The Day I Met Empathy

It only took one look for me to know. Her eyes met mine for a brief moment and then quickly moved down to the floor, full of shame. The smell of vodka filled the space between us.

I felt the burn of anger and the very real sting of disappointment deep inside me. She had made it almost seven months without a drink and now here she was, stumbling around the kitchen while I watched without a word.

I left the house and got in my car, unsure of where I was going but certain that I needed to go. My prayer was short, “Help me to love her well in this moment.” I rolled the windows down and listened to the familiar hum of the tires on the pavement.

I asked God to give me His eyes to see my mother and immediately felt my anger start to dissipate.

You see, my mother is a depressed drunk. I grew up hearing her say things like, “I just want to die. I don’t want to be on this earth any more” as she moved from the couch to her bed each day. In high school, her words would throw me into fits of rage. I attributed her desire to die to selfishness and a lack of love for her children. In truth, the vodka my mother consumed in an attempt to escape her sadness ironically filled her with sorrow and extinguished her ability to enjoy life and believe in herself.

Last year around this time, I trudged through a horrific season of depression. My energy level was at an all-time low. My motivation was non-existent. I was unhappy, full of fear. There were days that I laid in bed, paralyzed by doubt, thinking, “I just want to die. I don’t want to be on this earth any more.” My thoughts had nothing to do with selfishness or whether or not I loved others and had everything to do with the giants I was facing in my own heart. I was exhausted. I was running away from God. I was enslaved by the chains of wanting approval from others. I was completely and utterly depressed.

Oh, how my mother must feel. To be battling the darkness of depression, in addition to battling her addiction.

Every trace of disappointment morphed into empathy at that moment. I get it. I understand.

What a beautifully brave woman for making it seven whole months without a drink. What a strong woman. The type of woman I could learn from. The type that should be  admired.

I turned the car around and headed back to the house with a new prayer. “God, may you drain my mom of the sorrow she feels and fill her up with your magnificent and unrelenting love. May you make her brave. Lighten her heart. May you take her burdens away.”

That will continue to be my prayer, on the days when my mom is sober and the days when she has had a drink, until she is healed from her sickness.

My God is big. He is mighty to save. He broke me free from the chains of my sadness and I am confident He will do the same for my mom. “For I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” // Psalm 27:13

Here’s to you, mama. May you be set free.

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