Why I Gave Up Trying to be My Mother’s Daughter

Sometimes I wonder why I was chosen. Why I was the one picked to live. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told it’s on me. Until I came along, life was good. There were gifts. Vacations. Disposable income. And I ruined it. She became an alcoholic because of me.

One might be quick to accuse me of hyperbole. Label me a jaded child whose mother simply fits the typical baby boomer mold: hard-lived, hard-working and hard to love. My difference is these were told to me on a few occasions as hidden attempts at humor masked as the version those speaking would like to remember.

This sarcasm runs as a gift from my mother’s side. Quick-witted and sharp the lot of us. We’ve also learned how to balance. Always on our toes no matter the weight of the issues cast on our shoulders. It seems it was meant to make us stronger. We were never told. I had always tried to be her everything. The best student. Dancer. Singer of school solos. I tried to bend to fit the rest of the mold. But I don’t. Instead, I live as an outsider who thinks too much and can’t just have a good time. I’ve watched her stumble; brown on her breath, barely lucid. Picked her up from a tumble. Undressed her. Blown into her breathalyzer so we could go home. A good kid, one would say.

I don’t know how I will accept it. The inevitable morning I wake up and she is no longer here. Will I feel grief or a tinge of relief? Will I know that I’ll never have to search for her again because she forgot her phone and yelled that driving drunk isn’t that big of a deal. Will I be like most: the ones who kept her around for a good gossip spell yet didn’t want to see how they added to the suffering? I can’t answer these right now. All I can handle is the weight. The weight of my chest as I hold in my screams. She won’t hear them, and if she did, she would tell me what I did to cause her problems.

I gave up years ago but I didn’t want to believe I did. I was her last on the bench and I ran in every time with something to prove. I grew tired of her never seeing my worth until she needed me. One day, I stopped showing up. Stopped buying cigarettes. Stopped providing rides to the bar. Stopped giving my last out of guilt. We became roommates. Estranged living under one roof. When I found me, I, guilt-ridden yet gratefully, lost her.

I started over my own motherhood. Went to therapy. Asked my therapist to help me dive deep into these wounds so I can stop faking wholeness and actually heal. Sometimes healing is walking away. Pulling away. Snatching away. It feels selfish and guilty and ugly. But all pain does. Digging out wounds is hell. But no longer being shut in due to the sick — heaven.