Different In All The Ways


I go to church on Sundays now. I go because I feel God there and I promise I mean it when I tell you that it’s the last place I thought I’d find God. I’ve looked there before and came back pretty empty. I’m not sure what’s different now except that I’m sure I am. I’m all the way different.

Last Sunday, I was sitting at the same spot on the same pew I’ve been sitting the dozen or so times I’ve been there. There was a young Daddy sitting at the front by the aisle, next to his little boy. The boy was probably around five but very small, glasses, toe-headed. He had this little ball in his left hand, it seemed to be a light ball like maybe a wiffle ball, and when he wasn’t rocking back and forth in his seat, he was ever so slightly bouncing that ball in the cup of his hand. The ball seemed to just hover there. And because a ball can’t defy gravity for too long, every few minutes, it would miss its landing and roll out into the aisle. In the length of the Sunday sermon, that ball rolled out into aisle no less than twenty times. Every single time it did, I watched the Dad get up, gently pass through the small space between his boy’s little legs and the back of the next pew, pick up that ball and place it back in his son’s hand. No impatient body language, no visible release of air from his lungs that would indicate a sigh, no head hanging in defeat, he just retrieved that ball, all twenty times. This scene destroyed me.

I flashed back to the years my son was that age, as he exhibited much the same behaviors as that little boy, and how slim my patience was with him. I thought of how many times he’d drop a ball but it would always end with him screaming in frustration because he was most likely reflecting my frustration. I know we’ve all done the best we could with what we knew, but as I sat there unable to stop the tears, I wished I could go back. I wanted a do-over.

So I’m back in church to remember that I’m already forgiven. I am given grace, even when I didn’t ask for it, even when I don’t expect to receive it, especially when I don’t think I deserve it. I’ve heard the term ‘unconditional love’ so many times but how many times have I stopped to think what that really means: love with no conditions, no strings, not a transactional exchange but like a one-way street, like water bursting from a hose. I am hosed down with so much grace that I get to love on my boy today. I get to gently guide him, help him retrieve the balls he continues to drop and despite my frustrations that still surface because I am far from perfect, grace has given me another chance.

Like I said, I’m all the way different now.

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?