A Desperate Message

My mother was an alcoholic. My father was too, but today, this is about motherhood.

We moms are crazy about our kids, aren’t we? There isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do if I believed it could save my kids or protect them from harm. Consider this blog post one of those things a crazy mom does in the hope of helping wayward children everywhere.

My parents both died young. I’m 57 and I’m older than either of them ever got to be. My dad died from lung cancer, but my mother died because her body was so poisoned with alcohol it couldn’t go on. Her liver was no longer able to handle the toxin load and it simply gave out. She was only 56 that day she lay in the hospital bed dying 23 years ago.

Mom was a beautiful woman with a bright future. Her life was turned upside down after she married my father, Winfield (known as Skeeter), her high school sweetheart. Six weeks after I was born, on a frigid February evening after a night of league competition and drinking, Skeeter’s father was driving home from the bowling alley in Bradley Beach, New Jersey, and drove the car into a bank of trees. Skeeter’s mom was killed.

Mom wrote to her parents and told them that after Myra had been killed, Skeet was never the same. Dad took to staying away too long on business trips, doing his own drinking, and catching the eye of observant women wherever his work took him.

Mom turned to alcohol. In piecing together letters, hearsay, fuzzy-around-the-edges-memory, and photographs, I believe that she took to her drink in an almost spiteful way. She told me more than once that before Dad introduced her to cocktails, she’d never touched the stuff. But she was damned well going to embrace it once she had been betrayed by my father.

By the time I was 16, their relationship was over. The day that Dad said he was leaving, it was already too late to mend anything. He’d gotten involved with a secretary at the company he worked for and gotten her pregnant. She lived in Indiantown, Florida and that’s where he was going.

Mom seemed to quit caring about me then. I was a problem child, and the last thing she needed on her plate. At least that was the way it seemed to be back then. But maybe in her mind, she loved me fiercely and was doing everything she could to fight for me. Maybe the alcohol had already distorted her cognitive processes. Maybe she was doing the best she could for me with the tools available to her – rusty, defective tools soaked in vodka.

Maybe when you spend too much of your time drinking, your ability to parent your kids the way they deserve suffers so much that you think you’re doing the right thing for them but you’re actually putting them in danger.

My mom put me out on the street when I was 16. Maybe that’s what I deserved. I was in full blown rebellion. I stole from her. I didn’t listen to anything she told me. I was rude. I sneered at her. I didn’t respect her at all. She was just a drunk to me. I had seen her fighting with my father and doing all kinds of crazy things and I thought she was a joke.

Because of her love for alcohol, Mom wasn’t capable of caring for me the way I needed to be cared for. Neither could she sustain her marriage or her career. Ultimately, she lost her life, never having got past the things that haunted her. I tried to reconnect with her for years, after I’d grown up and discovered that there is forgiveness and mercy and grace available to everyone. I desperately wanted a relationship with my mother and I longed for her to move past her failures.

But mom wanted no part of that. I told her that all was forgiven, and she just told me she wanted to die. And she meant it.

This is where it leads eventually. There is no middle ground with alcoholism or any kind of addiction. You can’t be just “a little” addicted. Ultimately it leads to death – nothing else satisfies this demon. And along the way, love dies too.

Consider this a beacon, a warning. It will happen to you too if you make a substance, any substance, your master. Lives do end in tragedy, and even yours could if you don’t turn around. It can become too late, and in many many cases the too late happens way before you physically die. It happens before you even realize it is happening.

Today, you are dangerously close to the point of no return.

My mother was 37 when my father left her and she put me on the street. She went rapidly downhill after that and died less than 20 years later – you think 20 years is a long time? Well, it is a long time to live in hell on earth and to damage your children so deeply that they spend their entire adult life trying to get past it (like me) – or maybe they stop trying and go down the same path you are going down.

I implore you this morning – turn around. If not for you, then for your children. Do whatever it takes, momma bear. Get crazy.

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