Catherine is 15 and lives in New Hampshire. She wanted to share the true story of her family for Breaking the Chains. We appreciate your honesty and bravery, Catherine.
I walked outside my basement door to look for my parents and there they were. They sat side by side, each with a beer to themselves joking around, sipping on their drinks.
Before this, I had never seen her drink, except for when I was very young, about 4 or 5 years old. My mom would come home from work smelling of cigarettes and booze and crack open another beer, making it that much harder for her to wake up the next morning in time for kindergarten.
I used to think I was so cool coming into school late, especially since my mom would let it happen. I don’t think it was purposeful. Waking up and making herself presentable was just a process since she had to hide her pale face under a mask of blush. Then one day, Mom stopped bringing me to school.
When I asked my dad where she went, he would tell me she was “sick” and went away to get better. Since the day I saw her in my backyard, her drinking began progressing and the sad thing is I was noticing without really seeing anything. I knew my mom was an alcoholic, but I never really understood what that meant.
A few weeks after I noticed the drinking, I was upstairs watching TV and I could hear the hacking and painful grunting of someone puking and the slosh of liquid landing in a bucket. It didn’t sound good so I became concerned. I carefully snuck down the stairs only to be seen by my father who was pacing around the downstairs living room. I asked, “Is Mom okay?”
His answer was, “Yeah. Mom’s just feeling sick.” There was that word “sick” again. I could see my mom laying on the loveseat with the bucket within arms’ reach. Her face was pale and worn. I knew then that my dad was in denial and so was she.
I began to notice the habit she had formed just kept progressing. Every day I’d come home and there would be a half empty can of beer on the counter that would be gone before my dad arrived home. It didn’t bother me too much to be quite honest.
However, the next situation that concerned me was at my mom’s work anniversary party that they host every year. My mom met up with a friend and they hung out the entire time in their lawn chairs, while my brother, our friends, and I played in the pool and participated in activities.
When it came time to leave I questioned to myself whether my mom had been drinking, but I never said anything. I felt uncomfortable bringing it up. We made it home fine, but much later, after she came home from the hospital, she confessed to me that she had been drinking that day.
The drinking continued to progress, but I learned to ignore it. What was I supposed to do? I was 15 and even if I had said something, would they have paid any attention?
Then, on a Tuesday afternoon, I took the bus home from school and my brother went to his friend’s house. As I approached my house, I noticed that there was an extra car in the driveway, an old maroon one my grandparents might drive.
It was one of my mom’s best friends at the time and the superhero of the day. I walked into my house and looked around. No one was to be seen, but I could hear the sound of rushing water and a light shining came from farther down the hall.
I peeked around the corner and looked into my bathroom to see my mom again with a pale face. This time she was leaning against the wall with the toilet in reach. All I could think is, ‘Not again.’ Mom’s friend finished drawing up the shower and asked me to go wait in the living room until she finished so she could explain to me what was happening.
She came and sat down on the couch next to me and began to explain. “Your mother called me and asked me to come over because she was scared she had taken too many pills. When I got here, your mother was in her room drinking a bottle of wine. I helped her into the bathroom and made her throw up and I think most of its out. Then I drew up the shower to help her feel better. If you want you can go see her, but she’s sleeping right now.”
I went and sat with my mom who was in bed so she could sleep off everything that was left. The black computer chair that I sat in was placed at the end of her bed. Mom’s friend called my dad and explained the situation, and then I heard something.
My mom was talking, but none of it made sense. It was hallucinations from all the pills she had taken. I sat there with my eyes beginning to water. I didn’t see this coming. Then I heard her say something again, but it seemed to make sense this time.
She asked, “Are you mad at me?”
“What?” I replied and she repeated herself. I stood up and crawled in bed next to her and I answered “No”.
Her friend waited with me until my dad got home. When he arrived, he greeted us and turned to mom’s friend who took him down the hall to my parents’ room where my mom lay sleeping. She returned soon after and hugged me whispering, “It’s going to be okay, but I have to go home and make the boys dinner.” Then she left in her maroon grandpa-looking car. I could hear the engine roar up and pull away.
My dad came out a while later and came and sat down with me. “Mom’s going to be okay,” he reassured me. Man, I really hoped that was true. We turned on Murder She Wrote and he made dinner. Not much else was talked about on the subject that night.
The next morning my mom was off to rehab for two weeks, but I couldn’t come drop her off so I stayed home and worked on my homework and chores. The weeks following her departure were normal except I had to take the bus more often and there were more chores to be done.
My mom finally returned to us, the loving mom I remembered as a child. She cried and apologized to my brother and I. My eyes began to water and she hugged me, bringing a waterfall of tears to my eyes because in this moment, I truly realized how much I missed my mom.
She explained to us, “I’m better now and I won’t drink again. I am attending A.A. again to help me.” All I could do is hope that it was true.
InDepthNH.org launched Breaking the Chains to give voice to people who are recovering from addiction. Breaking the Chains also provides information about where to seek help whether your drug is alcohol or heroin or any other drug. Email email@example.com to tell your story or to list recovery information. We use first names when appropriate for this column only.
Information about recovery can be found at: