^Heath Ledger Voice^
When I tell you my parents are both alcoholics, what are you picturing? Maybe you are making some assumptions, maybe you aren’t. I won’t take a guess. I don’t know you. However, considering most people are pretty surprised when they learn that my parents are both alcoholics, it’s a safe bet you didn’t picture my household.
My dad has had a wonderful job with a great company for over thirty years. He has moved up within the company and makes a good salary. My mom has never needed to work but has picked up jobs here and there because it’s good for her to keep busy. We live in a country club neighborhood, we have a cleaning lady, we have a lawn service, and my parents go on pretty nice vacations. My siblings are successful in their careers, married, and have children. We all grew up in the church. What’s there to complain about?
We are blessed with a lot of wonderful things. Good physical health, good looks, and good careers. Any of these things could change at anytime but for the most part, we have been pretty lucky. There’s just that little, tiny, inconvenient detail about my mom popping sleeping pills and downing a fifth of vodka in her car at the Harris Teeter…just that. She’s passed out in her car after thirty minutes and my dad has no idea because he’s up at the club downing a few himself. Eh. It happens. What else do you have to do on a Tuesday?
You think more people would know about our little secret. A sprinkle of arrests here, a dash of public indecency there, and the robust flavor of a crying teenager in angst has put up a few red flags in this family recipe. So some people do know but not as many as you would think. Once when my mom was arrested, it was out of county so it didn’t get published in our paper. She has had one DUI in our county but people wrote it off as that upper-middle class mom just having too much fun out with her friends. The police have also been pretty easy on my mom. Her first DUI didn’t stick, the officer got fired before her case was brought to court, it was unrelated to her charges. Her case was thrown out. Another time she should have been arrested for drinking and driving, the cop had just gotten off duty and told us just to take her home because he was tired (that’s a classic story I will get to another time). My dad also makes a good living and the lawyers he hires help my mom get out of anything. My mom is just about the luckiest drunk in the world. No consequences, no accountability, no need to stop drinking. Woo!
I think the kind of drunks my parents are also plays a big role into why people don’t pick up on things. My mom doesn’t go to bars and get hammered and start a fight. She drinks by herself in her closet when my dad is working late. She pops a sleeping pill and downs whatever she can get from the store in her car and sleeps there in the parking lot. She doesn’t bring a ton of attention to herself. I can’t remember the last time I have seen her drink in front of anyone. She always just shows up somewhere, completely wasted and she NEVER stops smiling. It’s infuriating. She drinks in hiding and she is a happy drunk. If you don’t know her, you won’t realize she has been drinking unless she is to the point where she can barely walk. People will just think she is being silly or that she is tired. I think that is even scarier than the drunk at the bar starting fights. At least there are some clues to when he needs to call a cab.
My dad on the other hand is a public drinker. Most people probably assume he is just a social drinker because he is the fun loving drunk. He drinks with his buddies and at the house. He’s loud and happy. He never starts fights or drives drunk. People are constantly drawn to him with his big personality, his sense of humor, and his constant state of “fun”. Who wouldn’t want to drink with that guy? If he wasn’t my dad, I probably would. He’s a good time. But you need more than a “fun time dad”, especially when you have sleeping beauty as a mom over in the grocery store parking lot.
Don’t get me wrong. My parents aren’t terrible people. They love me. They love their family. They love their friends. They love their jobs. My mom regularly volunteers and coordinates events for those less fortunate. My dad donates money to any cause you bring to him. They both are involved in the church. They have a lot of connection to their community. This is why it’s anonymous. I respect that. I have always strongly believed that if you guilt and shame the alcoholic or substance abuser, you might as well write them a prescription for a relapse. It doesn’t make you or them feel better. You can’t shame an addict into being clean. But just to be clear, that doesn’t mean I hide their alcoholism from friends and family anymore. You will read more about that later.
So why write this at all? I am not writing this for/against my parents and I am not writing this for those addicted to substances. I am writing this for the people who are loving the substance user. We are the ones that get pushed to the side. Everyone is focusing on the addiction, the drama of it all…while we have to deal with the shit storm that follows. It’s not fun seeing your mom’s mug shot in the paper. Although…my mom’s most recent mug shot is freaking hilarious. She looks like she just won the lottery (I told you she never stops smiling). And another reason…I still need an outlet. My friends are too uncomfortable when I discuss these things satirically so I will write these funny stories instead for internet strangers. If my parents do see this (very unlikely, both completely inept with technology) and connect the dots, I love you guys. You just drive me freaking nuts.
My next post will start with the beginning, when I first realized my parents lifestyles were not normal and how I decided to deal with that at age 10. It’s hilariously depressing.