That question weighed heavy on my mind while I was in treatment. I guessed I had probably lost count after a hundred and that was before I got into my late twenties. I am an alcoholic, a drug addict, a child of an alcoholic and drug addict, and a child of an amazingly wonderful woman. I am also a 39 year old momma’s boy, born a momma’s boy and always will be one.
My mom is the most incredible and amazing woman on the planet. She would do anything to make you feel special and feel like the most important person in the room. There is not a mean bone in her body and she doesn’t have a mean thing to say about anyone. She finds the beauty in everyone. So why was it easy for me to break her heart for 15 straight years? Because I’m an addict, and nothing mattered more to me than my drugs and my alcohol. I didn’t care who I was hurting, even the most important people (woman) in my life.
I started drinking when I was 17, consistently blacking out by 18 and actively abusing drugs by the age of 23. I guess you could say I was destined to be an alcoholic. My dad is an alcoholic (in recovery), his dad was and his grandfather before that was an alcoholic. To top it, my mom’s dad was an alcoholic and many of my first cousins are alcoholics (most in recovery now). Addiction runs thick in our family blood line.
Just so you don’t think I’m a total piece of shit son, I’m going to condense the heartbreak moments to just a few, and save all of us from a drunk log. I do feel it necessary for you to understand the hurt I caused and hopefully after reading this, you can take something positive away from it.
All my mom wanted to do was love me, hold me, tell me everything was going to be OK. She wanted to spend time with me, be my parent, give me advice and tell me life was going to turn out OK. My mom wanted to know about me, my life, my friends and understand my world and tell me my world was OK. When I was in active addiction I never let her in. I always kept her at a distance, because I was hiding a deep dark secret: I was an alcoholic drug addict.
When I would come home from college to visit for long weekends and holidays, my mom would beg me not to stay out late and to be in bed early. Looking back, it was because she never slept when I was out. She stayed up all night praying that I would come home in one piece. She tossed and turned, praying till 8a most mornings! The nights I did come home, I would wake everyone up in the family, by accident (I was not a pleasant drunk man). Even though at first everyone loved having me home, I quickly wore out my welcome.
My parents hated the idea of me moving to Los Angeles. They knew I was border lining alcoholism, they just didn’t know how bad it had gotten when I moved to LA. Yet, they still wanted to spend time with me and visit. Having them out to visit was hard work. I was hiding a drug fueled lifestyle that didn’t know any boundaries. When they would visit, night would come, they would go to bed, and as soon as they were a sleep, my night would start. Drugs, alcohol, sneaking out to meet friends (like I was in high school) and staying out all night; causing me to either sleep the entire next day or be a total moody asshole running on fumes. My parents spent a ton of money and energy to visit me; I treated them like second class citizens while they were there. My addiction didn’t care who got treated poorly.
I’ve always lived in a different city than my parents, only a few hours away in distance. There were hundreds of times they came to visit me. I usually lied to them on why they couldn’t stay with me. Truth was, I wanted to party. I could never take just one weekend off of drinking to spend time with them. I made my parents stay in a hotel and what’s worse, I acted as if I was doing everyone a favor by meeting them out for dinner.
It was a nightmare when my brothers came in town and all 4 of us went out to raise hell. I was the leader and my brothers always followed me into a drug and alcohol induced weekend every time we got together. My mom and dad hated it when we went out together! I was an awful role model and certainly not acting like the ‘good-boy’ son my mom had raised. My addiction only cared about the party, and I bulldozed anyone who stood in my way of that, including my mom.
There was a time my mom came in town to make my favorite dinner because we had been missing each other for months. I stayed out from the night before till about 30 minutes before she showed up. I was drugged out of my mind and hadn’t slept for 3 days. As soon as my mom arrived, (she knew something wasn’t right) I showed her to the kitchen, the pots/pans and ingredients and then went right to bed. She cooked alone for 3 hours hoping her meal would make me feel better. I never woke up. I slept right through the night and missed her dinner. My addiction did not care about dinner with my mom!
The asshole icing on the cake was on May 31st, my mother’s birthday. It was a beautiful Sunday, all of my family was having an early evening bbq for her and I didn’t show up. What’s worse; I didn’t even call her that day to wish her a ‘happy birthday’. I had been sleeping off a 3-day binge and was nowhere to be found. She called me later that night to tell me I had missed her birthday, she was crying and very upset. That was the low of the lows. I was so far gone into drug addiction and alcoholism. I thought the missing birthday ‘glitch’ was just a temporary feeling. I convinced myself it wasn’t that big of a deal. I thought by saying sorry, all would be good. Unfortunately, that was the one that really affected our relationship. Addiction was ruining my relationship with my mom.
I literally broke my mother’s heart daily when I was abusing drugs. I broke promises, I was so unreliable, there were hundreds of embarrassing moments, there were times my mom had begged me to stop, only to be made a fool over and over again by my actions. Unfortunately, heartbreak by her oldest son had become the new normal in our relationship and my addiction did not care.
Unbeknownst to me, my mom was going to church every week to light a candle for me. She knew I was in trouble and could sense things were not going to end well. She was asking for me to get help, asking for God to watch over me and get me to a place where I could start to heal and live a clean life.
What’s so amazingly true and perfect about this story: God worked his magic the day I entered treatment. I hit my limit: I had spent four straight days using and abusing and was rushed to the emergency room. That next morning, my brothers showed up, they told me they had booked me a room at a residential treatment program and I would be there for the next 30 days. My mom had not heard the news until later that evening when I called her. She was actually at church that very morning saying a prayer, lighting a candle and begging God to help me.
While I skidded into rehab, my experience there was very positive. I spent many days uncovering layers of myself, finding out who I was deep inside, and who I was without the drugs and alcohol. Still a momma’s boy and a grown ass man now with a long-list of amends to make to his mom.
Two weeks into my treatment program, I received a letter stamped from home and in my mom’s handwriting. I opened it and there were 10 hand written pages, full of every heartbreaking moment that I had caused her because of my addiction. It highlighted all of the shitty things I did (sort of like a fourth step for moms/Al-Anon if you will) Reading those things, in her words; while I was starting to get my clean mind back was so moving, so crushing and upsetting to me. It broke me to relive all of those moments and to hear my mom’s heartache. I was crushed. I had some work to do.
My family came to visit me over Easter Weekend. After dinner, I asked my mom to go for a walk, just her and I. We walked around this beautiful lake as the sun was setting and I told her something I had learned while in treatment. My chaplain talked about Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is My Shepherd.’ He told us that when sheep would walk away from the herd over and over again, shepherds would have to break the back legs of the sheep to prevent them from continuing that and potentially getting killed by prey. This taught sheep a valuable lesson to not act out and to stay safe inside the herd. (That’s why you see so many biblical images of the Shepherd with a sheep around His neck, nursing them back to health and safety) My chaplain often asked me – do you feel like your back legs have been broken?
I told my mom for the past few years, I was so sick that I didn’t realize the damage and heartbreak I was causing her. I told her my back legs were broke and how sorry I was for everything I had put her through. As I started to bring up each instance with her, she embraced me and told me she loved me and that we never have to go back to that. I told her I never wanted to either. We were both crying and it felt so good to be back in my mom’s arms again, as the ‘good-boy’ she had always wanted.
I am 6 years clean and sober and my relationship with my mother has never been better. That insanely sick time in my life, the ups and downs (mostly downs) with her, has taught me the wonderful meaning of unconditional love. It has taught me about forgiveness, it has taught me how to treat other people. I have learned so much from my mom and the way she treated me during my active addiction. She is still the most amazing and wonderful woman and without her love and support, I could not have done this. Sometimes we hurt the the most, the ones we love the most. And the ones that love us the most always keep coming back hoping for a different day. I’m so grateful my mom and I have a different day now!!