When I was a child I remember promising myself thatI would never drink when I grew up. I would never make another innocent being go through the distress that I went through with my own parents. I remember how ugly they seemed to me when they drank, how unreasonable, how heartbreakingly alien, how incompetent. I remember how threatened and abandoned it made me feel.
Why then, years later, did I dish out this same kind of misery to my son? I still hear his little voice calling to me, begging me to "WAKE UP, Mommy. WAKE UP" Then I would hear him cry. I would manage to slur out "Jus'sa minute Honey.
Jus'sa minute." Then I would pass out again. I remember the time I was waiting in a car for him to arrive on the school bus.
I had already secured a bottle of fortified wine for myself, (more punch with fewer glugs, I reasoned,) but I was feeling shaky and thought of how much easier it would be to greet him with the full flush of alcohol swimming in my veins. I heard the bus pull up. This was my last chance to fix myself. No, it would not be right. Yes it would be, a split second still. No.
Yes. I jerked the bottle up to my mouth and took three good gulps. He came up to the car window and said "I could kill you." His friends on the bus had asked him if his mother was a drunk. The reason it happened? Nothing mattered more at that moment than physical and mental relief. My insides were screaming and I was desperate to stop the pain.
I was so fraught with the same agony years later that I ducked into a theatre restroom and guzzled an entire bottle of the same poison. I had to hurry, because my son was waiting for me on the other side of the door. I couldn't continue to carry the awkward container tucked into my coat.
I did not want to throw any of the "precious" stuff away. I dared something dangerous and I could have fallen asleep sitting with him during the show. I would have been oblivious to his pleas for waking me and after the show he would have been left with strangers to take care of his problem. I could have gotten into a wreck on the way home. As practicing alcoholics we don't drink to have fun.
We drink in order to function and to find temporary mercy from our acute agony. No matter how much we are loathe to do it, once that deadly chemical starts to leave our systems we are hurting and we will even betray the ones we love in an effort to stop the pain. Our body cruelly overpowers our mind.
I don't have to hurt like this any more and I could burst with gratitude. I have been sober now for years and I kiss the universe every morning for giving me one last chance at life before it was too late. Feeling the way I do now, I look back with regret on all the times my son and I could have had fun together, I could have reassured him over and over that he could trust me, I could have let him know how much I loved him. How was he supposed to believe any of that when I kept choosing addiction over recovery? I cringed right in the middle of every empty promise. Why did it take me decades to finally find this peace? I don't know. That is the brutal mystery of chemical dependence.
The one thing that finally was no longer a mystery to me was the realization that if I didn't put any of it in my system I was not going to squirm and ache and shake and crave more. The trick is just figuring out how to not need it. The good news is that the less we use it the more awesome everything becomes and the more we really don't need it. We start responding to life with emotions other than anger and fear. We discover confidence in ourselves.
We comprehend the feeling of joy. To any one who still suffers and is convinced that there will never be any hope, please take heart from my words. There really is a way out. Sobriety is easy. It is not the horrendously deprived condition that I always imagined it to be.
It is the gift of having things work out, of having intuition, judgement and appreciation. After being in an emotional straight jacket for so long, the release is like being set free in paradise. And it never gets old. It just keeps getting better.
Nature is very forgiving. Eventually we begin to forgive ourselves. I hope, over the span of the rest of his life, that my son will forgive me too.
Olga Moe lives on an island in the Puget Sound. She is known mostly for her fiction contributions to literary e-zines which can be found at zelda2530.tripod.com