The mother of all drunks?
It’s been two months since Diane Schuler drove the wrong way on New York’s Taconic State Parkway and the resulting crash killed Schuler and seven others, including her two-year-old daughter and her two young nieces. When the news broke a few days later that Schuler’s autopsy had revealed large amounts of both alcohol and marijuana in her bloodstream, my stomach lurched.
In the days following the news of this toxicology report, Schuler’s husband denied that his wife was an alcoholic, or that she had been troubled.
We may never know the truth, but there’s been plenty of conjecture, and no small amount of outrage regarding the situation.
The many articles and blogs that subsequently commented on the tragedy expressed shock that any mother could do such a thing, and disbelief that close friends and family members wouldn’t have known if Schuler had suffered from alcoholism.
Others, however, have written that it’s actually quite possible that friends and family of alcoholics aren’t aware of the extent of their loved ones’ drinking. Perhaps even more troubling, the friends and family are often in denial, or resist addressing the issue for a variety of reasons.
As a high-functioning alcoholic, I can vouch for the truth of this. Even when my drinking gave me blackouts on a regular basis, had me driving tipsy all too often, got me into a fender bender that I barely remembered, and led me into at least one slightly embarrassing evening per month, few around me knew. If they did, they never mentioned it.
My ex and I discussed the issue a few times during our 13 years together, and I even gave AA a try, but not for long. And though my drinking continued, I guess we collectively denied it was serious enough to merit any real, dramatic change.
I talked a few times with my sister about it, too, but my secrecy and the fact that she lived 1,000+ miles away prevented her from knowing how bad I’d gotten, so she didn’t press the issue.
It was B., my boyfriend of three years now, who finally provided the catalyst for the change that I needed, and I’m beyond grateful for that.
But the other people close to me never approached me about it. Again, as a high-functioning drinker, I believe that I concealed it well. And the few times that I did broach the idea that I might “have a drinking problem,” I was met with dismay and doubt, if not flat-out denial.
I’m not blaming them, mind you, I’m just making the point, based on my own experience, that it is very possible indeed for an alcoholic to to go about her destructive drinking life with little or no notice or interference from those close to her.
Of course, the biggest controversey of this tragic story centers around the idea of a drunk mother with children in her care. How could any mother do this? so many writers have asked. Yet, as some responses to this blog pointed out, it’s not as if giving birth automatically anoints a woman as a responsible, mature, saintly creature void of any mental defects or moral afflictions.
Did I stop being an alcoholic the moment I had my first daughter 12 years ago?
Not at all, though I did abstain during the nine months I carried her, and drank only as much as the doctors and baby books said was allowable while nursing her. I had a second chance with my second daughter, ten years ago. Yet her arrival didn’t stop me from drinking, either. In fact, once I stopped nursing her, it escalated.
Alcohol helped me (or so I thought) be a breadwinner, a wife, a mom and a homemaker. It got me through being laid off, seeing my then-husband suffer a stroke, and witnessing the slow, sad disintegration of our marriage.
My fellow work-outside-the-home moms (and a few stay-at-home moms) joined me all too often in reaching for a cocktail or glass of wine while we commiserated about the trials and tribulations of modern motherhood. It was wholly acceptable to drink during our playdates. And judging from the books, the blogs and the booze-related paraphernalia that’s cropped up over the years, we weren’t the only ones parenting under the influence.
No doubt, there are plenty of mothers who aren’t alcoholics who can enjoy an adult beverage responsibly. For them, the idea of mixing alcohol and parenting isn’t a bad one, and those books and tee-shirts are all in good fun.
But I’m not one of those moms. And I used our society’s permissive attitude toward maternal drinking as yet another rationale and argument against my sobering up. As might be expected, the Schuler incident has led to a backlash against the whole “drinking mom” trend. Maybe some good will come of it.
I won’t list the potentially tragic things I did as an alcoholic mother, but suffice it to say, when I first heard of Diane Schuler’s accident, I felt sorrow and shame and guilt and…relief. “There but for the grace of God…,” I thought.
In a recent AA meeting, I talked about the amends I owed my two young daughters, and how I wasn’t sure how to handle that. Many were quick to remind me that I was enacting “living amends,” by getting and staying sober, and thus being a more responsible and loving mother. I hope I’m also setting a good example for them, so that they can avoid following in their mother’s footsteps — at least the path I stumbled down the first four decades of my life.
Filed under: Uncategorized | 10 Comments
Tags: AA, AA program, alcohol abuse, alcoholic, alcoholic mother, Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholism, change, drinking, drinking moms, drinking while parenting, getting sober, life, living amends, mommy cocktail, not drinking, party, recovery, sober, sobriety, staying sober
- May 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- October 2011
- September 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- November 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008