As a little girl, I was certain about only a handful of things: 1) my father was always present, my mother was not. 2) My father easily forgave us, my mother did not. 3) My father always remembered the things I needed, my mother did not.
My mother was an alcoholic. Ahhh yes, I said it. No shame … no embarrassment … at age “thirty-something,” it is just a fact.
A fact that I have lived with my whole life. My mother was an alcoholic, her sister was an alcoholic, and my grandmother was an alcoholic, and so began the curse I would grow to despise.
When I search back through the archives of my childhood memories, I strain to find happy ones that involve my mother. The bonds that I had with relatives, on my father’s side, were amazingly consistent. The bonds on my mother’s side were strong, but confusing.
With any type of addiction, children are affected. I don’t care if you are addicted to chewing gum, someone is affected. Anything in excess is not healthy. Fortunately, for those “gum chewing mothers”, some addictions are more serious than others.
I am sure I could go on and on (and on) about the things my mother did while she was “under the influence.” If this blog post was intended for me to “just vent”, I would. However, as I thought about what my first blog post would be about, my perspective on what to share quickly shifted.
The message behind my story is to (try) not to allow your negative past experiences to dictate your future. I can tell you that this is not an easy task. I struggle with this every day. For me, NOT drinking to an excess is actually the easy part. Social drinking is much more my style. The hard part is not allowing my past to continuously resurface.
You might assume that if you take the addiction out of the equation, the rest would be easy. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Traditional methods of therapy, group meetings and books can only do so much.
I have learned that it takes an enormous effort to change how you parent your own children while being reminded of your past.
When I yell at my children – I am reminded of how my mother used to scream at me and my siblings. When one of my daughters fails to tell the truth – I am reminded of how many times my mother called me a “liar.” When I get mad at something – I remember how my mother could hold a grudge for day’s even weeks.
Some would say that keeping these negative experiences in the forefront of your consciousness would help to guide you, so that those behaviors were not repeated. For me, these thoughts are an unwanted distraction. With each and every decision I make, I strive to be in the moment – not reliving my past. I want to focus on a current event instead of always comparing it to what it was like when I had that same experience.
Each and every day, I am thankful for my children. I remember to say “I love you” even when I am angry. I remember to tell them they are smart and beautiful and perfect … to me. I remember to hug them and kiss them and remind them that they can accomplish anything. I remind them to respect themselves, as well as others.
Regardless of how I am feeling, together with my husband, I manage to meet their needs. I make sure that they feel safe and protected. It is in those brief moments that I can forget the past because I know I am changing their future. Creating a new cycle of positive experiences, instead of negative, is what I wish for them.
My negative experiences have taught me that words are important. No parent should ever assume that their child knows the intensity of their love. No parent can ever say “I love you” too much.
My mother’s addiction lay dormant for almost 20 years and then it resurfaced in a whole new way. Dealing with it as an adult was very different then dealing with it as child. Facing it as a new mother made her recovery process much more difficult for me to get over – but I have, despite her opinion.
For the past three years, she has been “sober.” Unfortunately, the emotional distance is forever present and my relationship borders nonexistent. I would say we tolerate each other, at best.
Although some people close to me do not understand, I can honestly say that I feel sorry for her. I believe that she lives every day with regret, crippled with an enormous bout of guilt. No matter what I have said in the past, she has convinced herself that nothing she has done will ever be forgiven.
Do I forgive her? Yes, I do. Will I ever forget what my siblings and I endured, no I will not. My mother is a recovering addict, and I am sure she fights for her life on a daily basis. What I cannot accept is her unwillingness to better herself. She refuses to get help for other issues that plague her and that lays heavy on my heart.
I have a mother. Regardless of the labels I can put on her, she is my mother. When you get right down to the core of who she is, it is then that I know, with absolute certainty that she would lay down her life for me. For that I am grateful.
I am a mother. Regardless of what I have been exposed to, in my core, I would also lay down my life for my own children. The intensity of my mother’s love for me and the intensity of the love I have for my children is the same. The challenge I have been given is to always remember the similarities we have between us, while working on accepting the differences. I work on that every single day.
Have you ever dealt with conflict in your childhood that has affected your parenting? How have you been able to overcome it?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog from mother of two, TwinMom112.
Photo credit to Lenny Montana. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.