I received a very surprising email about two weeks ago. It was from an author, Barbara Joy, “Easy Does It, Mom (Parenting in Recovery)” (Conari Press, 2009). She is writing a new book and is in the research stage. Barbara writes about parenting; specifically about mothers and for mothers who are in recovery.
There didn’t seem to be much I could add to her research since my daughters are grown with children of their own. My drinking career also didn’t come into full bloom until my children were a lot older. So because of that I didn’t have some of the difficulties that mothers in recovery might have raising young children. That doesn’t mean my daughters weren’t affected because they definitely were but each in her own way.
This article isn’t about my drinking, recovery and parenting but what Barbara invited me to do brought tears to my eyes and gratitude to my heart. Tears because of the lost times; the times I can never reclaim (we do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it) and gratitude to be able to acknowledge the yesterdays for what they were, the good and the bad.
We know what we might have done to our children even if they don’t. We know we put them in the car (their friends as well) and drove under the influence. We know we were dishonest. We know we were selfish, choosing our addiction over their welfare. We might still have had meals on the table every day, went to their school events and helped them with their homework. The actions didn’t always betray us but our emotions did. If they did see who we really were they probably kept it inside because, after all, we were “moms”!
What we think we might be hiding from our children may be a bit more obvious to outsiders. Of course, we don’t think so but then when we were in our disease I’m not sure we cared all that much. As I was writing my experiences for Barbara, I remembered an incident that occurred when I was newly sober. It struck me that problems and issues that seemed to surround one of my daughters actually had nothing to do with her. It really was about me. She was a reflection of me and there were many people who couldn’t separate the two of us.
The incident that I remember from the past was that I was invited to a bridal shower for the daughter of a very good friend. It was at her home and I knew it would be a rather lavish affair. I was not disappointed. The food was superb and the wine was flowing. There were a few women there that I knew but I did not know any of the women on the groom’s side. As we sat around the dining room table for the luncheon (my wine glass turned upside down), the woman sitting across from me was discussing her son and his ex-wife. She said that the whole divorce was such a shame and her ex-daughter-in-law was such a sweet thing but she had “issues”. She had “issues” because, poor thing, her mother was an alcoholic. I had everything I could do to keep my mouth shut but I did. I remembered that incident a few days ago as if it were yesterday.
This “poor thing” was a “poor thing” because her mom was an alcoholic. Now I don’t know her or her mom and I have no idea what being an alcoholic is for her. What I do know is that the daughter’s identity was all about the mother. This is what we do to our children or did to our children. I am reminded of a young woman in the fellowship who is working every week on a project with her son’s teacher. She volunteered because she knew the teacher had remembered her as an alcoholic and now she wanted to restore her own reputation but more important how the teacher saw her son.
Personally, and in retrospect, I have many experiences that I can remember that were about my daughter but not about my daughter. There isn’t anything I can do to change the past. I made my amends to my children for my past and made the living amends to them for today and tomorrow. I want my daughters to be recognized for the beautiful women they are and when anyone asks: “Oh, aren’t you Kathy’s daughter”, I want them to say “yes” with pride and love.
If you are new (or not) to recovery and you have children of any age, remember that making amends to your kids is a part of the deal. But go a step farther and see if there is damage you can repair on the outside—for your child’s sake. You don’t have to say a word to anyone. Your actions will say it all. Love your child the way God intended—with all of your heart and soul and for all to see.
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
PS If there are any moms in recovery who would like to participate by sharing some of their experiences and wisdoms for Barbara’s upcoming book, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.