I do not think that many people realize how smart young children really are. They can pick up on behavior and interpret it almost exactly the same as any adult. As a young child, I knew when my mother was drunk, and the saddest part is that I thought it was normal. Because of how often my mother was intoxicated, I thought that everyone’s parents got drunk on a daily basis. I remember saying, “she’s drunk,” to my best friend when she was over at my house and her response was, “your mom gets drunk?!” She was a child that grew up in a “perfect” household, with sober parents who loved one another; she did not understand. I was so embarrassed and that is the moment that I finally realized that showing up to your child’s school as a volunteer, drunk, is not normal; swerving the car around with your child in the passenger seat is not normal, and forgetting to pick up your child from school because you are passed out at home is not normal. As most children of addicts do, I blamed myself for so long, and sometimes I still do.
My mom did not have this problem when my sister was born or when my brother was born, but it developed soon after I was born. I have watched my mom try to kill herself. I have watched my mom get so incredibly sick and almost die. I have watched her go to rehab and relapse the day she was released. I have even personally bailed her out of jail, alone, when I was only 18 years old: legally an adult, but still supposed to be my mother’s child. However, it has always felt like I was the parent; I am the parent. Luckily, being the parent has made me mature and independent. I think that a lot of the children that seem so unusually mature and independent for their age are that way as a result of a traumatic up-bringing. Those kids are strong as hell; I am strong as hell.
(Although I have faced a rough childhood, I am grateful to have grown up to realize that alcoholism is a disease, not a choice; I love my mother unconditionally and know that she has suffered just as much as I have. I hope that other children of addicts can find it in their hearts to acknowledge their parent’s covert love.)
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