I have so many special memories that it’s hard for me to isolate one. I gave thinking a break and one particular memory popped into my mind. The day GE had Sophia and the days that followed are golden. It isn’t just the birth of GE’s first baby that was significant; it was what it meant in our relationship as mother and daughter.
I was a single parent for much of GE’s growing up time. I married her dad frivolously and divorced him before her 4th birthday. We spent many of her growing up years together, just the two of us. That sounds like a mother-daughter Bobbsey Twin story, but I am an alcoholic woman. Even in the times when I wasn’t drinking alcoholically, I was thinking like an alcoholic.
“Men and women drink essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol. The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable and discontented, unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort which comes at once by taking a few drinks-drinks which they see others taking with impunity.” (From the Big Book)
The important words are restless, irritable, and discontented. Alcoholic thinking, to me, is the idea that a drink will answer my problems, that I need it to take the edge off. I knew the outcome, but the mental obsession would win more and more often as time went on and be followed by a drink. Off I would go. I would be verbally abusive when I was in the restless, irritable, and discontented phase; then, sweet and loving and giving after a few drinks. That was usually followed by effusive gift giving to pay off for the guilt I felt.
I don’t know about alcoholic dads, but alcoholic moms live in this special hell which intensifies the longer they drink and watch the gap widen between what they know a good mom does and what they know they are doing. The guilt is incredible. I hear women say that’s why they drank. That isn’t true for me. I used it as an excuse, but I am an alcoholic and I drank if I felt guilt or good. Although not all alkie mothers are like that, I was.
I suspect my daughter was a normal child of an alkie which means that she learned to lie to herself and others: “Mom’s just tired. She’s under stress. She doesn’t mean to act like that.” Even though I had been sober for more than 9 years when GE gave birth to Sophia, it is impossible to erase a childhood of a mother’s alcoholic thinking. Many things had and have been mended, but my kids and I can’t forget some things.
Sitting in the hospital room watching GE with her new daughter was indescribable. There was a peaceful glow around her like I’ve seen in Renaissance madonna paintings. That gentleness lasted until the nurse took her baby to the nursery and kept her longer than GE thought she should. “Jonathan! That nurse said she was bringing Sophia back by 2:15. It’s 2:21. WHERE IS SHE?”
I loved catching GE as she looked her new daughter over, running her hand gently over Sophia’s hair, a look of rapture on GE’s face. She was clearly in love. After we got home from the hospital, we dressed Sophia in some of her new outfits. First, the UT Longhorn cheerleader one, then the bling-bling white velour sweatsuit, fluffy white and pink flowered dresses: we tried them on the baby and took pictures of our 4 day old top model.
When I had to drive back home, GE and I stood in her driveway and wept. I felt a mixture of pride and sadness, joy and regret. It was a picture painted in brilliant oils, something that time can never diminish.