***WARNING*** Graphic content. 18+ (And this is LONG!! Sorry, deal.)
I’ve been feeling down lately. Not only is my youngest son about to turn one, which means my life is basically over, but I’ve lost my damned mind, and I’m actually trying to convince my husband that 4 kids is NOT excessive (he comes from a family of 9, his argument is invalid). It’s also bringing up a lot of feelings about.. The Mother. Her birthday is the day before my son’s. I remember being in the hospital that day, laboring, giving all my hopes to not having the baby on my mother’s birthday, for some silly, superstitious reason, I suppose. And I didn’t, the 2nd came and went, and in the early hours of the 3rd, I had my son after almost 2 days in labor.
We haven’t spoken in almost 5 years now. My choice. My very difficult, painful, well thought out choice. Most people that know me and knew my mom can understand why I don’t speak to her. Her issues as an insane alcoholic were well known in our little town. Like the time she got fired from the brewery we both worked at for behaving badly one day after work, and I went on working there for 5 years. She had gone back in the kitchen that day, yelling at the poor cooks, kids I went to school with, to kill themselves, and that they were gay. It was extremely… EXTREMELY embarrassing. I constantly apologized for her. It sucked.
When I was in high school, like 16, I thought it was so cool that my mom would buy me booze. She worked at a restaurant/bar (of course) and would bring me mixed drinks at my job at the local video rental store. But as I got older, like I mentioned above, it got very… Embarrassing. She started taking pills along with her booze, which just made everything worse. I drank a lot too, and smoked cigarettes, weed, did other various drugs… I was headed down a pretty rough path. I don’t blame that entirely on my mother, but she definitely didn’t inspire or encourage me to be a scholar, or really successful in any way.
Now, I can’t just bad mouth her. That’s really not my intention here. I’m just trying to tell the truth. Living every day without my mother isn’t easy. I literally can’t look at a picture of her without having a really hard time not crying. She taught me a lot of good things too. She taught me to be compassionate. To be strong, that I didn’t need anybody, that I could take care of myself. She taught me to be respectful of my elders, and then some. She taught me about money, about cooking, and how to act really terrified when riding in the car when somebody else was driving. I never knew about the passenger side brake before her. I also learned a lot about anger. She was always quit to hit. She liked to hit with things, like shoes, hairbrushes, hangers… hands were the worst though. I have scars, big and small… it just kind of came with the territory of an abused alcoholic. Like a tradition that was handed down.
My life was a complete mess. I was not set up for success. She did the best she could with what she was equipped with, I know, but she was battling some really tough demons. And I could see that. She couldn’t get drunk without completely breaking down, crying, sad about her life and the bad choices she had made. She told me so much, probably too much. Before I hit puberty, I knew things most 30 year olds have a hard time processing. She was a mother of 3, two sons and then me. Them both from different failed marriages, me from a fleeting romance that barely lasted a summer. She was broken–shattered is a better word for it. And by the time I was 8, she had found someone equally broken. His wife had died of cancer, and he had been disowned by her children. They fit together nicely. Both alcoholics. Both desperately in need of a shoulder to cry on. He was shorter than her, something that always puzzled me, I thought that was just… Hilarious.
But they both needed help, and certainly didn’t need the added stress of raising a child that neither of them had planned on. My mother was 30 when she had me, which isn’t old, don’t get me wrong, but my mother had back problems, nerve damage, she never played outside with me, or took me to parks. Life was spent inside. Or I went out alone.
They moved us all over the place. From Colorado, to Montana, and back again. They never could sit still. Always running from a past they couldn’t escape. Embarrassing nights when the cops were called, step dad taken to jail so many times, I can’t remember how many. The neighbors knew they fought, there were always holes in the walls, doors were kicked in, threats with his dad’s old .45, they even had a helicopter and the news crew out to our house one night. Yeah. It was great. A real-world whirlwind romance.
So when I turned 17, I got my GED and moved out. Life was all too real already, I couldn’t stay any longer. I was starting to have some real emotional issues, and they were too busy to notice, to care, and too damaged themselves to do anything to help me. So I got my own place, had some roommates, drank too much, got kicked out, found another place, drank too much again… Started my own bad patterns… Then, of course, I got pregnant. I was never really instilled the importance of a strong relationship, so of course I wasn’t in a relationship with the guy. We hooked up, I got knocked up, and convinced myself it was a bad decision to get an abortion. Even with my life a mess, and poor teachers, I thought I was capable of the hardest job in the world.
It took me two years of failure to realize I could not do things the way my mother did. I broke down, waaayyy down, and chose to pick myself up and do better. I got myself into the community college, eenie-meenie-mynie-moed myself a career choice, and started classes. My mom had been surprisingly supportive during my downfall, and my climb up. She was proud of me. She offered to help watch the kiddo so I could do something with my life, to make his life better. But I made a mistake. A very stupid, selfish mistake. I trusted her to be responsible. I trusted her with my child. I was somehow under the impression that she was an ok person to leave my kid with. The mess, the alcoholic, pill popping, lying addict. I really thought she could maybe be “good grandma”. I was wrong. I was so, so sadly wrong.
I came home early from class one night. I thought maybe I would take us all out to dinner, celebrate how good I was doing in school, and to show her my appreciation for her help. Boy is that NOT what happened. I walked in the door, and there she was, splayed out, draped across on the couch, my 3 year old pulling on her arm, begging her to get up. The oven was on, the door on it ajar, and a frozen pie on a cookie sheet sat on the stove. I was… in shock. I remembered things like this. It had never been scary to me before. I learned how to deal with situations like this, they had been happening all my life. But I stood there, so angry. I calmly picked up my son, took him to the car, ( my wonderful then boyfriend, now husband was out there), gave him a look that he immediately understood, and I told him to stay in the car and that I would be back. I walked back in my house, and she was already cowering off to her room. I stopped her, and probably wrongly, I railed, and yelled, and cried. How could she do this to my son!?! How could she get so fucked up?? He could have gotten hurt, she could have burned the house down… Or 500 other scenarios. I was so upset. I just left her there. Crying, feeling sorry for herself. I took her keys away, and told her to sleep it off.
After that, I made arrangements for alternative childcare. I was not going to let her bullshit fuck my world up again, and I was not going to let her hurt my son. We had talks, I told her we would be taking a break, and she was never, EVER, allowed to be alone with my son again.
Several months went by. And life happened, as it does. I had spent a lot of time pushing my boyfriend away, explaining to him, over and over again that I was broken, in need of major repair, that I was just unable to be in a relationship with him. Then… Life really happened. My step dad had hired a woman to do some work with him, he was a self-employed contractor, and at the suggestion of a neighbor/friend, he hired this man’s rehabilitating daughter to help out on some jobs. Well, I guess she was so great, he decided to cheat on my mom, and eventually leave her for this woman. My mother fell apart. She refused to acknowledge that the relationship with her and my step dad was severely flawed to begin with, refused to take any responsibility for the failing of her marriage (like she had always done with the others) and began to drink and pill pop her sorrows away. And while I was out of town one weekend to visit my grandmother, I got a very vague, scary phone call. My mother had fallen, and she was in the hospital. I rushed home, and walked into the emergency room to see my mother strapped to a gurney with a neck brace on. She had gotten drunk at a party, and fallen down a flight of stairs. She broke her ribs, which punctured her lung, and had a really bad gash on her head that required staples. She was hospitalized for a week. I was there every day, sometimes all day. We talked a lot about how she needed to get help for her drinking, how she needed to probably seek psychiatric help, as we had done many times over the years but that this time, it was serious. This time, it had to actually happen. How she needed and deserved to get better, and how I should not quit school. The step dad came back into the picture, and drove her home from the hospital, claiming he would move back in to help her, even though he didn’t even help carry her things to the car. I did. And I was terrified that this would only make things worse.
It did. He was no help at all. I still had to come over every day, I still had to do all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and after a week, she made him leave. And as the weeks went by, I helped her. I took care of her. I bathed her. I dressed her… I helped her on the toilet. She was my mother. I loved her. It didn’t matter that she had done so much in my life to break me, to hurt me… I just wanted to help her. I wanted it so badly, I started doing poorly in school. I expected her to start getting better, but it was very slow-going. And I did my best to be helpful and understanding. The weeks kept rolling by, but she was only getting more dependent on the pills she had already had a problem with. She then decided they weren’t giving her enough, and had me drive her to a second doctor in the next town over to get another prescription for the same medication. During this time, she ended up suing one of her only friends for insurance money to pay off her hospital bills. She won. $80,000. $15,000 went to hospital bills, $6,000 to her lawyer, and the rest, she pulled out of the bank and put in a safety deposit box in an effort to hide it from the government so she could keep collecting unemployment. I was disgusted.She started shopping a lot, getting her hair done, buying face cream at $30 a pop… jewelry, clothes… it was gross.
I kept waiting for the compassion to kick in. The sensibility, the strength. It never came back. I still did her grocery shopping, she insisted it was too hard to do, made her too tired (although, amazingly, she could always make it to the liquor store, or to the hairdresser). I ended up paying for a lot of it myself without repayment, as she always promised, “I’ll pay you back later this week.” I guess later this week did not mean ‘in 6 days.’ It meant never.
Three months went by, and during one of her now regular teary, sometimes unintelligible rants to me about how shitty her life was, she admitted to me that she only had about $10,000 left. Though that number changed several times, up, down.. I didn’t really hold her to it. I didn’t really care. I had been busy, remodeling boyfriend’s house so we could sell it, and move. We set our sights on far, far away. We bought a tent trailer from a family member, and started packing. She seemed happy, and even claimed she wanted to move too, to start over. To get better. By the end of it, she had done nothing to make it a possibility for her to move. When it was clear she was going to stay, we offered to sell her the house for next to nothing before we sold it to somebody else, but she refused. She actually ended up convincing me that I owed her money, from paying my car insurance when I was in high school. I gave her $5000, and told her to never ask me for a dime again, and acted flat-out shocked when I handed her the cashier’s check, like she had never said anything… like I was just being a crazy bitch. Her mind was gone by then, so that might be true. She may have completely forgotten. I didn’t care. I just wanted to be done, with no strings, nothing left for her to hold over my head.
And I remember that day, when we said goodbye. I knew it would be the last time I would see her. She didn’t. I felt that it was better to cowardly let her drive away after giving her house back to the bank and deciding to move to Denver to be with her mother, that it was hard enough without making it unbearable for her by telling her i never wanted to see her again, and she would never see her grandson again either. She stuffed food in her mouth as she exited her car, to cover up the stench of the booze on her breath. She hugged my son, almost dropped him on the ground, and acted like it was just another day. There were no tears, no emotion. She didn’t seem sad at all. Just focused on covering her ass, hiding her cracks. She got back in her car, I hugged my brother, who had quit his job to help her sell off her shit and move in with her mother, and told him to be strong, that I loved him…. On their drive, she was so drunk that she almost went off the road, almost got in a head on collision, when my brother made her pull over and ride the rest of the way in the moving truck with him. I talked to her one more time, over the phone of course, asked her how the drive went, and obviously she lied, probably embarrassed, she never told me that my brother would have to go back 150 miles, in a snowstorm, to get her car, because she was just too wasted too make the whole trip without endangering her life, and the lives of others. Me and my brother always told each other everything. So I knew before we even got on the phone…
Two weeks later, me, the boyfriend and my son moved to Texas. I got several calls that I sent straight to voicemail, the first few just normal calls to say hello and see how our move went, she sounded sober. I was happy for her. I had high hopes that she would get better, but I just could not talk to her. Then the calls kept coming, I kept sending them to voicemail… and they progressively sounded drunker… she begged me to call her… then the messages got angry. She demanded to know what she had done wrong. She asked why I was doing this to her. Then… the calls stopped. I changed my number, moved several times… and it was actually… really quite easy. I just never called her back. For the first few months, I convinced myself I just needed a little time… I just needed to get my own shit together, and then.. then I would call her. My brother asked several times if I was going to call her because she wouldn’t stop calling him, crying… I said I would but I didn’t know when. He told me she had gotten back with the step dad, and the other woman had moved away. He explained that she was getting worse, that he could not take it anymore… that he never knew it was this bad, even though I had told him so. He tried to be a strong son, and stick with her. Eventually he had to walk away too. He still asks if I am going to call her, as he still calls her from time to time, on holidays, birthdays… But it’s been 5 years. And although I get updates from him, and have heard other random things from mutual friends, our relationship has basically dissolved. I have had 2 more children, she has never met, maybe she has seen pictures? I don’t know. I didn’t send them. I am fairly certain she knows about them. And I know it sounds very cruel. Very heartless…. My intention is not to hurt her… that’s not what this is about. I feel like… it’s about protecting myself. And protecting my children. It’s so hard to know when to let go. But someone once told me, “It is nearly impossible to save someone from drowning. They are so frightened, they will usually just pull you under and you will drown too.” I just couldn’t do it. I swam away. I feel horrible, intensely guilty. It hits me often, not as often as it used to. It’s getting better… sometimes it gets a little worse, and I have to tell myself to keep swimming. That it’s too late for her. That there’s nothing I can do. I can’t drown to save her.
And that’s my long, sad story about my mother, and addiction, and abuse, and the circle… I still have a hard time going outside. I have this very weird, awkward fear of people, of public. I don’t hyperventilate or anything, but it’s uncomfortable. My heart about beats out of my chest every time the doorbell rings. I make my husband answer the door if he’s home. I like to keep the curtains drawn. It’s hard to go out in my yard.. I don’t want to talk to my neighbors. I can’t shake the feeling that they look down on me for being the daughter of an abusive alcoholic, and that I should be ashamed. It still feels like I am there… with her… locked up in a dark house with too much fear and anger. It’s suffocating sometimes. But I do my best to overcome it. I try to walk around my yard at least once a week. I take cookies to the older couple next door… I wonder if I will ever not be this way. I can only try to leave it behind. I still don’t know if I will ever talk to my mother again. I have morbid thoughts about her death, and possibly going to her funeral.. and what that would mean, how it would feel… what it would do to me, if anything. All I know is that I love my children, and I definitely don’t want to be anything like my mother. But sometimes I hear her voice in mine…. sometimes I get too angry about somebody making a mess, or at my husband for some stupid thing I shouldn’t get mad about… and I have to go away, scold myself. Remind myself that I am not normal, and that what feels normal is not, at all. So I will just keep trying, taking it one day at a time. And maybe someday I will see her again. Maybe I won’t.