One of my best friends is newly pregnant and, although she's heard the stories of my kids being born at least a couple of times, she is newly interested in every detail. Although an amazing time, the birth of my first son is painful to remember in many ways because it was a time that was particularly messy with my mom's alcoholism. The months that I was pregnant was a slow and tortuous build up of her drinking getting steadily worse and worse. Our relationship was strained at best and I felt helpless as I was so ridiculously codependant, taking everything she did and said as a personal attack...rather than understanding she was lost in her own mess.
My water broke three weeks before my due date. After I was at the hospital, I called my mom to tell her I was in labor, but to PLEASE not come to the hospital. At the time, her drivers license was suspended because of her most recent DUI, so I thought I was safe telling her. Before I knew it, she was in my room, being dropped off by a friend. It was 9am, and she already reeked of alcohol. The day I was supposed to be focusing on one thing, my mind was wrecked with her sitting drunk in my hospital room. Once my stepfather arrived several hours later, he convinced her to wait it out at home, and I was very grateful for this. In the moments after my son's birth, she swooped into nuzzle in to him, and I grimaced with the thought of her somehow tainting him with her alcoholism. In that moment, something changed. She could mess with me all she wanted, but I would never let her hurt him.
On the day my husband went back to work after taking the first two weeks off with me, my mom and stepdad offered to come over to make dinner. As always, I began assessing her behavior the moment she stepped out of the car. I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized she wasn't drunk, and enjoyed the time with them giving me a break. She pushed me off to the bedroom for a nap while they cooked and occupied the baby. Just before I walked out of the kitchen, I mentally marked the half-full wine bottle that my husband had left in the refrigerator. When I woke up 2 hours later, the smoke alarm was ringing, and I ran downstairs in a panic. Something my mom was cooking was burning, but everything was fine...except the mental mark I had made on the wine bottle was far above where the liquid had now settled and my mom was staggering around the house. True to how I usually dealt with these situations, I didn't say a word...just silently stewed in my anger. "How could she do this to ME?" I thought, so relieved when they finally left. I finally decided to do something about it. The next day, I stormed in to her house and confronted her. I told her that she had broken all my trust by drinking around the baby, and I wasn't sure where she fit in to my life anymore. She looked at me with her mouth wide open as I walked out of her house. That night, she tried to commit suicide. After the unsuccessful attempt (the third in the last 10 years she had made), she went to a 30 day inpatient rehab for the first time in her life. During the family weekend, I traveled to the out of state facility and watched as she had once again spun her web around her fellow drunks and users, her counselor, and the entire staff. She was proclaimed healthy and ready to come home. I started letting her see Finn as long as she was supervised...and it didn't take long for her to get drunk while watching him again.
I'd had enough. Really. I wrote her a long email and told her that I wasn't willing to see her again until we started therapy. I was tired of the lies, tired of keeping quiet, tired of pretending there was not something terribly wrong with both her AND me. She didn't write me back for 2 months. In the meantime, I started seeing a therapist who was skilled at dealing with families of alcoholics. I had a purpose: How do I heal from everything my mom had done to me. It became clear quickly that my therapist had another purpose: Get me to see how I had contributed to the mess. ME!? I was appalled! I spent the first 3 sessions telling her all the ways I'd been wronged. After each story, she asked me, "And what did you do afterwards?" and the answers varied from nothing to crying to sulking to angry outbursts. The obvious pattern emerged...and I began to change. Each week when I left therapy, it was like my cloudy brain was clearing and the answer was right there all along. I realized that I actually did have a part in the cycle that our family had down to a perfect science. Mom fucks up, we all cover it up and make excuses, and put our hard hats on in anticipation for the next explosion. She was never made accountable and nothing ever changed.
Once my mom and I reconnected, I was a new person. Calm, and unfettered by her choices. I realized that I did love her, regardless of her decisions. And I realized there is a different between unconditional love and being unwilling to allow someone to poison you with their choices. I could love her AND set boundaries! The next few years were not perfect. She tested my boundaries, but I was able to stay strong without the emotions had used to come with her drinking. She stopped drinking...and then not...and then back and forth a few times more. Today, she is about 8 months sober, and committed to AA for the first time in her life. She frequently thanks me for believing in her and told me the other day that she's so proud that her grandsons will never see her drunk. She has a sponsor and leaves her AA book lying around the house for any person to see. She's no longer ashamed and we don't talk about it in hushed tones anymore. I truly believe that is the difference - she realizes that she's not a bad person just because she used to drink.
Our relationship has come a long way in these past few months. She has never come out and apologized, but that's okay, I don't need it. Has she had her last drink? I'd like to hope so, but who knows. She's in a forever battle of alcoholism. But one thing I know for sure is that I'm okay either way. I realize now that I don't need to believe in her...she just needs to believe in herself.