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.
Thank you for writing this. I have never heard anyone say EXACTLY things I have felt and thought. I’ve never heard anyone else compare it to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’ve never actually seen/read it, but have always referred to my mom’s alcoholism as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’m just getting back into Al-Anon. I tried to go to Alateen when I was younger but I guess I just wasn’t ready. I felt like I had to save her because I had no one else. No siblings and no dad. It was always just her and I. And… Read more »
Thank you for telling your story. I can relate a little bit. I am thinking about going to Alateen soon and I know I will enjoy it. Love, India
This is a well written story of exactly how I felt growing up with a Mom who was Alcoholic. I never grabbed on to the Alateen program, though it was introduced to our family during one of my moms hospital stays.Times were very different back in the 60’s , when I was a teenager. I’m being reintroduced thru my participation in Al-Anon. Reading your story brought me back to my beginnings of not understanding what was happening in my family. We all took on a role, trying to cope with our everyday existence. Thank You for being unselfish and brave,… Read more »
I am an Alateen sponsor (have been for the past 18 months) and this month in Australia we celebrate Alateen Awareness month on our PI calendar. We are also celebrating 60 years of Alateen worldwide, as well as 60 years of Al-Anon in Victoria. I would like to share your article with my Alateen group next week.
Love in service