My childhood started out well. We never had to worry about missing a meal. We always had a roof over our heads unless we were camping on purpose. As a child, things were great. I was growing up and being awkward. Which I soon found out, that no matter who my parents were, I was destined for it. Before my ninth birthday and in the month of December things got weird. My mom and dad were home all day and night. Store bought brownies showed up in the kitchen every day and new movies rented that kids could not watch. My parents were in bed all day. These were two fulltime working adults who rarely went two days in a row home with nothing to do. My siblings and I went to school and daycare as prescribed in the daily shuffle, but my parents went stagnant. I could not make the connection.
This all started with my mother and father standing in the living room putting on coats to leave when I came home from school. Again, two fulltime employees home before their children got home was odd without warning? There was a something that my seven-year-old brain picked up. My father did the “parent-call” which meant “move your ass or there will be trouble” and I hustled to the source of the call that night. There I helped pour out one of a few fifths of Canadian Lord Calvert. My mother frequently had me and/or my siblings in the car as she pulled into the drive-thru and ordered the “Fifth of CLC”. That was always a highlight as I knew I would get a sucker just like at the bank. She took the time to go get this and it was always a fixture in the home. There was always a bottle and a on the counter with a half empty can of diet “cola”. So why pour it out?
Over the next several weeks, my parents were home when I got home. In bed. At 3:30 in the afternoon. My life was disrupted! I finally was the true latchkey kid who could come home and not have to gauge and react to those in the house. This was the first time I had consistent control over the TV on weekday afternoons. And now, my parents were home screwing my new-found routine. At night, my mother would go out for a few hours and come home. We actually acknowledged her comings and goings. Usually, she shuffled out after dinner and I did not see her until she came home from work the next day before mini-stay-cation my parents had only for themselves.
Christmas came and went and my mother went back to work, but still kept going to what I soon found out were “meetings”. The frequency came fewer and farther between as the year went along. And life got even more awkward. Most weekends consisted of waking up around six in the morning only to watch cartoons. We would hold our breath when mom got up. There was a general discomforting bitchiness that just never settled until we went out in public. But this new “sober-mom” was not what I liked as an 8/9 year-old. You never knew what woman you were dealing with from minute to the next. I knew how my days were before, I knew how to read that woman, but this one was different. The only thing that remained constant, was the fear of her waking up. I literally feared what shit she would sling when she woke up.
A few months later there was a struggle in the morning to get out the door. I don’t know if I lost a shoe, or generally was the pain most children cause when trying to get out the door. I do remember a feeling of discontent in the constant back and forth from my mother. That day I remember being one of my first clear memories of snooting back at her. Which I never really did. That day I was called out of school early that I had no idea about. My mom picked me up and took me to my very first AA meeting. I was 8. Having an 8-year-old daughter now, I could not even imagine having her sit and hear what I did during that meeting. But maybe this was a good thing. I gained a new perspective of where my mother was coming from and what she had to go through.
The years would go by with good times and bad, but always a very openly “sober-alcoholic” mom. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given drugs periodically. This mostly consisted of Zoloft. All other drugs tended to make her feel weird. She would begin taking them and soon go off after a few months always in the fall. Thinking that she was doing well and did not need them. Just in time to make things really fun for the holidays.
This cycle seems to scare the pants off of me at any given moment. I fear at times I am having these same emotional up and down cycles. The one thing I know I can do is throw on some shoes and get out the door. No one is going to care whether you smell bad or how you look. You aren’t supposed to be the best at this sport. You simply have to get out and do it. I have tried to find out other ways to articulate this. I am so happy to have long distance runs in my life. They bring me so much focus and generally great health. I cannot imagine how I could have coped better without this over the past several years. I wonder if I would end up finding comfort and happiness with a drug or simply become bipolar myself. Either way, I have great health, a pair of sneakers, and a good supporting sports bra.