Submitted by Hope of A Song Not Scored For Breathing
"I'll never be like her! Ever."
Those were the thoughts I had when I left home two months after I’d turned 18, bound for a college as far away from my drunken mother as I could get. Six months earlier she had set me up to babysit for a man who she knew had a thing for young women and with whom she’d had her own affair. The second time I babysat for him he raped me. Desperate for affection of any kind, I entered into a relationship with this man who was 15 years older than me. I never confused his attention with love. I just wanted to be wanted by someone. Sometimes there was money exchanged for sexual favours. It was a soul killing relationship.
I came home on my 18th birthday from a school awards ceremony to find my birthday cake on the counter, still in its cellophane wrapping and my mom passed out in her bedroom. My bus driver had taken me to the bar after the ceremony to celebrate my 18th birthday. I was terrified I was doing something wrong and only ordered a Coke. I had no desire to drink. I certainly wasn’t going to be like my mom.
The second month I was in college, my new best friend suggested we buy a mickey of rye. I have never forgotten that wonderfully warm flush that hit my face after my first taste of booze. I was comfortable in my body for the first time in my life. I fit in my skin finally. What a relief. My half of the mickey was gone in about 15 minutes. I phoned my new boyfriend (a classmate of mine) who reminded me that I didn’t want to be like my mom. I was none too happy with him for reminding me of that. I hung up and relaxed into that sweet feeling.
After that I drank on weekends when a bunch of us girls would go to the bar. Sometimes I drank at my boyfriend’s apartment. I could go weeks without drinking, but once I took that first sip I never had a plan for when I would stop.
A year and a half later I married a different man. One I had known since I was 14. We had been pen pals and had resumed a writing relationship during my first few months of college. So desperate to be attached to a man I broke up with my college boyfriend in the morning and was engaged to my pen pal boyfriend that night. I stayed in college and my pen pal fiancée drove 2500 miles back home to wait for me to be done school so I could join him.
We eloped shortly after I arrived in his home community. Five days after our wedding we went to a birthday party for one of his friends. In the corner of the room was a Texas mickey - one of those giant never ending supplies of whiskey. I don’t remember a lot of that night other than I made inappropriate comments to strangers and have a big gap in my memory of what happened.
I went for long stretches of time without drinking. I had several miscarriages and eventually had three full term pregnancies. I didn’t drink with two of those babies. With my oldest son I drank when I was newly pregnant, before the test came back positive, and had half a bottle of beer when I was 9 months pregnant. I mention that only because I still have moments when I feel bad about that.
Once in a while I thought maybe I had a drinking problem. It was okay for me to wonder but heaven help anyone else who wondered for me! One night we went to a bush party and left our newborn son and his 2 year old sister in the car while we partied. During the night as I took our son out of the car to feed him I remember a lot of women scowling at me. I thought to myself, "What’s your problem? I’m feeding my baby.”
The day came when I told a new friend my story of childhood sexual abuse, about the rape when I was 17 and about my drunken mother who used to beat me and my siblings. I had never spoken of the whole story before and having that pain rise to the surface just about drove me crazy. By this time I was abusive to my own kids. As I shared with my friend I had a moment of clarity when I realized if I didn’t change things then my daughter would sit across the table from someone one day and tell the exact same story of having a drunken, abusive mother. The cycle would continue. I nearly went out of my mind because I knew that on my own strength I had no hope of changing. God knows I had tried.
Within a few weeks I was in Al-Anon – certain that my problems were my mom’s fault and if I went to Al-Anon then I could fix her and all would be well! I can laugh now but at the time I was so sure I had found the solution. Of course it wasn’t long before I learned that all I could change was me which was both a relief and a bummer.