Beauty In The Breakdown
I got sober when my daughter was four. Truth be told, I hadn’t seen her in months before that. It became clear when she was three and a half, (through an event that I may share later), that I could not pull off being a full-time mommy and drink the way that I wanted to. The problem with that scenario is that drinking always won no matter what it was up against. Alcohol was my “drug of no choice”. It told me when to get up, when and where to go to sleep, who to sleep with, who my friends should and shouldn’t be, and where I should hang out. I realize that many of you have a different story; a story of “functional” alcoholism, but that is definitely not mine. I chose alcohol over my family, most of my friends, and before any semblance of a “normal” life.
When I got sober, manipulation was one of the only life skills I had. I knew how to suck the life out of people and force them to feel sorry for me. Stellar life skills, I know, but somewhere they had become survival skills and were the only way I could relate to the world. They worked for a long time, and then one day they just didn’t. It’s possible the guilt had risen in my chest, perhaps I was just exhausted by “the game”, or maybe I just missed “normal” life. I don’t know what took me to my emotional bottom, but I’m glad it did.
I’m grateful that one day I broke into a bazillion pieces on the sheet-less mattress I’d been sleeping on. I’m grateful that when I woke up that day I knew that I was done trying to run my own life. I am grateful for the people at the treatment facilities I landed in along my journey that took over when I changed my mind and wanted my will back. They helped me to put myself back together one tiny piece at a time. They taught me that life is not a race and that there is no winning. It’s a day a time process whether we like it or not. I’m grateful for all the women in my life that led by example and offered me their friendship at no cost. I remember all of them and still have some of them in my life today. They showed me patience while I decided who and what I wanted to be. For all the times those women just said “Wow, that’s awful. I’m sorry you’re feeling _______” instead of always throwing me some quote or directing me to a page in a book, I’m FOREVER grateful.
Being sober is NOT always easy and being a mom isn’t either. Living Life on its terms isn’t always fun. Run from people that say it is…FAST.
My daughter is seventeen years old and currently sucking the life out of me. She’s the age I was when I had her, and every bit as stubborn and pig-headed. She has a lot of my old “life skills” and doesn’t understand why everyone can’t just change to suite her needs. THIS I can totally identify with, but that doesn’t help. Some lessons we must learn from life experience and I’m afraid she’s on a bumpy road. Powerlessness is a horrible bitch when the people we love are in trouble. Sometimes being a good mom means giving her the room to make mistakes and learn her own way. It’s NOT easy. I do trust however that just like that day so many years ago, we will find beauty in the breakdown.
Julie Maida has been in abstinence-based recovery since May 2, 2000. She is fiercely determined to advocate for and connect ALL women with the appropriate support and resources necessary to achieve their personal recovery goals. She writes about mothering with mental illness at juliemaida.me.