My father died of cirrhosis of the liver at forty, while my mother, with ice tinkling in her glass, terrorized everyone and everything in her path. Even the goldfish were afraid of her.
As a kid growing up with serious drinkers, you never knew what to expect leaving its mark on you as an adult.
Why are you so edgy Susannah….always waiting for the other shoe to drop? A question I’ve been asked my whole life.
Well I’ll tell you, and it took 10 years in a 12 Step program to educate me on why I’m the way I am.
Imagine being raised by wolves, but just not as well.
I’d come home from school every day not sure what I’d find.
Would my mother be in the kitchen blissfully baking, or in my room breaking my 45s over her knee?
Would she be happy to see me or threaten to cut my pigtails off with a steak knife? She actually did, leaving me with one wacky hairdo.
And when my father rolled in at 6 o’clock already plied with several shots of Seagrams, the two of them squaring off like heavy-weights who couldn’t stand – would it be one of those all-nighters when I’d crawl under the bed with Fluffy the cat quietly crying into her fur?
At eight years of age, I had a chronic case of eczema my skin flaking like piecrust as a result of nerves. I threw up a lot, but not voluntarily. To put it smply, I was one fucking wreck.
If you know anything about being a child of an alcoholic, this is not rare.
You grow up with nothing nailed down. Your parents, who are supposed to be your protectors, instead are your biggest predators. You become a mini adult if you want to survive. And we know how that goes.
You get your own breakfast that turns into Froot Loops on toast. You’re punished for poor grades because you’re too tired to study, your parents drunken antics making it impossible to sleep.
Even after you cleverly call the cops pretending you’re a sleepless neighbor smitten when they come break it up, you’re still just a scared little kid with a nervous stomach and an itchy scalp.
Now you’re in your twenties galloping around the globe not having a clue to what life’s about. Your dad is already 6 feet under, your mom playing a wobbly game of croquette in Connecticut and can’t be reached.
So you sought out men for answers who looked through you like dirty glass. The love you never got at home made it hard to come by, simply because you had no idea what it was supposed to look like.
This is why you rarely feel bad not having kids. You actually had one…you. You raised yourself without any help stumbling and falling the whole way. It took therapy, a brief stay in a nut hospital and years of Al-Anon meetings to make you understand, your failings were not your fault.
There are millions of people like me. I’d sit in church basements and hear my story over and over again. You got hit with an iron too? Your mother put vodka in her breakfast orange juice while your dad passed out on the lawn? Wow, maybe they knew each other.
I had 10 concussions by the time I was twelve. How many did you have?
And for the record, I truly believe all those hits in the head are responsible for my sudden hearing loss, regardless of what anyone says.
Alcoholism is more than a loaded liver. It’s a twister destroying everything in its path.
I’m just sorry it took me this long to understand who I am and why, and to forgive the two people who were so sick. Yes, alcoholism is an illness right up there with any other having no idea the harm it caused.
And to our noble credit…the ones left standing…wear our scars well.