I remember crying. Bitter tears. Angry tears. I thought of myself as a victim and I wondered what I had done to deserve the kind of life I was living.
I remember screaming in the living room, pleading for her to choose me over the bottle. I called her selfish in between sobs and then ran out of the house, slamming the door behind me.
I remember finding empty bottles under her pillow and at the bottoms of laundry baskets.
I remember feeling hopeless.
Some stories are beautiful, but not mine, I thought. Some people get happily ever afters, but not me. Life had looked the same for 22 years. How could things change now?
I came home on my 22nd birthday to her sobbing. She pulled up her shirt to show me the bruises up and down the side of her body. She could hardly stand. The house reeked of vodka.
I hated that day.
When I called the next morning, she told me she was going to start treatment. I told myself not to get my hopes up. We’d been here before. I learned at a young age to accept most promises as empty. Words were just words. Sweet like honey to the ears, but never satisfying.
Two weeks later, she started outpatient treatment. I called to ask how it was going and she said she liked it. When I came over a few weeks later, we sat out in the backyard together.
I laid in the sun while she worked on an art project for treatment. She grabbed a big rock from the back of the house.
“Don’t you think this looks like a cat?!” She had a huge grin on her face, but I couldn’t hold in my laughter for long. “Mom!!! That’s a rock! It looks….like a rock!” I said in between laughs. “Oh you just wait. Give me a minute to paint it.”
An hour later she showed me the cutest, funnest, greatest cat-rock I’ve ever seen in my entire life. My insides were bursting at the seams with joy as I watched my beautiful mom, with clear eyes and a big smile, express herself through art…something she hadn’t done in years. She is so talented and so fun. I owe every ounce of my creativity to her.
That was in August. Tomorrow is November 22nd. It’s her birthday and it also happens to be her six month mark. Six. Months. Sober.
I’m crying today, too…but these tears aren’t bitter. They aren’t angry. Or hopeless. They are full of joy and hope and pride.
I used to tell people that I just wanted a mom. I wanted someone to look up to and admire. Now I know I have that. I used to think that I became strong and resilient in spite of growing up with a mother who is an alcoholic. Now I know that I’ve learned that resilience from her. I used to think that her drinking was selfish. Now I know that the world doesn’t revolve around me and she was loving me the way she knew how despite facing a relentless and brutal disease.
I guess my story is a beautiful one after all.