- Mental Health»
Addictions Affect Everyone
People aren't bad, but addictions are.
I am an adult child of an alcoholic. My mother was an alcoholic. Alcoholism, like any addiction, doesn’t just happen overnight. It is something that is triggered by something else. The specific trigger is different for everyone. But the common denominator is that a person starts drinking to escape the pain of a situation, or several situations.
The chemical make up of alcohol acts as a depressant on the body while numbing the pain at the same time.
Even though alcohol is classified as a depressant, the numbing effect and the lowering of inhibitions, is what draws people to drink in the first place. Alcoholic type beverages in and of themselves aren’t bad. Wine, even though it is an alcoholic beverage is used in religious ceremonies. I know I probably just opened a can of worms on that last statement. However, no matter the ceremony, the wine is a symbol nothing more. And no matter the ritual performed with the wine, when tested, the chemical compound will still say that the liquid in that ceremony is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented fruit called wine.
The substances that are used in any addiction cover up and numb the pain of something we aren't ready to face yet.
My mother didn’t start out as an alcoholic. I know it wasn’t her intention to become one. The death of my 4 month old brother in 1973 from spinal meningitis, then her blaming herself for his death, and my parents subsequent divorce, which is another type of death, were contributing factors that I believe led her to try and numb the excruciating emotional pain and guilt with alcohol. In 1973, there wasn’t much in the way of support groups, and going to a counselor was very much looked down upon, and you were thought to be crazy. The mindset in those days was just have another child, it will be alright. But it never really is alright again. In those days you just smiled and carried on as if there wasn’t a thing wrong.
When alone, the demons attack with a brutality that will destroy a weak person.
My mom was a young, beautiful divorcee, who had girlfriends, in similar situations, who were also young and beautiful. On the weekends, my mom and her friends, would split the cost of a babysitter for us kids, then go out and have fun.
Then as is apt to happen, her friends started finding boyfriends, and getting remarried. But for whatever reason, my mom didn’t find the right one for her. And her very best friend got married and moved to another state. To ease the loneliness and numb the pain that she was no longer distracted from, she started drinking at home. After a while it started affecting being able to keep a job, and being able to take care of us, which prompted my dad to get involved. Eventually because she couldn’t care for my sister and me because of her addiction, my dad got temporary custody. And Mom had to attempt to find her way back to sobriety. Needless to say, sobriety and my mom were tenuous friends at best, and she never regained custody.
My mom was what is known as a binge alcoholic. That means she could go for long periods of time without touching a drop of alcohol. I think the longest period where she didn’t drink was two maybe three years. There isn’t a logical solution or reasoning as to what would trigger episodes or what would keep the episodes at bay. It changed all the time. I got to the point where I could predict when she was about to go into a binge. When I knew she was about to, I didn’t call her, didn’t go to see her, and I didn’t take my children to see her. One of the times when she was coming off a binge, Mom told me she was glad I didn’t bring the children around her during a binge, and that she didn't want them to see her like that.
She knew she had a problem, she tried many different times and different programs to quit, but for the longest time, the disease was stronger than her will to give it up.
Sometimes it takes another painful situation to make one face the pain of the first situation.
Mom passed away from Ovarian Cancer in 2005. But she finally was able to deal with the main trigger of her alcoholism about six months prior to her passing, which was the death of my brother.
I would go over to Mom’s quite often to help with the basic household chores that were difficult for her to do because of the cancer. During one of the visits, she and I were folding laundry. Of course we were talking about different things, she started talking about my son and kept calling him by my brother’s name. As gently as I could, I told her that she was calling my son by her son’s name. When it sunk in what she had been doing, Mom burst into tears, apologizing over and over, and I went over, hugged her and told her it was okay. That was when she finally grieved for my brother, and let go of the guilt she had carried with her all those years, and she was able to move forward.
The last 6 months she was alive, she was sober, happy, and spent quality time with her grandchildren. No longer having the guilt she had felt for so long after my brother’s death holding her back, she got as close to my son, her grandson, as was possible. At the end my mom was saved and found her worth again because of my son, and it was a beautiful thing to be able to witness.
The life long effects of having a parent with an addiction.
There are studies that suggest that addictions can be passed on just like brown or blue eyes. I believe there is truth in this. But it isn’t the addiction itself that I want to write about. The emotional toll goes beyond what anyone ever really thinks about. Alcoholism or any addiction for that matter, doesn’t just affect that person, but affects everyone around them.
For many years, I didn’t bring alcohol into my house, especially when my mom lived in the same area, just in case she came over, I didn’t want her tempted. And for the longest time I refused to drink alcohol in front of my children. Now I will have a drink or two, but not more than that, partially because it doesn’t take much to get me tipsy or drunk and partially because I don’t want my children to have those type of memories of me.
Many years ago, when a friend and I were talking, they mentioned something that was and in many ways is still true today. This friend was a mutual friend of my sister and I, and they noticed that my sister had a fear of commitment, and I had a fear of abandonment. My sister has overcome that fear and is married and has a step-son. I think I’ve tamed the fear of abandonment, but I know it’s still there. I have to force myself to take a step back and let people go out of my life, if that is what is meant to happen. The fear of abandonment unfortunately also means that you keep people in your life who are toxic, abusive and want to bring you down with them. The hardest part for me was learning to let go of those people who want to bring me down with them. I’ve finally learned to let people know I will not accept being treated disrespectfully. Some have appreciated this change and are still in my life, others didn’t appreciate it when I would stand up for myself to them and they walked away. It was never easy, but always made me feel better about myself.
Addiction is not a choice one makes, sometimes the substance makes the bad feel good which can be it's own blissful intoxication.
There are people out there who think addiction is a choice. In many ways it is a choice, but at the same time it is not. The choice is to “try” the alcohol or drug, the part that is not a choice is how quickly the body develops a need for it to deal with something.
Addictions come in many forms, some more harmful than others, but all exact a toll somewhere. Addiction is a clever thief. Not only does it rob you of control, it will rob you of finances, and quality time with loved ones. A friend described their alcohol addiction as one is too many, and at the same time, that one is not enough. This can be easily said of other drugs, one hit is too many, and one is not enough.
The pain I felt for having an alcoholic mother is nothing compared to the pain she felt being an alcoholic mother.
For many years, it hurt knowing that alcohol was more important to my mom than I was. But as I grew older, especially after I had children, and my first marriage was starting to unravel, I understood the allure. I also realized how strong my mother truly was. It wasn’t that the alcohol was more important, it was more like she couldn’t help herself sometimes. Being a binge alcoholic, the day to day stresses were sometimes difficult and my mom had found little ways to cope with those and forming a routine helped immensely. Then there were the other times where not even the routine would help, and the urge to drink was too much for her to bear.
I’m not bitter, and I don’t hate my mom for her addiction. It was just something that was a part of my life growing up. As the situation was, I believe, and will always believe I was blessed with the best mother, even with the alcoholism. I still have issues, and I’m working on them, and those issues do affect my children, because I am their mother. I have learned I can’t sweep their Nana’s alcoholism under the carpet any longer, because if the studies are correct, they need to be able to learn positive outlets for any problems or difficult situations that life may hand them.
When we become adults and are grown, we have the knowledge to know what is good and bad for us. It's not the government's job to babysit and tell us what we sh
Ironically, there are people who assume, I would believe that alcohol should be illegal along with the other drugs out there. Nothing could be further from the truth. Alcohol and a few of the lesser drugs like marijuana, aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves, but it is how they are used. My thought is this, all things in moderation, because too much of anything good or bad can be detrimental.
Even with all that happened, as much as I would like to say I would change this one thing about my mom, I’m not really sure I would. I didn’t really have a “normal” childhood, but I had as normal a childhood as could be, given the circumstances. Over the years though, I’ve heard and read in several different movies and books: Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life getting over. A truer statement has not been uttered.