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Personal Column: Younger years with Mom

Kennedy Stidham, Editor-In-Chief
Kennedy Stidham – Managing editor

What is a mother? According to the dictionary, a mother is “a woman in relation to a child to whom she has given birth”. For nine months, she houses the baby in her body, feeding it and keeping it healthy. Protecting it.

The problem was my mother was addicted. My mother drank and did drugs as I was developing in the womb. Doctors speculated the chances of my survival. Those who were optimistic still doubted I would ever function normally. I was at high risk for intellectual and physical disabilities. When I entered the world as perfectly healthy baby girl with all my fingers and toes, it was a true miracle. 

After birth, a mom also often plays the role of caregiver, chef, maid, chauffeur, homework tutor and number one fan. It is hard for most people to imagine their life without her love, words of wisdom or even nagging. My mother didn’t play any of these roles in my early childhood due to her addiction. Every other weekend was a horror story. She was incapable of functioning unless she had a drink, and satisfying her craving only made her feel worse. I can recall numerous visits to the hospital to visit her without an explanation as to why she was there. When she was at home, I ended up taking care of her – holding her hand as she walked from place to place so she wouldn’t stumble or nursing her when her hang overs were so bad she felt ill.

She was not a happy drunk. The feelings she was trying so hard to conceal by drinking flooded out of her. She took out her rage and depression out on everyone, but I seemed to be her main target. One night, as she was feeling particularly angry, my grandparents ran out of ways to calm her down. They said to me, a terrified child no older than seven, “why don’t you see if you can calm her down?” Before I could refute, they pushed me like fresh meat into the lioness’s den. I tried to console her to the best of my ability, but she was in her drunken state of mind. Her anger escalated until she ripped the stereo out of the wall and lobbed it in my direction. I broke down in tears, absolutely petrified by the person who was supposed to be my protector.

The night seemed to last forever as she continued to erupt. Eventually, she was too far gone to be reigned in. My grandparents resorted to calling the police. As they read her rights and placed the handcuffs on her wrists, she resisted the arrest and began to throw clumsy punches at the officer. Her retaliation only made her situation worse; the agitated  officer tackled her to the ground and pinned each arm behind her back to secure the handcuffs. She was still hollering as she was dragged out the door and shoved into the police car. The next morning, we received a call from the police station. All I was told was, “She was feeling sick, so they relayed her to the hospital.” It turned out she was going through alcohol withdrawals. I didn’t know or understand that; I just wanted her to be punished for her bad behavior. I was put in to time-out when I threw temper tantrums; why wasn’t she?

“You just don’t understand,” everyone would tell me. “Your mother is very sick.” She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was a young child. She treated alcohol like medicine, and everyone around her wrote the prescription. My grandparents would buy her alcohol. They would look the other way when she excused her self from the dinner table every few minutes to “go to the bathroom”. When they saw the poorly hidden cans and bottles in her closet or under her bed, they would pretend not to see. Their intentions were good; they wanted their daughter happy and blindly believed that alcohol would solve her problems.

Even though there were many things I did not comprehend about the situation, I knew the truth. I was the first one to bravely speak up and tell her “you need God.” Though she listened to the words, she did not hear them. The message would take its sweet time sinking in.

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    Ariel BensonJan 16, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Love this story. Very brave of you to write about such a personal topic. My hat goes off for you.