For so long, I’ve known that I was sorry for who I was in active addiction, but I’ve been unable to comprehend the true extent of my remorse. At least until, at just over a year sober, I found myself crying with my newborn as he received his first shots. It was then I realized that you felt every ounce of pain I did. All the years you spent watching me fall apart, in every tearful blackout, your heart broke. As you were forced to watch me drowning, you wondered how much more you could take.
I lost Watson in a department store, he was 18 months old. The fear was so overwhelming, I almost felt high. It became clear the years of constant angst I forced on you. I realized you had nights you couldn’t sleep as you worried if I was safe. I’m sure you regularly wondered if our every phone call might be the last.
In recovery, I am no longer in pain and I believe you share that sense of peace with me. I have found stability in sobriety and you no longer have to wonder where I am.
It wasn’t until I was a mother that I finally recognized the guilt you must carry. At night I lay awake and wonder if today was the day I damaged my boys. Will Watts remember that I lost my temper? Will Em suffer from not having my undivided attention? Tonight as I went over every detail of our day, I was hit with a sickening realization—I’ve never told you—my addiction was not your fault.
Tonight as I went over every detail of our day, I was hit with a sickening realization—I’ve never told you—my addiction was not your fault.
I now grasp that like me, you’ve played the tape over and over again in your head. Like a song you can’t get out of your head, you’ve asked a million times, “Where did I go wrong?” The simplest answer is that you didn’t. No one could have foreseen the darkness we found ourselves trapped in. Neither of us imagined that I’d spend the majority of my young adult life in a constant state of blackouts and misery. No one could’ve predicted that.
When you wonder if you were too strict, or perhaps not strict enough, know that you implemented the perfect amount of discipline. When you reflect on the schools I attended—don’t waste your wishes longing to go back in time—the education system did not mold me into the alcoholic I became. In those moments when you can’t help but remember your lost little girl searching for something to fill the emptiness, know that you did not cause the void. Find peace in the fact that I am no longer empty, and you played a significant role in that.
Instead of my pain, I want you to see my strength—in part from the way you fought for me and taught me how to fight for myself. Do you notice the way I hear every bird and seek out the moon? You have instilled that love of beauty in me. By watching you, I learned to be both a wife and an independent woman. You taught me that beauty isn’t make-up and lace, it’s simply curly hair and a smile. I recognize the importance of manners and standing up for what’s right because I grew up seeing the way you treat others. You helped me understand the value of hard work and showing up when I say I will.
Because of you, I’ve mastered going with the flow and laughing things off. I know life isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. And by watching you dance, I’ve found that personal joy is so much more important than the opinions of others.
I know that as long as I love my boys the way you loved me, they’ll be just fine.
And now, possibly the most important lesson of all—as a parent, I am doing the best I can. As a mother, I need to be kinder to myself, because as long as I love my boys the way you loved me, they’ll be just fine.
Mom, you didn’t raise an alcoholic. You helped me pick up all my broken pieces and build me into the woman I am today. When you don’t believe that you’ve done enough—see who I am now—because you are every part of me that’s good, and that is everything I see in you.
I love you,