What doesn’t kill us, makes us think harder…

So I have been pretty absent from here for a bit. In fact, if I look at the first line of my recent (used lightly) posts, I see a common thread. I am treading in dangerous waters and I see the red flags ready to jump out of their posts. It’s time to get honest about my program and quit talking about it. Being in recovery is so much more than not taking a drink. That part – at least today- is easy.
Being a sober parent has many perks: I enjoy playing Skipbo with my little guys, pitching baseballs to them in the yard, having them help me vacuum, complete light housework, and watch (shudder) St. Louis Cardinals games (Cub fan by birth; don’t hate me. I only cheer for the birds to help minimize the chaos in my house.)
But being a sober parent has downfalls, too. I am working on my ninth step with my sponsor. For those who are not familiar, this is the part of the AA program where we dig up the people we have harmed and tell them we’re sorry for our behavior. “Made a dirt amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” The top of my list includes my four kids. Doing this step makes me responsible for my previous actions, own them, ask for forgiveness, and move on- hopefully without repeating the error. However, we are not perfect people so chances are, I will make the same mistake. The difference is that it will be a conscious decision, not an alcohol-fueled one. I will remember it as it happened not as my memory (or lack thereof) chooses to recall and to justify my behavior.
Looking at the list of amends to make to my children tugs at me a bit. Okay a lot. I have to accept that I wasn’t the best mom to them. I was absent, unenthused, even bothered by them some days. I resented their school activities because it took me away from my drinking. I would get irritated if a game went into overtime or took three matches instead of two. I mean, I showed up, right? Couldn’t we just get on with it? I used the little guys as the reason I couldn’t stay for the entirety of their games; I HAD to get them to bed. And while I can appreciate that small children need structure, a decent amount of sleep, and proper eating, the truth is I have a husband who would have taken them home and would have tended to those things. I wanted to go home so I could sit by myself and drink. Did I think I was fooling my older daughters? Not for one second but I made myself believe that I did the same for them. I ALWAYS had them in bed at a decent hour on school nights. And I did. But, again, it was so I could have a break that I told myself I deserved. School fairs, programs, parent teacher conferences- sure I attended all of them, but I didn’t want to. I would rush through them like a tornado, chatting people up, acting interested, making an appearance. I wasn’t present.
This leads me to my older daughters now 20 and 16. The older has always bit her lip and said, “It’s okay, Mom. I know you are busy. I totally understand.” In my sick mind, I allowed that to be my permission. In reality, she was screaming for me to notice her, to recognize her, to be front and center for her. I got lucky in a sense because her way of trying to achieve this was by straight As, NHS, Vp of Student Council, member of the church youth group, captain of the cheer team. The list goes on and on. She was the “perfect” child.
My second daughter is also an overachiever. Her method of seeking attention is through hanging out with the undesirables, smoking pot, drinking, using vicodin to numb the pain. She hid this so well. I had suspected, put her in a rehab for a little over a week last summer, got her a therapist and kept bumping along. Until a little over 3 weeks ago when her life spiraled nearly out of control. Her dad and I had to have a transport team pick her up at 5 am and take her to a Christian-based all girls school out-of-state. Having to lie to her for the five days prior nearly killed me; I am working an honest program and this didn’t sit well. But I KNEW this time, it was to save her life. Imagine having your child’s trust after working months to do so only to have her look you in the eye and scream, “You lied to me! You effing lied to me! How could you do this to me?” My heart was ripped out right then and there. Collateral damage? Damn straight. So the immediate crisis is over. The long term effects are not and will not be for quite some time. I cannot blame this child. After all, she learned her deceit and manipulation from yours truly.
The two younger guys have their quirks,too. One is rather withdrawn and is really just starting to come out of his shell at 9. The other is very loud, boisterous and borders on obnoxious. His energy starts at 7 am and doesn’t stop until 8:30 p.m. But these little guys no matter how challenging brighten my every day because I know I get to have the chance with them that I chose not to with their big sisters. I have more patience, am able to negotiate their disagreements better; I talk softer to them. They have huge hearts, and they love me anyway.
What does this all mean? It means I have my work cut out for me. It means I have to go to meetings, call my sponsor, meet with her for our one-on-ones, live in the moment and learn to live life on life’s terms. I have to lean on God. I have to turn all of this over to Him and believe that He will get me through it. And most importantly, I cannot drink. The understanding that my role, my behavior caused pain for my kids and taught them behavior patterns that need to be undone could cripple some people. But I know I can make my amends verbally. More importantly, I can make my amends by LIVING moment by moment, one day at a time to SHOW them I am sorry. I also have to put myself at the top of my amends list. I did harm myself and I do need to forgive myself for my actions. I was a decent mom when I was drinking. They were fed, clothed, up-to-date on vaccines, teeth cleanings, eye exams, enrolled in Sunday school, etc. They got the basics. Now, it is time for me to flesh out my role as a mom and give them the love and attention they deserve.
I am grateful that I am sober. I cannot change the past, but I can look at it, accept what I did, make amends and move forward. I am not closing the door because there are so many valuable lessons there. I recently had to have a talk with my older girl about her difficulties on managing her money while in college. It was a fruitful discussion; no one yelled, no one cried. We talked. Afterward she said to me, “Thanks for not wigging out on me, Mom. This really helped.” My husband commented later that the discussion did not pan out the way he had envisioned in his mind earlier – and that is a good thing. I am changing. Little by little, one day at a time.


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