were matter-of-fact and blunt. Alcohol has had a tight and devastating hold on both sides of his family for generations. We told him that it’s going to be very important for him to pay attention to his drinking. To know the difference between social drinking and problem drinking.

Yes, very important, I repeated, as I sociably sipped my wine.

Three days ago, sociability slipped into problematic which slipped into unconsciousness, and I was careless enough to let that happen in front of my entire extended family. I’d like to say my observant eldest child did not notice, but I have no idea. I don’t remember. That’s a blank, too.

The next morning, my father informed me that I’d have to choose – alcohol or them – and I chose them. I cried, threw up, showered, and drove to my first AA meeting. My husband offered to go with me, but I knew these were steps I’d have to take alone.

When I walked into that church basement, packed with one hundred other alcoholics, I wasn’t fooling anyone. No introduction was needed; I was simply one of them.

This weekend, over a dinner without that problematic glass of wine, I will have to look my son in the eye and say the words that fit into that blank up there at the top of this page for the very first time. While I am scared to death, it will be a relief. It will be the end of ten years of sliding and the beginning of my journey back uphill.

My son introduces me to his friends as many a lot of things – mother, wife, writer – and I I’m incredibly proud of those labels. Proud enough that I refuse to allow this newest label to obliterate everything else I’ve worked so hard to become. I’ve finally done the math and figured out that the only way I get to keep those other identities is to admit the word “alcoholic” to my list of identities.

Because when my son is my age, I want him to be proud of me, particularly if our mutual inheritance grabs hold and threatens to drag him down. As his mother – particularly his alcoholic mother – the most important gift I can give him is the power of my example to guide him if he ever stumbles upon the treacherous terrain of our family’s well-worn slippery slope.

We thank Alpha Mom for giving us permission to run this piece and the photograph after it originally appeared there.



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Comments

  1. That was a brave first step. I’m proud of you for making it, and for being honest about your struggle – here, and more importantly, with your child.

  2. Wonderful, very honest article. You are one incredible mother, I can just tell. You are in my prayers.

  3. As one who has been there, I want to say welcome. You will find what you need. Your life can become better than you ever dreamed. Just keep going back. Keep going even when you feel like you are a walking open wound. Because, if you’re doing the work, there will come a time when you feel like that. Keep going back then, too. You’ll find others who can apply salve to that wound. Sending good thoughts your way.

  4. I commend you for getting help. I quit drinking about a year ago. I too thought by the time my children were old enough to recognize what was happening I would be able to control it. Took a while to get to the point of realizing that abstaining is the only way to “control” it. It’s difficult but so worth it to remain sober. I wish you well on your path.

  5. Congratulations on taking that difficult first stop! I wish you the all the best in your struggle.

  6. This is beautiful, brave and I wish you many blessings as you change your life. It’s a hard road, but your insight can be a good guide.

  7. Janie Emaus says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this important story.

  8. I wish the writer the best of luck.

  9. Congratulations on taking that step to get help…I can’t imagine it will be an easy road, but definitely one that is worthwhile! I am sure it was difficult to share your story.

  10. This was beautifully written and spoke right to my heart.

  11. So well-written and honest. Addiction comes in many forms – alcohol, drugs, tobacco, food…confronting those demons and admitting to your powerlessness over them is the first step to recovery. Best of luck to you!

  12. Good for you! I have walked in your shoes as a child, grandchild, niece, sister of alcoholics. It is the one thing my family seems to excell at. I can relate with everything you wrote and I am so happy for you that you are taking the first steps to heal yourself. You and your family are in my prayers and I wish you true success in overcoming this disease.

  13. I recently read that the largest segment of the US population to see an increase in alcohol problems are Mothers- of all ages and at all stages of rearing children. And so many Mommy Bloggers seem to brag about it. You are very brave (who ever you are) for writing this piece, and thank you Lisa for sharing it here.

  14. What a big step – acknowledging you have a problem with alcohol and then doing something about it !
    Good luck ! Sending heaps of positive energy your way !
    Me

  15. A very honest, powerful piece! Thank you for sharing!

  16. Natalie DeYoung says:

    I am one of them, too. I did the avoidance-thing too, then the careful-thing, but it didn’t work – it eventually caught me. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story – we are not alone.

  17. As the daughter of an alcoholic mother, who literally drank herself to death, and a mother of adult sons….this post is chilling. Your insight is amazing. Thank you for your bravery, and best wishes to you.

  18. I’d like to applaud the writer for this honest article. You are a brave woman and mother. Kudos!

  19. Ann says:

    Your article made me cry and smile at the same time. Posting it shows great courage and is such a positive step towards better things. Almost seventeen years ago I stopped drinking. I cannot imagine what my relationships with my daughters or my family would have been like had I continued to drink. I probably would not have one, I probably would not be allowed to see my grandchildren, I would not be married, and I, most likely, would be dead. During moments of weakness, try to envision your future relationships and what you want them to be…because that is what you are shaping today. I am so happy for you and excited for you to discover how wonderful life is again! God Bless You!