I believe that anything can be exchanged for another addiction; food, sex, alcohol, drugs, nothing is off limits if we are careless. This series is in memory of my late mother, who died in 2012 of alcoholism. She also struggled with an eating disorder many years ago, and in some ways I write of certain instances in my life not to criticize her or anyone else, but to try to show why in general we might develop addictions and disorders. Thank you for reading.
I remember the night my mother and I were driving in the grey minivan in the pouring rain. I was thirteen years old, and Mom had already downed a few too many beers before we left the house to hit the bars in downtown Charleston. She was pretty tipsy at this point, I felt somewhat embarrassed for being in the car with her, and scared out of my mind that she was going to get into an accident. Although at this point in my life I was used to her drunken antics, I still could not wrap my mind around being my mother’s party friend instead of her daughter.
Mom whizzed steadily down the freeway, going above the speed limit but was careful not to catch the attention of any police. With her belly button newly pierced and her recent significant weight loss, I felt tremendously confused about my relationship with my mother. I desperately wanted to help her, however every time I tried to approach and talk to her about what she might have been feeling, she shut me out of her world. As we continued to speed down US 17 towards downtown Charleston, my mind recalled the months earlier when I went into her bedroom to ask her a question about my homework and I found her in her bathroom, door open, sitting on the toilet, lid closed, with a beer in her hand. Our eyes met before I could open my mouth to speak and she must have noticed the shocked look on my face because she just slammed the door on me right then and there. All of the emotions I had felt then came flooding back as I sat with her in the speeding van; what was happening to my mom? Was I to blame?
I loved my mom deeply yet I never felt connected to her because she did not let me in; private and isolated from everyone, she chose food, abusive relationships, and alcohol to be her best friends. I never got to bond with my mother; I only found myself in situations where I came to her rescue. My emotions with her were always on a panic basis, and I lived in a constant state of fear and apprehension. Even as I am writing this my nerve level is high; I am sweating a bit and and I feel tense. I know that writing is critical for recovery and so that is why I chose to take up this form of expressing my thoughts.
Going back to that fateful day in the minivan, as she exited off US 17 and drove into smaller, darker roads, I felt uneasy at the speed in which she maneuvered freely. I shouldn’t have been too surprised however; for about four years at that point she had already been drinking a bit and driving me and my younger brother to and from school, and sometimes drunk. This gloomy, rainy night with her, however, felt long and drawn out, as if I knew beforehand that something terrible was going to happen.
Not long after I sensed the impending doom, our van drifted over into a one-way road where several cars were flying at us, no stopping in sight. All at once I saw my short life flash before my eyes, and I didn’t know what to do. In that moment all I could do was scream at the top of my lungs, “MOMMMMM!” I grabbed the wheel, and looked at her as she attempted to be a drunken superhero by sipping yet another swig of her beer before managing at the last second to take control of the car and pull us over onto the tiniest sliver of the concrete embankment. A hair-split of a second later, the cars whizzed by, angrily honking at us. We were safe, but only by a miracle.
I couldn’t fathom in that moment what had just happened; or rather, what hadn’t just happened. “Mom, we almost got into a head-on collision! Because you are drunk, and you don’t even care!” I shouted at her from across the van. She paused for a few seconds and then covered her face with her hands, trembling slightly all over. All I could do was study her every movement; the pace at which she breathed, and if she made any kind of noises. I was infatuated with my mother’s lack of response and concern in that moment; in fact it was a trend as always in my life that I was dying for any kind of love and affection from her. A couple of minutes passed by before she slowly raised her beautiful black hair and looked at me with quiet, tear-stained eyes. “I’m so sorry, please forgive me,” she whispered as she attempted to start the van and roll it out of the embankment. “Jesus, mom, we could have been killed!” I cried, “What were you thinking?” Silence. Nothing. No response. Just the usual kind of deep pondering that often took place after a crisis. I plopped my head back against the car seat and zoned out, and Mom cranked up the radio to a moderately high level again. “Just do me one favor, ok? Don’t tell your dad, whatever you do,” she said barely above the music. I reluctantly nodded my head in agreement, but only because I was afraid of everyone in my family at this point in my life.
Why did I have to be ruled by fear?
To be continued…