10 Things I Wish I Could Delete About My Alcoholic Mom

1. I wish she wasn’t an alcoholic. Or that she had been able to get into an alcoholic recovery program and get sober, and had died of old age instead of alcoholic cirrhosis.

2. When I was 20 she called me a whore. I had spent the night at my boyfriend’s house (who I had been dating for over a year) (and did I mention that I was 20??) – and FYI, the word whore was the furthest thing from who I was. It was her disease talking. My mom was the sweetest, most generous soul. She rarely said anything mean, ever. I’m pretty certain she was either hungover or doing what alcoholics do best – marinating in self pity and wondering what she had done the night before. I know now from my vantage point as a grownup that it was her alcoholism talking – but back then, at 20 – I was unbelievably hurt. I wish I could delete it.

3. I wish just once I could have seen her dive under the water in the pool and get her hair wet. I never saw her with wet hair – she didn’t want to ruin the weekly hair-do she got at Casa Elegante. (-:

4. I wish I hadn’t been so surprised when I found a box of letters I’d written her on her bedside table after she died. She had saved literally everthing I’d ever written for her – and this discovery really shocked me because I never knew she cared about it, I never in my wildest imaginings thought she had saved any of this stuff. My gold baby bracelet was in there too, with my name on it. She’d put it there for me to find – a little box of love. As if to say: I loved you more than you thought I did. One of the cards said:

“Congratulations on giving up smoking mom! I’m so proud of you! YOU CAN DO IT!!”  

It turned out that she couldn’t. But at least she tried.

5. I wish I had appreciated how beautiful she was when she was alive. I never really saw her beauty until after she died. I think it was because her alcoholism distorted my view of her.

6. I wish I could delete the years she spent in the DP camps in Germany after the war.

7. The day I first started my menstrual cycle I was 13. I came into her bedroom and told her. You know what she did? She shrugged and said, “Oh.” So I left the room and had to figure it all out by myself. I really wish that didn’t happen.

Alcoholism warps your ability to think, and your judgement, and your heart. It poisons your soul and turns you into the worst possible version of yourself. Alcohol is a depressant so it depresses you. By that time she was just probably so depressed, and so out of touch with her own body – I don’t know – she just didn’t have it in her to deal with me. I think this is one of the reasons I don’t like to depend on other people – I prefer to rely on myself, because it’s emotionally much safer.

8. I wish I could take away all the bad things that happened to her in her lifetime so she could have lived a normal, long life and be a grandmother. I tell myself that her alcoholism was caused by grief, and her grief was caused by circumstance. So if all the things she went through hadn’t happened, she would still be here today because the women in her family lived to be very, very old. Crotchety, but old.

9. I wish she could have met Ella, her mini intellectual clone. Or Fiona, who looks exactly like her. But on the flip side of that, even though I wish my daughters could have known her, I’m so relieved that she died before they were born. The reality is that she was in the advanced stages of alcoholism, and alcoholism is a progressive disease that just keeps getting uglier and more horrible as the years pass. It would have been beyond awful for my kids to see her like she was (nobody could save her) and me like I was (obsessed with trying, consumed with sadness). Just awful.

10. One thing I wouldn’t delete: One night, when I was 16 – I had come to her in tears  telling her how I wanted – just once, to come home and find her doing something normal like reading a book – and not drinking. The next night to my surprise I came home and there she was – all dressed beautifully (she had a fantastic sense of fashion), sitting on the couch with a cup of hot tea, reading, sober, a normal mom. She had this sweet look of expectation on her face – she looked so happy. I know that it was for me. That one night was for me. I was so moved but I didn’t say anything. I curled up beside her on the couch and we stayed up late talking, and drinking tea.

 It was one night with my mom – not the alcoholic one, the real mom. The one I miss.

If you have a family member or friend whose alcoholism has affected you – you can get help from Alanon. I did.

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  1. Oh my, you got me teary eyed with this one, especially #10. For all that you’ve had to endure, I am glad you got that one night. It sounds like she was such a tortured soul, like she truly did love you but couldn’t keep her head above water. I’m so sorry and I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day and let your family celebrate what an amazing and loving mother you are!
    Twitter: mommy_padawan

    • They used to but these past couple of Mother’s Days have been really good – all about me. My mothering, and my kids. As they should be. I’m good – really! (-:

  2. #10 made me cry. When I read your words about your mom, I see a woman who truly wanted to love you the way she could have/should have, but didn’t know how to beat her disease to do it. And I see a daughter who can look back and see beyond the disease that overwhelmed her, to the mother she could have/should have been able to be. Please know that your ability to look back and see that is a gift that not many in your situation have.
    Twitter: normalmomally

      • Ally – it made so much sense and it really made me feel better about things so truly, thank you.
        PS: Everybody – I am having a wonderful mother’s day. (-:

  3. That was so moving. #10 made me tear up, and the rest of the list made me want to reach through the screen and hug you. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing it.
    Twitter: archaeolemur

  4. This was a heavy hearted list to write. Thank you for sharing. You have no idea how much I can relate to this…
    Twitter: NorthWestMommy

    • I had no idea S. and I’m sorry to hear that. I think 1 out of every 3 people knows or is affected by a family member’s or partner’s alcoholism, and I’ll be that’s a low estimate – so I’m not surprised.

  5. I am sorry both you and your mom suffered such heartbreak. Sorry that alcoholism robbed you of the amazing mother she could have been. ((hugs))
    Twitter: momma23monkeys

  6. This was heart breaking yet beautiful. I just have no words. It was just so perfectly written…

    Thanks for sharing.
    Twitter: Dalrie

  7. This is beautiful. The fact that you can write about your pain, with an amazing sense of understanding and forgiveness is moving.
    Twitter: Twinisms

    • I have I think moved on as much as it’s possible to move on – time and distance have helped me to separate the part of my mom that was “real” (Velveteen!) and the part that didn’t belong to her but was the disease. And I forgive her – yet I still have some negative feelings about it. But time and distance have helped…

  8. It is so clear that despite all the horrible past and the disease, she loved you very much. It’s beautiful how you choose to spotlight that in the midst of trying to “delete” the rest. Hope your Mother’s Day was lovely!
    Twitter: teamrasler

    • Thanks for pointing that out to me Jessica, I didn’t even really notice I was doing it! (-: But it turns out that I was. (-;

  9. Oh, that made me cry. Brings up a lot of feelings and memories – of other out of control situations in both my childhood and adulthood. It’s the simple things we want, isn’t it? Very lovely post. I’m sorry the mom you miss was so fleetingly glimpsed, and yet glad you had a bit of it. You knew you were loved. I think that matters more than anything else. Happy Mother’s Day – and here’s to not doing the bad things to our kids that our less-than-perfect mothers did to us. Thanks again for this post.

    • Thanks for your comment Sherry – that’s it exactly: despite all her flaws, I always, always knew that I was loved. And that is the one thing that mattered most, and got me through.

  10. So I was trying my hardest not to cry….then #10 got me. The tears fell and I wanted so much to hug you. *hugs*
    Twitter: mommyslounge

  11. So much sadness and that glimmer of love …
    And then I think of all the posts of love and joy you write here about your girls. I see what you brought from your childhood, and how it is shaping the one your family is living – your Mom would be so proud of the Mom you are xxx
    Twitter: ByWordsMusings

    • OK this comment pushed me over the edge into full-blown gulping back the tears. So sweet. Thank you. I do think that all the pure love I do have for my daughters I got from her.

  12. did someone mention a hug? i’m there, too. and what i love so much is that through all of it, there’s that wonderful memory of drinking tea at the end. you’re pretty amazing – you know that, right? happy, happy late mother’s day. -s
    Twitter: smushyfacebaby

  13. That last one says so much. Your mom sounds like she was an incredibly lady, but I’m sorry the alcoholism cut your time with her short (and marred much of the time you did have together).

  14. Wow. There are no words to express the terrible sadness of what could have been. We all have it to some respect in our lives — I’m sorry for you and your daughters.
    Twitter: southmainmuse

  15. I must admit, Ado, with each post you share regarding your mother, I feel like a get a glimpse of what my mother had gone through as a child of an alcoholic. (It was her father.) She has shared only a few moments, but the pain I know remains.
    Thank you again for your honesty, and #10, ugh…thanks for the tears too!
    Twitter: notwifezilla

  16. It’s sad that the disease over-shadows even the good things that were there. Makes me teary eyed imagining that last one…
    Twitter: bocafrau

    • Thanks Laura – I haven’t exactly risen above it as much as I’ve come to terms with it in my past. The sad thing is that it’s a biochemically inherited disease so I’m currently watching it ravage the younger generation of my family, and I have to say – it’s hard to watch your parents struggle with it, but perhaps even harder to watch young people suffer with it and throw their whole futures away. Heart-breaking.

  17. Wow, that was beautiful. I can’t even say I know what you’re feeling, but you expressed it beautifully. Thank you so much for sharing!!
    Twitter: utrend

  18. I get it. My dad was an alcoholic during much of my childhood. He has sobered up and is fabulous grandfather to my kids. I wish he’d been that kind of dad to me. I am grateful that at least I get to know him as he is now. I’m sorry you didn’t get that chance.
    Twitter: iamnotthemaid

  19. Ado, you tugged at my heart strings with this article. My guess is that your Mom may have been a perfectionist and felt inadequate. I’m sorry for that. However, I’m glad you had that one night with her. There are many, many women whose mother was not alcoholic, yet never had such a wonderful memory.
    Twitter: zoephrenia

    • You know – even though she was an alcoholic, she was a really loving person. I think you’re right – she was a perfectionist who never gave herself credit for her many accomplishments. And alcoholism just makes your self-worth go straight into the toilet, no matter what you’ve accomplished in your life.

  20. Oh gawd…I don’t think I’ve ever needed a hug so badly. Or rather, wanted to give a hug so badly. my dad was quite the good drunk too…which is why my mom left his ass. I often wonder what our lives would have been like if she had not the courage to go on her own. my own story could have been so different.
    you are so brave Ado. I frickin love that about you! :)
    Twitter: rorybore

    • Oh thank you Rory. Thank goodness your mom had the strength to leave him – it’s no fun living with an active alcoholic. In my case though since both were alcoholics they protected each other and strengthened each other’s addiction. I often think if my mom hadn’t been married to my dad I could’ve gotten her to go into rehab – but with the two of them together there was just no chance. Sorry to hear about your dad Rory.

  21. Oh, Ado. #10 brought tears to my eyes. The whole list did, really. There are definitely thinks I wish I could delete from the years that my husband was drinking. I’m sorry your mom wasn’t able to get sober so she could still be here with you and your daughters. Alcoholism really sucks.
    Twitter: euregirlsandboy

  22. I’m sorry that alcoholism stole your mother from you. But I’m happy to read that you know she loved you…and that the love you give to your daughters you got from her. I’m so glad of this positive outcome.
    Twitter: take2mommy

  23. (So when is your memoir getting published!?) How crazy life is that children get stuck with the parent(s) they… get stuck with. It’s not like children have bad karma! They are just children! What I can say is you have such powerful words, such a strong voice, and can speak for children-who-are-now-adults of messed up parents, who don’t have such a voice. Peace out.
    Twitter: mearth

    • Thanks Lisa. (-: I’m not sure my book is going to be published at this point – my agent has already made the rounds with it a few times to all the houses. We got close but so far no sale so I’m not holding my breath! Thank you for your kind comments though. (-:

  24. I can’t even find the enough words to describe you, because the list will be endless. You are so beautiful, understanding, kind, and despite all you had to go through with you mom, you have forgiven her. You have a big heat gal.

  25. This is a beautiful post. I may borrow the list idea for an upcoming blog post. My mother’s birthday would be Wednesday. It will be my 2nd without her. There is a lot I would delete, and a lot I would not. I related to much of what you wrote here. Thank you for sharing it.
    Twitter: thedosetweets

    • Thank you! If you like doing lists you should come link up to Stasha’s Monday Listicles (all lists of 10) at NorthwestMommy. (-:

  26. I am so reluctant to read about your mom since the first time I did. Maybe it’s because you are a great writer that make me cry. Or maybe because I can’t tolerate children being neglected or going through some kind of mistreatment. I don’t know.

    All I know is that I had a similar childhood. I was raised by a broken mom (how I call them). I still can’t find the strength to vent it. I, like you, don’t rely on others, not for emotional safety but for survival. I feel like disclosing about it will make me vulnerable. It’s weird.
    Twitter: Mama_AndTheCity

  27. Pingback: The Impact of Parental Alcoholism On Children - Momalog

  28. You really don’t know how much it means to me to know that other people are out there with the same problem. I’m only 12 and I know there’s much more to the world and to life than I can even imagine, but I feel like I know what the rest of my life looks like. This helped so much and reading all these other comments about big hugs all around, but there’s one more girl who needs to join this group hug. Thanks all of you for all the indirect support and, yes, the hugs.

  29. I was holding it together until I read #10, then waterworks. So sorry about your mom — and so sorry about that 12-year-old who’s experiencing similar things — but thank goodness you wrote your post and thank goodness she read it. Sending sniffly, teary-eyed hugs to all of you!

  30. I read this with tears streaming down my face. I am a daughter of a closet alcoholic mother who simply will not quit drinking. she was sober for over 6 years and one night she was upset and bought a bottle. that was 2 years ago and she hasn’t stopped yet. my sister and I have caught her multiple time and each time she cries and promises us that this will be her last time that she will get help. that will only last a few week and then she starts up again. I love my mom so much and it hurts me to see her have an illness that is so bad. I will be going to college next year and I am afraid of how she will become since neither my sister or I will be home. I despise how alcohol can ruin someone so much.

    • Andrea, I’m so sorry to hear this. It’s heartbreaking. Also at this time of your life you should be looking forward to going to college, not looking behind you worrying about what will happen to your mom. Going to college for me as an ACOA was a huge step in the right direction (AWAY from the toxic household) however I brought all of my worries with me and really benefitted from continuing on my own path of Alanon recovery and going to meetings with like-minded people. (The average person doesn’t really “get it” when we ACOAs talk about our alcoholic parents; the people in those meetings get it 100%). The truth is you just never know what will happen to your mom. Your leaving may be the reality check she needs to get sober; it may also be the time for her alcoholism to get even bigger. When my mom retired, that’s when it really took her over because she didn’t have to “be” anywhere or get dressed even. What I learned from Alanon: I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, I can’t cure it. The only thing I can do is pour all of my energies into healing myself. You are starting college (bravo! bravo!) – go forward now, with love and compassion in your heart for your mom, but always have a backup plan – for holidays, for the times you expect or need her to show up for you but she might not – keep a friend or other relative in your back pocket as her “stand-in.” My mom wasn’t able to come to any of my graduations, from high school to college, to grad school. I always had a stand-in and mentally prepared myself to not be disappointed. It is so hard for a daughter to grow up with an alcoholic mother, there is just this huge, swampy hole in your heart. The only thing I could do to “fill” mine was to surround myself with a chosen family of friends, and also to get regular Alanon meetings to keep my sanity. This kind of hurt is so deep and it never really goes away – the best you can do is not let it happen to you (i.e., watch for addictions in your own life) and when and if you need it – invest in yourself, have the courage to go to therapy if you feel the need. My university had a free student counseling service that helped me – maybe yours will too. This is heavy stuff. Leaving for college is huge for anyone; leaving for college and leaving your alcoholic mom behind is bigger, and much, much harder. I am sending you a hug. Please contact me anytime and I will write back. My email is adriennecb@yahoo.com. Take care. xo

      • I just stumbled on your 10 Things I Wish I Could Delete About My Alcoholic Mom and just wanted to hug you because I could relate so much, I know the pain you’ve dealt with as I am dealing with it now. I’m going to go to an Al-Anon meeting, thank you for your encouraging words.