Day 52 and I’m beginning to examine my life, and the role alcohol played in its entirety. I’ve been living in alcoholic systems since I was born. To help myself and others in recovery, and to honor my sweet, beautiful mother, I want to share how alcohol has played a role in the loss of her memory. She is still alive, and I just flew home to spend a week with her, but her memory is gone, and I do blame alcohol for its demise.
First, she is beautiful, as you can see in her wedding photo. She is resourceful, very funny (I can still get her to giggle which is such a pleasure at this point), smart, smart, smart. She was the engine behind my father’s business. And she endured his raging alcoholism for nearly 20 years. Their life together ending in tatters when I was 12 and my father finally finding sobriety at age 50 (and a new wife).
My mother had a hard life yet I used to refer to her as “the richest person I knew.” Her ability to be thrifty and find ways to travel the world (via Friendship Force), host travelers in our home, and engage in civics (city council member of her town) inspired and continues to inspire me. I knew she drank every evening out of the box of wine in her fridge. It seemed like “normal” drinking to me after experiencing my dad’s very complicated relationship with alcohol. I ignored the whispers around town that my mom had shown up drunk. I ignored the empty scotch tumblers I saw in the sink.
I had grown up to adore wine myself, so my visits with my mom reinforced our shared passion for whites. I can remember drinking nearly two bottles with her once she moved into her retirement home after having a stroke at age 70. I can even remember sneaking in a glass of white wine to her in the hospital — that’s messed up. Eventually, fortunately, the drinking started to not sit well with me. I had two small boys and our visits to see her weren’t focused on them. She was often tipsy or just plain, fall-down drunk in front of them. I saw my painful childhood unfolding before my eyes. That was nearly ten years ago. It’s taken me this long to see my role in all of this.
Fairly quickly, my mom’s drinking devolved into fights with the retirement home residents, falling drunk in the lobby needing assistance to get back to her apartment, and nasty arguments with staff. It progressed. She eventually was drinking so much, she was falling in her apartment, one time slashing her ear and trying to hide it by pressing her head to her pillow only to bleed all over her bed and carpet. Thank heavens my brother stopped in for a visit and found her. At the hospital, she tested three times the legal alcohol limit. She insisted she only drank one glass of wine a night (I’ve said that to my doctor btw). The staff at her home found large bottles of scotch squirreled away in her closet. We came together to discuss what to do, and it was decided to do nothing but try to control her access to booze. They put a drink limit on her in the bar.
The situation grew worse. Mom drank so much one night, she somehow managed to pass out in the wicker box which held her pillows. Her shoulders were wedged in, and she couldn’t pull herself out. She was sick and soiled her pants. She was probably stuck for 24 hours. Horrifying. My beautiful, smart, funny mother was being beaten by the poison she was ingesting each night.
My mom is 82 today. I love her dearly. She still inspires me with her dignity to be positive, her efforts to try to read books and carry on conversations. She is a fighter. She doesn’t understand that the biggest demon has been the alcohol. This is the insidious nature of boozing. It’s slowly eroded her short-term memory, and we’re left with talking about her childhood. She no longer even remembers to drink or how to buy alcohol. It’s left her confused and lonely and we sometimes pray for her to die so can be at peace. That’s intense, and I write this with tears rolling down my face.
I am learning from her now. She has never stopped teaching me. I love her, respect her and in no way blame her. Alcohol sucks the life out of us. Time to break the chain.
I love you, mom.