I was sitting in the audience at a school play, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I was watching intently, thinking that it seemed strangely familiar. All of a sudden it hit me: this is what it means to be the daughter of an alcoholic. My mother is both Jekyll and Hyde. She morphs seamlessly from friend to foe, which scares me.
From the outside, my family looks typical—a mother and father living with their children in a beautiful home, with a dog and two cats. But if you step into my life, you’ll find yourself tangled in emotional chaos.
My worries begin every morning. Who is going to walk through the door? Is it the disease of alcoholism, or is it the person I love? Will I have to call 911 again tonight? Will I hear the soft, caring words of a loving mother, or the biting diatribe of a cruel alcoholic?
I have had to grow up more quickly than most of my classmates. Countless times, I have stood in utter despair in the middle of the night, watching the EMS workers make their way up the stairs to my mother’s bedroom, hoping that somehow they will rid my family of the disease that has stolen our lives.
I have spent so many years riding an emotional roller coaster that it has begun to seem eerily normal. I often felt very alone. I lived with fear—with a mother who was there, but wasn’t. Through the ups and downs, I have found Alateen, a refuge and a place to grow.
Every Sunday night, I now walk through the wooden doors of a small room, where I am surrounded by kids just like me, whose loved ones have disappeared down the black hole of alcoholism. It is an Alateen meeting. Here teenagers come together to share their stories, feelings, and struggles. When I am here, I know I am not alone.
My Alateen friends are a kind of family, brought together because the families that fate assigned to us are broken in a way that feels irreparable. It is in these meetings where I have found my own voice and I am able to share my frustrations and worries with many listening ears. In talking to and listening to my peers, I have learned a lot about myself. I have found the strength to see my mother as someone struggling with a disease. Now I see myself as someone turned outward, able to keep my bearings as I reach out to help others.