My parents didn’t really drink. I can remember my father having a beer occasionally and maybe a glass of wine for my mother. I really only saw adults drunk(ish) in my family at holiday gatherings and even that was mostly wine and occasionally scotch. I don’t remember it being an issue in my family. I don’t remember any ‘drunks’. This is quite possibly because my maternal grandfather was an alcoholic which made my mother keenly aware of those with issues. She did everything she could to keep those elements within the family circle away from me. I vaguely remember one cousin having a series of bad boyfriends and another who stopped coming around for a while. There was a single incident with another cousin of mine who was blasted and fighting with my mom one night. But by that point I knew what a drunk looked like and didn’t take his tone or his insults too harshly. My stepfather would occasionally drink too much and pick fights. While terrifying in the moment, he would sling insults, threats, and curses before passing out and being remorseful and subservient in the morning. My mother to this day doesn’t really drink. One margarita is enough for her to be buzzing. Then she stops.
My mother is a complicated subject to approach. She is my mom and I love her deeply and fiercely. We cannot blame our parents for their flaws and what we may see as their failings. They are human, just like us, and are not perfect, subject to the same weaknesses, misjudgements, and needs. We put parents on too high a pedestal and don’t call out society enough for not assisting in the creation of well adjusted adults. It’s not that it takes a village, it’s that it takes a village, infrastructure, and a common goal.
My mother has known about my issues with drinking for a decade. I started being honest with her right after my stepfather passed and around the time of the disc issue. How much I was consuming to fill the hollow feeling. How i used it to console myself in the ways that my partner could not and didn’t bother to try to. How it loosened me up, allowed me to laugh, to make plans with others, and to make plans about making art.
I used to describe myself as a happy drunk. Once I got over the initial buzzing of the alcohol in my system, I would smile and joke freely. Everything was funny and full of joy. My heart exploded with love for the people around me. It was a slave when I was down. It would lighten my mood and lull me to sleep so I could awake refreshed and ready to restart. Until it wasn’t.
My mother found out about my drinking because I flat out told her one morning. We were both in very raw emotional places in our lives. My stepfather has passed suddenly about a year earlier and we were both coping in our own ways.She had slipped into a deep depression that her former therapist training refused to let her treat. She stopped eating and lost 30lbs. She became erratic, impulsive, and for lack of a better term: boy crazy. She would show up at my apartment early in the morning and demand to be let in to have tea. She would babble on and on then start crying uncontrollably until I distracted her enough to stop and leave at a reasonable time. I was hungover most mornings and processing loss in my own way.
One particular morning I was still in the throws of the decisions of the night before. There was a boy at the bar I fancied. And he fancied me. We went to a show. We danced. We drank. And we went back to my place. Now here we were at 9am with my mother refusing to leave. The conversation: “mother this isn’t a good time” “I don’t care” “I really can’t right now” “I want to come up for tea” “The problem is I’m not alone” “oh I don’t care” to which point I looked at the boy and said ‘whelp you’re gonna meet my mother’. She was pleasant and he dressed and left. We would date for a few months but nothing serious. She threw herself on my bed and began to prattle on about whatever she wanted to talk about. This time I finally confronted her. I was fuming that she would invade my space and decide her needs outweighed mine. She accused me of not caring enough. Not doing enough. That she had nothing and no one (mind you she refused therapy of any kind). I had asked her about going to therapy myself and she also refused that saying ‘I’ll be your therapist’. Fuck that. So i did it. I dug deep and screamed at her for ignoring her child in pain. How I couldn’t function. How I had no support system and had to take care of her through all of it since she wouldn’t get help. And how to cope I spent most nights as the bottom of a bottle.
She barely flinched.
To this day she still only occasionally asks about ‘my drinking’.
She’s seen the bruises. She knows about the one night stands, the abusive situations, and that one time the cops had to be called on my partner.
She still has never fully acknowledged my problem.
Again, I fully believe our parents do the best they can. It’s up to us and individuals as to how we deal with them.