Monday, April 25, 2011

Judgment Games

***Submitted by Susan, who blogs at Writing My Way Sober

I read this in the newspaper yesterday:

Police said they arrested a young mother after she abandoned her 2-year-old son at the side of a busy street on Tuesday. The woman who rescued the boy, said she found the toddler crying on Irving Boulevard and Prescott Drive at 3:15 p.m., and stopped to help him."I think he's not 2 ½ years old and he was just crying and crying and crying. He said, 'I don't want to be with my mom anymore,'" When she asked the boy where his mother was, he pointed at a woman walking unsteadily away from them."She was weaving all over the road. She was walking, but she was going all over the road."

Police said they found the boy's mother, a 21-year-old passed out at home. Officers said they couldn't even wake her up, so they had to call the paramedics. Police said that the mother's blood alcohol content was .29 -- four times the legal limit.
My first reaction after reading this was instant judgment. I felt intense anger at the mother and equally intense sadness for that little boy. I was self-righteous. Indignant.

Then I remembered that she and I share the same disease. My anger skidded to a humbled stop.

I started to wonder about that 21 year old girl. What has her life entailed? She was only 18 when she got pregnant. There is a good likelihood she comes from a severely alcoholic family. I wonder how old she was when she had her first drink? I wonder who gave it to her? Why did they give it to her? I wonder if she is all alone in this world.

I've been wanting to write a post for some time on how happy I am that my 6 year old daughter no longer pretends she is drinking. She has not "played drinking" for months. Out of all the benefits of sobriety, this, hands down, is the best. She used to say, "I'm drinking wine, Mommy", or, "This is vodka.", sippy cup in hand. My response? Chuckling, rationalizing it away. Within deeply ashamed denial, I would simply adopt the logic that Europeans who aren't as alcohol-phobic have lower rates of substance abuse.

Meanwhile, a fist was clenching tight in my sickened gut, knowing that children of substance abusers have higher rates of substance abuse themselves. Knowing, as a Guatemalan native, my daughter has a higher risk for alcoholism. I would picture her alcoholic future but shake it out of my head. I would imagine losing her to addiction, knowing I couldn't live with the guilt. Did this make me quit? Not right away, no. It was easy to just take another sip - make it all disappear.

How can I, of all people, judge this struggling woman? How?

What I want to do instead is wonder: How can I help her?

Here is my small start....

By not judging her.
By not pretending I am better.
By praying for her, hoping for her, dreaming for her, singing for her.
By continuing to write as honestly as I can about the truth of my own disease.
So that other women like her won't feel so alone.
So they will know that sobriety is possible.
So they can tightly hold their children again - open, whole, and unashamed.


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  2. Well said, it's so important to remind ourselves of where we came. To remember how dire our circumstances really are and never allow ouselves to go back.

  3. I saw your comment about your daughter "playing drinking." I realized something wasn't right when my son thought every cold can contained beer. We were at the school where I teach and I went to get a coke and he said, "I want a cold beer too, Mommy." So yeah, I may be older, but I have been this 21 year old girl in many ways. I've done things that make me cringe and amazed that we're all alive. I am scared for my children. I don't want them to be drunks. But, yeah, you're right. We're all the same. We're alcoholics. I hope she finds help. I truly do.

  4. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for it. There is no tragedy that I am immune from should I pick up another drink.