Behind Closed Doors

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“Mom, you need to go upstairs to your bed, now. Come on,” I coax, “I will help you up the stairs.” As I help her stumble up the stairs and the poignant smell of alcohol from her breath makes me nauseous, I cannot help but think that this is backwards. This is a nightly ritual for my mom and me, one I doubt she remembers in the morning. I do not bring it up; I do not want to embarrass her. I always try to protect her- most often from herself.

My family appears normal to an outsider looking in. Two “happily” married parents, three children, and a dog. They do not see the other member of our family-the one kept behind closed doors. Alcoholism. They do not see the damage It has wrought upon my family. They do not see the wrath of the disease. No, we hide It very well. It is our secret. My younger sister, brother, and I-we are seasoned actors. We play the ideal American family. “No, our family is fine”- a statement we sometimes fool even ourselves into believing. Confront mom? We would not dare. We do not want to upset her, do not want to discover that it is our fault.

Where is my mom? Taking care of my great-grandmother in Houston-another lie. She is at rehab- a word I do not think I have ever said aloud. I told this lie for five weeks, as my mom reluctantly confronted her disease at the insistence of my guilt-ridden father.

“This is not the woman I married.”

“I know, dad.”

“I never wanted my children to go through something like this.”

“I know, dad.”

“I still love her.”

“So do I, dad.”

“I should have done this sooner.”

“It is not your fault.” It is not. It is not my fault either- a fact I struggle to believe every day. My dad and I are a team. We know exactly when my mom starts drinking-how she begins to act, her voice, even the way she sits or stands. We see it, but we do not say anything. This is the most painful silence- to watch her harm herself and our family almost every night, as we sit in the same room.

My mom has yet to overcome her disease, despite the five weeks that she spent two planes rides and a two hour shuttle drive away from us. However, I have become stronger. I have driven for hours during evacuations with my brother and sister in one car and my dad driving my mom in another as she sleeps off the alcohol she consumed at three in the morning because of stress. I am the person I am today because of my mom’s alcoholism. I am happy when I have pleased others- which I learned is a classic trait of a co-dependent at ‘family week’ when we picked up my mom. There, I was labeled a ‘fixer.’ Basically meaning, I take care of everyone and make sure everything is okay. This label came as no surprise to me. I have been told that I am a born-mother since my sister was born…when I was three. I taught myself to tie my shoes and eventually taught my sister and brother the same basic skill. I changed my sister’s diapers and responded when my brother called me mommy. I have settled fights between my siblings and rubbed their backs as they fell asleep at night. I have dried their tears and suppressed my own. I am a mother-figure to my sister and brother and often-times to my own mom. I am strong and I know that I can persevere through anything. My relationship with God grows stronger as I constantly turn to Him for help. He gave me my sister- my best friend-the one person I can talk to about anything because she understands, she has lived through it with me. With just one look we know exactly what the other is thinking.

Will I drink? Never. I have seen what it can do. Since alcoholism can be hereditary, I will admit that the fact that I am somewhat afraid of myself and my body is a contributing factor in my decision. Despite the hardships alcoholism has caused in my family, It has made me the woman I am proud to be today.





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