I was eight months sober when I found out I was pregnant.
I had only known your father for a short time. We were acquainted around the tables of AA. We were drug and alcohol addicts, and we were young. I was 21, and he was 23.
We knew we would keep you although our lives were pretty chaotic at the time—being newly sober feels like you are just learning to walk. We used substances as crutches as we wandered through our lives too wounded to feel.
We sat around those tables in our early days with tears and anger after coming out of years spent abusing our bodies and minds. We’d been suicidal and worried for our dear lives daily. We didn’t want to screw this up, but temptation lurked around every corner.
We formed some of the most important relationships of our lives in those rooms. We formed bonds so tight we were like prisoners of war—the war was in our minds and sometimes it’s still there even 23 years later.
I’d like to tell you I’m cured of this disease called alcoholism, but it’s still alive and well. It’s prevalent when I feel uncomfortable or insecure. It sneaks back in when I least expect it. It tells me I’m not good enough and that I will never amount to anything. It tells me I’m not worthy and that you deserved a better mother. It shows me all of my flaws and weaknesses. It tells me I should just take a drink so I can have fun and let loose like others.
My disease tells me I’m different and alone and that nobody likes me. It tells me I will always finish last and why should I even try. It reminds me of the good times and tells me I was better when we were together.
I sit across from you and remember you as a small infant. I remember holding you and coddling you. I had never felt so much love. I knew that day I first carried you that I would carry you for the rest of my life. I would never let go. I would die for you.
Your little baby voice as it started to formulate words, like hi, and momma, and dadda. It was the sweetest sound I had ever heard. Your first smiles and coos, your toothless grin. Your white hair and sweet blue eyes. You are my boy.
We went on adventures, you and I. I relived my childhood with you at museums, beaches, parks, and plays. We rode bikes and read books. We sang songs and played music. I learned to be a child, and my brain developed along with yours.
You see, I had a different kind of childhood. I was an unwanted child. I fought through addiction in my family and didn’t have a safe family unit. I witnessed things I shouldn’t have and didn’t feel safe. I am lucky to be here alive and well.
There is something that happens in life when we try to play it cool and act like we have it all together. We might feel like we really do, but what I’ve learned is everyone falls apart at some point. Some find their breaking point with drugs and alcohol as I did, some use sex or shopping. Some use food or porn, but the truth is, eventually those things stop working to satiate that obsessive hunger we have for more. We have to stop chasing the next thing and get to the root of what is causing the feelings that give us the need to chase one more thing to feel okay.
What are we escaping from? What are we numbing?
For me, it was a lack of self-worth. Drugs and alcohol made me feel pretty and fun. I knew how to drink and use; it came quite naturally. It wasn’t like sports where I was uncoordinated and flinched when the ball came my way; it wasn’t like school where I couldn’t focus. Drugs and alcohol took away my inhibitions and made me the coolest girl in the room. They made me feel badass and tough. They took away that fear and insecurity that was robbing me of my peace of mind.
The problem is that they exacerbated those feelings the next day, so I needed more to quiet that dull ache. That uneasy feeling of being met with me.
I see you now as an adult and experimenting on your own. I have always hoped and prayed you wouldn’t be bitten with the addiction bug, but I am sad to tell you how far back it runs in our family. We are ridden with mental illness, trauma, suicides, and deaths from alcoholism.
I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t scare me about what the future holds.
Breaking this cycle of addiction abuse had to start with someone, and I am glad that someone is me and your dad. The people who raised us had their own childhood traumas that got passed down to them and like Gabor Mate says,
“Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experiences. A hurt is at the centre of all addictive behaviours. It is present in the gambler, the Internet addict, the compulsive shopper, and the workaholic. The wound may not be as deep and the ache not as excruciating, and it may even be entirely hidden—but it’s there. As we’ll see, the effects of early stress or adverse experiences directly shape both the psychology and the neurobiology of addiction in the brain.”
I come from a place of 10/10 adverse childhood experiences. I should be locked up or dead, but for the grace of God here I am sharing my story of hope and redemption. I want to give you the keys to your own personal freedom, and I wish it were that easy, but it’s not. I had to learn to unlock my own doors of my own personal prison to find my way out and trust me; sometimes I put myself back in and have to start over.
I love you, son, and I pray for your comfort and peace. I pray you never have to reach the depths your parents have, and I pray you continue to walk forward, knowing who you are and your strength in this world. I have laid the best foundation for you I could, and I only hope it’s enough.