Most of us learn how to be a mother by example. Naturally, as we are growing up, we learn from watching our own mother. How she acts, reacts and generally lives plays a big part in what kind of parent we ultimately become. I, like many others, learned how to be an alcoholic mother. I am not myself an alcoholic. In fact, I have consciously avoided alcohol much of my life because I saw what it did to both of my parents. However, since my mom was an alcoholic, that is the example I had to draw upon when I became a parent.
As an adult, I cannot “blame” my own mother for my parenting mistakes. I can, however, understand how and why I made many of the decisions which affected my parenting. The irrationality that IS alcoholism was a big part of my decision making process as a parent. Interestingly, I made just as many mistakes trying not to be like my own mother.
I must point out that my own mother was a success in many ways. She was a financial genius. She was also brilliant when it came to investments, and was a top notch bookkeeper for some very influential people. So, in many ways, she was a very unique person, especially given the fact that she was indeed an alcoholic. I never want anyone to think of my mother as a “bad” person. She just had one very bad practice, and that was substance abuse. Sadly, that is something I simply could not understand as a child. She was just “Mom”.
That being said… it was the basis of many decisions I made and actions I took being a parent. I learned to over-react, disassociate and continue the dysfunction. I learned to avoid confrontation, which is something my mother thrived on. As a result, I never learned how to effectively communicate with my own children. Again, my mother’s influence also had a positive affect in that I did learn how to communicate with outsiders and business people… just not family.
My mother loved her children. Of that, I have no doubt. I didn’t think she did when I was younger, but I am wiser now and understand much more. By the same respect, I know that my own children have suffered as an ultimate result of alcoholism. I loved (and love) my children, some of whom are grown, with all of my heart. I guess I just wasn’t very good at showing them many times. I did try, however, to hug and otherwise show affection to them, which was lacking in my own mother/daughter relationship.
I don’t blame my mother. I do, however, to some extent blame alcohol and drugs. My mother was an alcoholic who also was very fond of codeine. I can still remember that huge bottle of codeine being in our linen closet next to the bathroom. Back then, the dangers of codeine were not as well known, and it was very easy to obtain. I also remember that my parents had a “beer refrigerator”. They had a separate refrigerator for their alcohol. Of course, when I was young, I didn’t realize that was odd.
Physically and mentally, I believe I have many signs of being the child of an alcoholic. I was the youngest, and evidence points to the fact that my mother drank throughout her pregnancy with me. Doctors and Psychiatrists have gone over with me how that ultimately effected my brain development. Back when I was young, however, there was no ADHD or other conditions. One was either normal, or different. I was “different”. Many have also told me that the youngest child of two alcoholics often becomes a psychotic. Thankfully, that is not what happened with me. Thankfully, I also did not become an alcoholic, a fate which has already begun to affect more than one of my children.
I’ve long since forgiven my mother, who is now deceased. I understand much more about alcoholism and drug addiction, and have done a lot of reflection and investigation into my own actions and feelings. Alcoholism has greatly affected me, and my family. I can’t use that as an excuse to justify my own mistakes, but it helps to understand them. One of my own daughters is now a Mother. I worry how alcoholism will interfere with her parenting.
If wishes were rainbows, the world would be beautiful. However, the realities are that wishes don’t change much. I wish my own mother had gotten rehab at some point in her life. I wish I had gotten help with dealing with being a child of two alcoholics. I wish I had done a lot of things differently with my own children. What I CAN do is forgive, which I have done. I can also educate myself and others on the dangers of alcoholism and how it affects families. I can apologize to my own children, and try to explain. Actions do speak louder than words. Sadly, substance abuse is an action that far too many parents choose.
These reflexions from a mother was brought to you by Narconon. To know more about Narconon and what it is doing to help resolve the drug problem in our society, please visit narconon.org.
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