“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.” — John Wayne
I finally met my mom, sober.
When I was twenty-two, I got a call from my father early in the morning before work.
He called to tell me that he had left my mother. Why? Because she was an alcoholic.
The reason he left? Because he couldn’t stand it anymore, and he wasn’t going to try, and help.
I found myself leaving work that morning in a hurry to check-in on my mom. She didn’t look good, in fact, she look so bad I knew that if I didn’t get her out of the house soon, she would die.
Phone calls back, and forth, three days later she called me, she asked me if I really thought she needed treatment, and I said yes, with all my heart.
Two days later we were on a plane. I was throwing down cheap airplane coffee that burned my throat, and my mom was flipping through the inflight magazine. We drove a few hours through the desert that night until we pulled up to a town like the ones you’d see in old westerns. The motel room had bars on the windows, and my mom looked at me with a face that said, I thought you said this place was nice.
I shrugged, she was thousands of miles from home, and tomorrow I would drop my mom off to rehab like the many times she had dropped me off at school.
The next morning, my nerves shot, more coffee in my veins than blood, I drove my mom to rehab. I walked her to the in-take desk, hugged her tight, and left her there for thirty days.
The days in between, I wrote her letters, wrote about my days, and asked about hers, included inspirational quotes. We only spoke a handful of times and I wondered what she would be like the next time I saw her.
Twenty days later, surround by my siblings, all grown up with families of their own, we sat through family week. Basically, intense days filled with group therapy. My brother nervous, made jokes. My throat cracked as I talked and my sister cried every time someone look at her.
We were adult children of alcoholics. That we knew, but they told us again. Like some secret gang, I imagined us with leather jackets and patches that said “adult children of alcoholics,” everyone would fear us.
So what does it feel like to throw an intervention for your mom while your dad is running out the door?
Like waiting for your heart to come back up to your chest while it sunk in your stomach waiting for her to say yes.
Also, it’s super awkward.
What does it feel like to drop your mom off at rehab on the other side of the country?
Like someone pulled the skin of your bones: thirty minutes after I drove away, I spent the next eight hours spilling my guts, literally, all over the beautiful desert and cacti. I almost missed my red-eye back home that night.
What does it feel like to sit in front of your mother, surrounded by strangers, and tell her all the ways she failed you?
Like interrogation, because you see her eyes pleading you to be gentle, but you can feel the push of the counselors behind you, trying to break the enmeshment, the co-dependence.
What does it feel like to pick your mom up from the airport a month later?
It feels like a new world, it feels like a second chance. It feels like meeting someone, my mother, for the first time. Because for the first time in the twenty-two years of my life, I finally met my mom, sober.