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My Name is Becky And I Am Not An Alcoholic

I am an adult child of two alcoholics, and although there are nifty acronyms used to refer to us, I prefer my real name: Becky. The Internet knows me as Aunt Becky and I blog over at a seemingly incongruently named site: “Mommy Wants Vodka.” Perhaps you have heard of me, mixed into articles about Diane Schuler, the lady who killed her kids, bashing me for being a Cocktail Mom.

My blog was named as a tongue-in-cheek joke, which is easily lost in the negativity swirling about the tragedy. Perhaps on paper (or computer screen) this is how I sound: like a lousy drunk who is unfortunately a mother. When, you know, I can sober up enough to actually, you know, parent my children. I hate to shatter expectations to those looking for a quick target to let their anger at alcoholics out on, but I am not a drunk. Humor–tasteless to you, perhaps–is the way that I cope.

In reading up on the other issues facing my cohorts, my fellow children of alcoholics–who also, presumably, have names–I think that in spite of the flack that I get, humor is the far healthier way to handle it. I’ve somehow, by the grace of God, perhaps, been able to avoid many of the nastier lasting effects of my childhood. I am not shy, I do not suffer from low self esteem, and I don’t obsessively hoard china cat figurines.

I do have anxiety and guilt, and I frequently blame myself for things that never had anything to do with me. I cannot trust even my husband with certain things, not because he wouldn’t be unfailingly kind, but because it is ingrained in me to not trust other people.

For all of the controversy surrounding me on The Internet, on the sites that bash me, nothing–NOTHING–can compare to what swirls within me. Every day, every single day that I wake up, I wonder if today will be the day that it hits. We adult children of alcoholics are four times more likely than the general population to develop issues with substance abuse. FOUR TIMES.

For someone like me, who has not one, but two alcoholic parents, this number must be infinitesimally higher. So I wait. Somewhat impatiently, I wait for the day when I will feel the need to become staggeringly drunk and fall down the stairs. Or take to my bed, weeping at what has become of me.

It’s exhausting, this waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But I don’t think that drinking is Of The Devil, no matter how much I hate the smell of scotch and the scent memories that live on, well beyond their lifespan. While I do not recall the last time I had a drink, I have had one and I will continue to have them now and again. The liquor cabinet is well-stocked at my house, and always has been. I’ve not felt the urge to drink myself to obliteration in at least five years and I don’t longingly wait for a cocktail at the end of a long day. Frankly, for as uncool as I will no doubt paint myself now, forever banned from the tattoo-biker moms, I’d be horrified to drink at a playdate.

So I sit and I wait, and while I do this, I build a life for myself: I’m a mother, a writer, a wife and a friend. A daughter. A sister. A niece and a cousin.

My name is Becky, and I am not an alcoholic.

Where The Sidewalk Ends

I was so tragically glib about how evolved I was; how I’d managed to escape my past unscathed. I called myself the Energizer Bunny, joked that I was made of Teflon, and marveled that someone could grow up as I did and become a mostly functional adult child of two alcoholics.

My home life as a child was far from simple. I pretended my family was like those I saw on television because in the television, the mothers loved their daughters every SINGLE day. Those children had meals cooked for them, had parents they could talk to, parents who took them to swimming lessons, parents who cared about them, parents who loved them no matter what.

They had what I wanted: parents who behaved like parents.

I had the illusion of a family, two parents, a much older brother, some cats and dogs, and then there was me. Caregiver. Cleaner-upper. Parent to myself. In reality, I was alone and I knew it.

I learned what so many of us children of alcoholics do, trust no one but yourself. It became a way of life. Carefully, I constructed a facade that even I began to believe. A life that I so desperately wanted, I could attain if I lied enough about it.

Eventually, I grew up. Waiting for the day when I itched to have a drink, and then another, and then another, I was surprised when it never came. I had a child out of wedlock, a happy accident, I changed my life around to accommodate that of a single mother, then I got married. I had another child. Then another.

I knew that I bore some of the scars of my past–who doesn’t?–but it twenty years for me to realize that I’d grown up to do the precise thing that 8-year old Aunt Becky always swore she never would do: I put myself in the same position that I would have done anything to get out of.

I married an addict.

We always joked about it, The Daver and I, his addiction to his work–Workahol, we called it, back when we still joked around about it–but for the past five years I’ve watched as it went from working to live to living to work.

It was all that he ever wanted to do, work, that is, and that’s where he got his joy, his rush, his feelings of accomplishment, his ego, and we were just periphery. Background noise. Particularly loud and unbelievably adorable background noise, but background noise nonetheless.

As he worked more, he needed more and more to feel that rush, that thrill, and his hours grew until he barely saw us. When we’d dare interrupt him for something like, oh, maybe the HOUSE being on fire, we’d get a terse, snappy reply, and stung, we’d walk away hurt.

I consoled myself that he was working so hard to support us, and when I’d bring it up, he’d swear that he was doing it all for us, but it wasn’t quite the truth. What we needed was a husband, a father, a friend, and someone who didn’t place something else above us every second of the day.

I’d never considered it a real addiction, not like gambling or drug addiction, because it was one of those things that we did, you know, NEED to do.

But there it was, from Adult Children of Alcoholics:

We either became alcoholics ourselves, married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.

When I read that, I dry-heaved, and then I bawled my eyes out. It’s a bitter pill to swallow to realize that your past is never as far away as you thought it was.

I finally brought it up to The Daver, and this time, rather than trying to pass it off as something else; my problem, money issues, whatever, he listened. He listened and he realized that it was a problem.

I explained that I had lived my entire life with addicts, always walking around on eggshells, and that things in our house had to change. I simply couldn’t–and wouldn’t–put my children through what I had been through.

We both started individual therapy this weekend. He’s looking for a balance, and I’m, well, I’m looking to put the ghosts of my past to bed. For the first time in many, many months, I feel hopeful about the state of my union.

Perhaps this is where the sidewalk ends and a road begins