Last night, I sat beside Mom at my cousin’s wedding reception.
We talked like a healthy mom and grownup daughter do.
How’s work? How’s So-and-So? We laughed as we shared stories with my sister’s boyfriend.
It was pleasant, warm and comfortable there with sweet Mom. Real Mom. Sober Mom.
For those few hours, I could pretend that is the only version of Mom I’ve ever known. The kind of BFF detailed on Mother’s Day greeting cards.
But at around 7:30 pm, I anticipated the change and it came right on schedule. Like Cinderella’s midnight, at that hour, Mom’s “normal” turned to uncomfortable eagerness to go home that I could sense instantly. Fellow adult children of alcoholics know all about this hyper-awareness of their alcoholic parent’s behavior. Mom needed (physically, mentally) to start her nightly drinking routine. She became quiet, antsy and irritable. And instantly, I was on edge – distracted from the celebration and thinking about Mom’s behavior. I worried she’d give off a vibe to our family that she wasn’t having a good time and hurt their feelings. Also, part of me feared she’d decide to drink, though it’s been 20 years since she last drank at a family gathering or event. When I share this fact with people, they are surprised. She only drinks at home? Alone? Yes.
For most of my life, the hurt of being mentally separated from the celebration and dealing with the behavior/mood switch would make me angry and frustrated. Why does my mom have to go away like this??!! Why can’t we consistently have this version of Mom? It isn’t fair. It hurts.
Last night, I felt sadness and acceptance. Sadness that a drug has control over her body and mind. Sadness that my mom has addiction, alcoholism, a substance abuse disorder, significant unresolved pain inside that she self-medicates using alcohol.
This is the kind of intense sadness I’d imagine people feeling when their parents have any destructive disease or health problem. And then I reminded myself, like any kid powerless against what afflicts their parents:
This is Mom. She will always be shared. Half ours. Half controlled by a powerful substance.
In accepting this, I am free to appreciate and celebrate the moments in which we have Real Mom all to ourselves.