Living with an alcoholic mother is like riding a never ending roller coaster of despair and hope. At certain times, my heart sank from the terror and anxiety of anticipation for what crazy new thing mom was going to do later while acting all “goofy.”
Sometimes during the good times, I found myself rising up, and up, just along for the ride, feeling exhilarated and joyful, with just a tinge of suppressed fear mixed in. Within our families twisted world of denial, I often thought on those illusionary days, “I’m not afraid, I’m having fun!” Today is a good day, right now is all that matters!” On those days, I felt hopeful that mom might actually want to stop drinking.
On the other hand, on those days after a particularly despairing night, I did not feel as willing to play that not so fun game of pretend. These were times when she might have said things like, “What’s the matter honey, you seem so sad today”, after completely forgetting about the night before when she not so gracefully tumbled down the stairs in her drunken stupor and proceeded to slap me in the face after I angrily pleaded with her to “stop doing this to us.”
During the fun times though, when we were on our “A game” with the pretending, she was, believe it or not, my best friend. She was concerned, caring, fun, adventurous, and a great listener. She was always known as the “beautiful” mom, and the “fun” mom, who was always friendly and nice to those around us. I admired how she talked so nicely to the store personnel and grocery workers. She was full of charisma and charm, and was always ready to find the bright side of any situation.
I began attending Al Anon and counseling when I was a young teen in order to better cope with all of the emotional difficulties that comes with living with an alcoholic parent. It was during that time I began to realize just how important and necessary it was for me to have strong faith in my life.
It was at Al-Anon where I learned that my higher power could restore my sanity (step 2). I learned how to turn my life over to the care of God (step 3), and I began the practice of making a regular searching and fearless inventory of myself (step 4). After awhile, I began to seek through prayer and meditation to improve my concious contact with God (step 11). Some of my favorite Al-Anon slogans got me through many difficult days and nights. I still love, “Get out of the driver’s seat…let go let God”, “Replace guilt with gratitude”, “You are not alone”, and “If it isn’t God’s will…I can’t make it happen”. My very favorite slogan though, is “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.”
I began to utilize prayer and devotion in my life more frequently, and I started to notice how it seemed to help ease my fearful and anxious feelings. Attending mass every Friday at my Catholic grade school with my class became my saving grace. It was during those times that I learned how to talk to God on a more deeply personnal level, most especially after my nights of despair. I remember gazing up at the beautiful statue of Mother Mary throughout mass, which was displayed right to the left of the altar. It was during those moments where I began to establish my strong relationship with and devotion to our Blessed Mother. The soothing, bright colors of the stained glass that lined the sides of the pews comforted me, and made me feel at peace and loved. I would look up at those loving, shining faces of the saints and I felt at home…believing that they were watching out for me and loving me.
Throughout my life, my faith in God has evolved and has been strengthened, granting me with a joyful and lasting hope. This transforming peaceful hope is something I would not trade for anything in this world….not even for a mother who no longer suffers from Vascular and Alcohol Induced Dementia, as my mother is currently afflicted with now. Hope changes everything, as is expressed in my favorite Biblical verse:
“We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these trouble produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts.” Romans 5: 3-5