(I start with the story of my Mother as what some may consider an entry point into my addiction to alcohol).
My mother drank. A lot.
I don’t mean to sound flippant, especially when it comes to my mother. But this blog will be the good, bad and ugly and I need to get it all out.
Her earliest fave was Budweiser, those red and silver cans gleaming in our 1967 Frigidaire cooler. She would have them around, rare at first but increasingly common as the days went on. I remember smelling beer on her breath from a young age but that wasn’t unusual. Lots of parents on the block drank beer, sitting in webbed lawn chairs on hot summer days, and their breath was the same.
I don’t know when she switched to the hard stuff. Maybe it was when we grew up a little and didn’t need her as much.
Vodka bottles began to appear around the house. Little ones, big ones. I would find them in cupboards and drawers in various states of emptiness. Weird sounding names like Smirnoff and Popov graced the labels.
The number of bottles found was directly proportionate to how hammered Mom was. This went on for what was basically all of my middle and high school years.
One time, my mother loaded all of our cheap living room furniture into the back of the truck and drive it around the block. She did this as she was pissed at my father for not buying new furniture for the house who instead spent money on things like a new hunting rifle for his sons or a dirt bike. To this day I still don’t know how she got the stuff into the truck after having as many drinks as she had. I do know that I had to go retrieve the truck, drive it back and unload the stuff back into the house.
I had a lot of friends. But they rarely were invited over.
Another episode concerns my brother’s first wedding. We drove to Lake Havasu, AZ for what was promising to be a nice little ceremony for Mark and Deborah. Unfortunately, Mom did not see her son take the vows as she had locked herself into the bathroom and would not come out until hours later.
I could go on.
My mother, when sober, was a caring and intelligent woman, done in by childhood she could not reconcile and an addiction she couldn’t kick.
Did I mention she was a medical nurse who specialty was working in rehab facilities for alcohol and substance abuse? Define irony.
Kids who grow up with an alcoholic parent learn to defend, to make apologies for, to excuse.
The last time I saw my mother alive was October 20th, 1989. I had just moved home as the lease had run out on my university apartment and my Dad had finally moved out of the house, not being able to take it anymore. I figured I would have a place to stay and I could try and help Mom with what she needed.
The night of the 20th, having been home a few weeks, spending days cleaning her neglected house and nights listening to her cry for my Dad, I decided to go out with some friends from school. We met at a bar called Sneakers for some much-needed release. Drinks flowed until I was able to talk a young female friend into going home with me. The house was still when we arrived.
The next morning (the 21st), after my friend left, I rose out of bed to check on Mom. I walked into the living room where she was the night prior, but she was not to be found there. A quick glance into the kitchen and then down the hall towards her room. I opened the door.
What follows is a description that is forever etched in my brain. I could no sooner forget what I saw than forget the names of my children.
The door swung in and I glanced up from the view of my slippered feet to see a form lying sideways on the bed. By sideways, I mean that she was lying horizontally across the bed, head not on the pillows. There was a red spray on the wall above the headboard and then I looked back at her body. A frozen grimace held her face as if stopped in time by the bullet. My father’s .357 magnum pistol lay by her left hand. Her nightgown was hiked up onto her thighs and her feet lay askew on the floor.
It doesn’t matter what I did next. Mom was buried days later, I limped through the next 11 months and then moved away.
I thought that when you have seen the worst that can happen, everything else gets the volume turned down. Nothing can ever affect you again. What I realize now is that I masked any pain that came after, for years and decades later, with booze.
Such a funny name: booze.
So, I grew up with a drunk parent who I adored but who couldn’t stop and who then killed herself in a horrific manner, the results of which I stumbled across just a few hours later.
No excuses, right?