Thursday, December 20, 2018

I'll Drink To That

My mother drank.

She was—or tried to be—a secret drunk. 

At least, she kept the DRINKING secret.  The drunkenness, not so much.  She must have known that we understood how she got the way she got, every night when she came home from work.  But she just could not be frank or honest that she drank, about how much she drank, or about how and/or why she NEEDED to drink. 

She was ashamed of it.  But she didn’t stop.  She couldn’t stop. 

And Dad, who could have helped her stop, helped her drink instead.  Made sure that there was booze in the house so she wouldn’t have to go out in the car to get it.  He thought he had it under control.  As if making sure she didn’t kill herself or anyone else out on the streets after having power-chugged two or three canned cocktails in the parking lot at the liquor store was the only and most important aspect of having her drinking “under control.’

So, my mother spent much of my formative years in the bag.  And I spent much of that time praying that the few friends or acquaintances I had would never see her in that condition. 

I suppose I have made peace with that aspect of my childhood.  I don’t hate my mother for ruining my teenage years.  I was a pretty fucked up kid, independent of any of that (I think…) She did the best she could with what she had, and so did Dad.  Do I wish that they had made different choices?  Yes…sometimes I do.  But it was what it was, and there were happy times in spite of and in between all that. 

So why am I thinking about this today?

Because, now I’m over sixty myself, and it takes a half-hour for me to iron out all the kinks and get fully mobile every morning.  And, with the seasonality of my “career,” I spend many of the darkest, coldest, gloomiest days of the year alone with my thoughts…and that is NEVER good.  So lately I have got to thinking about Mom’s drinking.  It was self-medication, of course.  She had severe arthritis in her neck, and it fucked with every aspect of her body.  AND—and this is her legacy to me, my sisters, my nieces—she had severe anxiety.  Anxiety that she could never share with anyone, because she didn’t want anyone to throw a net over her head and clap her in the loony bin.  The very same kind of anxiety that I grapple with.  Every. Single. Day.

So….I understand, more clearly than I ever have in my entire life, why my mother drank.

At those times when I just want to bash my own head in with a hammer, just to stop the ever-churning circle of anxious thoughts from speeding around and around and around in my head, I fully understand being willing to do anything you can to SHUT THEM UP.         

And that being drunk most of the time was probably one of the more innocuous ways to deal with the issue.

Unfortunately, I cannot drink like that.  My stomach just won’t let me.  My mother’s insides must have been made out of cast iron.  She got loaded every night, but I don’t think she ever got sick from it.  I never saw her with a hangover.  I can drink a couple of glasses of wine, and that’s it.  Any more than that and it just goes down like battery acid.  And if I do manage to choke down enough to cop a good buzz, I feel like crap most of the next day.  Who needs that on top of the crippling anxiety you’re drinking to get rid of?

This isn’t exactly a heart-warming holiday reminiscence, is it?  The fact is, holidays were the times when my mother’s drinking was the worst.  She just couldn’t handle the “stress” of cleaning up the house and having people over…not without a good snort or two under her belt.  So it is, like it or not, one of the memories that comes to mind (haunt?) when the holidays roll around.

Memories….  They’re not ALL good and happy, are they?  But they are what they are.  They don’t keep me from thinking fondly of the Christmases when we were all together, before the really SERIOUS losses of life had begun to whittle away at our numbers around the table.  Mom’s slightly altered condition just became part of the fabric of our lives.

I’d take those days, now, over sitting here at my lonely keyboard, typing out a journal entry, trying to give my brain a productive distraction…

1 comment:

  1. I know a little of where you are coming from. We found the beer cans all over the place. Probably why his daughters don't drink very much.I know I am a lousy messager. But I am here. I'll try to do better. And you can message me any time. The legs may be shot but the shoulders are still there