The Flood

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Do you ever have those memories that sometimes blindside you? The ones where you are just going about your day with your menial tasks and BOOM, one knocks you on the side of the head. Except that these are drinking memories I’m referring to so it’s more like they knock on your heart instead of your head.

I had one of those this week. I was in the bathroom doing bathroom things (not that, I’ll spare you). We have one tiny bathroom in our house of four and it was built in the 60s and has the typical 60s aesthetic: pretty green tile, tiny wooden drawers and cabinets (in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint), laundry shoot, built-in shower/tub. The sharp memory I had was one of flooding that tiny bathroom, not one, not two but three different times. I can’t remember why I’d start the sink water and walk away but I can deduct a few other variables from the context to sort of piece it together.

Each time it was in the evening and to be so out of touch that I would flood the bathroom meant that I’d really tied one on and to really tie one on in the evening meant my husband was most likely out of town which meant that I was really tying one on while I was home alone with my children.

I know, shame.

There’s a part of me that wishes I could put these especially horrible memories in a drawer, shut it, lock it, throw away the key, set the thing on fire. It’s different now. I know better, I do better. But doing that would feel like an attempt to rewrite history and I can’t, it happened. That specific, painful memory is right there nestled with other memories, tucked away and waiting for their moment to ping my heart when I need to remember what it was like. If I can’t remember what it was like, I can’t remember why I quit and if I can’t remember why I quit, I’m very likely to go back to that old story, pick it up where it left off, me cleaning up a water-soaked bathroom again, kids no longer wondering why Mommy flooded that bathroom again, but now knowing exactly why Mommy flooded the bathroom again, knowing the bathroom sink wasn’t the only thing neglected under this square roof.

I carry these memories inside of me for other women too, to open that drawer and let them take a look, to let them pull them out, try them on and say, Oh this fits me too and thank God I’m not the only one.

Model the Solution

Moms that are also alcoholics carry around an extra piece of baggage in the overhead compartment. We are bombarded with media, social and alike, telling us that we need booze to cope. The memes, the Facebook groups, the Mommy and wine playdates, the wines directly marketed to Moms all validate any reason to drink. And then if you have a night off from the kids? No problem. Book clubs with wine, painting with twists (spoiler: twist = wine), movie dates with bars are all encouraged because obviously Moms need to drink. And there is no inherent problem with any of these things, unless of course, you're an alcoholic.

So here's the rub. What happens to the Mom that wakes up one day with a nasty little addiction? What happens to the Mom that has crossed lines, any line, that society and your integrity determined should never be crossed? I know that my decision making skills became poor to downright terrible after the first glass, even when my kids were present. There is no shame, either internal or societal, that is comparable to the shame showered on an alcoholic Mother who has crossed the line. None. So what do we do? Enjoy all the wine, Mommies, but not too much. It's very confusing and no wonder I see so many Moms everyday that have no idea how they got to where they are or how to back out.

The good news is, there is a solution. But in spite of all of the recovery, including putting down the drink, that shame can still linger. The best thing I ever heard around the topic of all the shame and regret that we Moms feel over what damage we may have done to our children, what precious time has been lost, was this: model the solution. Show our kids how to cope with stress, how to relax, how to wind down, how to decompress, how to show up without booze. We can show them how we are okay, just the way we are, without having to change our physical, mental and emotional states with booze. We're good and we're enough. I don't know about you, but it never occurred to me that I was modeling the opposite of that to my kids. And even though I really want to make up for lost time, I believe it happened the way it was supposed to and now I just keep moving into the right way everyday.

So this is what we now do with downtime.

Besides, how cute is a boy that sews?