Who loves to feel powerless over their insecurities??? Oh me, me, me! Said no one ever. Everyone has something they feel insecure about. I don’t care how confident you are. There is something that makes you feel embarrassed or ashamed. Its typically something out of your control. Mine happens to be two large things completely out of my control, I call them mom and dad.
As I have stated in previous posts, my mom’s alcoholism was no secret. I had shared with friends and professionals. I had reached out many times in an effort to connect with someone and I wasn’t always greeted with outstretched arms. So where does that leave me in the dating world? Most people probably could break someone in calmly and coolly but I guess that is just not my style. I am more of the keep it a secret until you explode or dump all of the baggage on them too soon. I know, I am quite the catch.
In this situation, I was lucky. The guy I was dating, my now husband (we will call him Alex), already knew about my parents. He had been aware because he had known me since high school. There weren’t too many surprises there so he had to just ride the storm with me instead of me trying to keep him away from the water. Sounds like it could be smooth sailing. No. That’s not how it goes because when you date someone, you aren’t just dating them. You are also dating their family. That’s right people…the potential in-laws. Dun. DUN. DUN!!!
Alex came from a good family. His parents had been married for almost thirty years, they grew up in the church, and they all got along pretty well. Sure there was the occasional sibling spat, but it was always resolved before an evening ended. Alex’s dad is probably the kindest man I have ever met. He is Mr. Dad. You know the type…President of the booster club, volunteers for church events, teaches Sunday School, and he never missed one of his kids’ games. Then there is Alex’s mom. She is one of the most generous people I have ever known. She loves the shit out of her kids too. I mean she never missed any school event or sporting event. They were her number one priority and still are. She knows every class they are taking and every project that is due. She keeps in contact with the teachers. She is Mrs. Involved. I credit Alex being so wonderful to his parents. They raised an amazing son and I am very grateful for them.
So how in the hell am I supposed to break them into my world? Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents. They raised a great kid, I mean hello? I am awesome. They just were…not as involved as Alex’s family in their kids’ lives. And you know there’s the little sprinkle of alcoholism in mine to shake things up as well.
When Alex and I started dating, I knew I was going to marry him. I knew I was going to marry him before we started dating actually so hiding my family’s dirty secret was useless. It always came to light and it was better to prepare someone for that then to catch them off guard. My secret hope was that his family already knew. How could they not? Everyone in school knew. My mom had made several embarrassing displays of her alcoholism. Maybe I would just never have to say anything. I still don’t know if they knew about my parents before we talked about it this one special evening.
We had just finished dinner at his parent’s house and his dad asked about my dad playing golf (they belonged to the same country club). We made some jokes about my dad being up there so often and I decided to toy with the idea of sharing more with them. Alex and I had been dating awhile, I figured it would be fine. So I made a joke about my dad hanging out at the “19th hole” so often, aka the bar. His dad laughed and asked if my mom meets him up at the bar after he plays golf. My heart jumped into my throat. I could feel my stomach knot up and my heart started beating faster. My anxiety sky rocketed in a millisecond.
Let’s side bar real quick before I get to my answer. That reaction I had is not one anyone should have when talking about addiction. I was feeling anxious, sweaty, and guilty. I was embarrassed and I felt the impending doom of judgment. My mom’s alcoholism is not my problem and it is also not something I should be embarrassed about. It is a disease, it is her disease, and I cannot change that. I have been shut down sharing about my parents’ alcoholism before which is why I still get so anxious talking about it but I HATE THAT. How can anyone ever reach out for help if their anxiety is that overwhelming??? Don’t ever be ashamed to be vulnerable with someone. That’s the only way we can break this terrible stigma. End side bar.
So I am staring at them and they are staring at me. Alex is holding his breath. I decide to lie and to not lie. “She doesn’t drink at the club” is my response. That’s true. She doesn’t. My mom chugs a fifth of vodka in her closet or in her car in a parking lot and passes out. She doesn’t drink with my dad or in public. I realized I wasn’t ready to share with them yet and I was disappointed in myself. I pride myself on not being ashamed of where you come from and who you are but I was still all talk when it came to my parent’s drinking. Unfortunately, Alex’s mom took the bait and responded with “It sounds like your dad drinks enough for the both of them”. Well, fuck. I laughed awkwardly and Alex changed the subject quickly.
Side bar again. Don’t judge Alex’s mom too harshly. She takes life very seriously. She addresses things directly and she can be incredibly forward, almost to a fault. She didn’t have any experience with alcoholism and now that she knows about my parents’ alcoholism, she would never say something like that. End Side bar.
I was so embarrassed. His mom thinks my dad drinks too much because he is up at the golf course a lot? She is in for a freaking surprise. That was just the surface of it and there was a deep, deep canyon of crap below. How could I ever share with them? How could they ever understand? What would they think of me? Would they worry I would be the same way? Would they want Alex to choose someone with less baggage? They want what’s best for their son. What if they didn’t think that was me?
That was a hard day for me. What am I saying? That was a hard few months for me. I had been dating Alex for awhile and I was still going to have to hide this dirty, heavy, soul consuming secret from them and we spend a lot of time with them. They weren’t ready or I wasn’t ready or both. It was really tough. I felt like I was back in high school again and my insecurities were clear across my forehead. I never talked about my family and I changed the subject when his family asked about them. This all caused an unnecessary rift between me and Alex’s mom that she didn’t even know about.
Although I do not think her comment was appropriate, this could have all been avoided had I been honest. I could have said-“No she doesn’t drink with my dad, she’s an alcoholic and working on getting sober”. Sure that might have been awkward but it always will be if we don’t talk about it more. Instead of her judgmental comment, I think his mom would have responded with either surprise or empathy. I know his mother and she most likely would have follow up questions and that would have been fine. I may have felt embarrassed or awkward but I wouldn’t have felt so alone. Because even though it would have made things a little uncomfortable, his family is kind enough that they would have been supportive. I know that looking back because they are great supports to me now. But if you have learned anything from my posts, you should know I like learning things the hard way.
If you don’t want to tell someone about your addiction or a family member’s addiction, don’t. You don’t have to do that. But if you want to and if you need support, if you are feeling alone, and if you just need someone to share your pain with, freaking do it. I highly recommend doing it in an appropriate setting. Maybe don’t announce it in a high school speech (read My Biggest Regret post to learn about that disaster) but if you feel led to share, share. This dirty secret shouldn’t be such a dirty secret. Addiction is too common for so many people to suffer in silence.
This might not be my most interesting post but God did it feel good to write it. I honestly didn’t even think I would get as emotional as I am feeling right now but I just feel overwhelmingly relieved. I think that story was burdening me more than I realized. Thank you for letting me share these things with you. I love hearing from people that they can relate and they enjoy my posts. Subscribe if you enjoyed the read and share with your friends if you think it could help them!