As I approach the 6 month mark, I am faced with a difficult piece of news. Last week I found out that my mother (a heavy alcoholic since as far back as I can remember) has recently developed alcohol induced hepatitis, or as she puts it… her liver is “very tired”.
This is how I put it: shit just got reaaaaaal, man.
Until now, my mother had always boasted that her liver was fine. My father had always marveled at “how strong and solid that woman is”.
But now it’s not. Now she is not.
She is mortal. She is 60. She has induced her own accelerated mortality. She has been slowly drinking herself to death for decades. Her little sister drank herself to death. And traumatized her own three kids who found her in the bathroom one day coming home from school.
Alcoholic Hepatitis is the stage before fibrosis and cirrhosis. The damage to the liver is real. If it isn’t too severe, it can sometimes be reversible, on one condition: the person has to quit drinking completely, ASAP (note: I am not a doctor and in no position to give medical advice. Please ask your doctor if you are facing anything similar!!!!). Knowing my mother and her consumption, however, I am skeptical as to whether she is still in the “not too severe damage” category.
Either way, here it is, at last. The moment both dreaded and awaited, for so long. The taboo in the family, finally broken. It so simple: If she wants to live, my alcoholic mother has no choice but to quit drinking, “forever”. Holy fucking shit.
Obviously, I got my hopes up. I mean, she set a date. My dad also said he’d quit with her, for emotional support. I said “I’m six months ahead of you down the road, we’re on the same path, we can all do this together !”. Hell, she even saw a doctor (I’ll skip the whole bit about her own medical career and how she uses it as an excuse to refuse getting help herself).
She would never choose option B -drinking herself to death-, right?
Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight ? That would be insane, right?
Come to think of it… she did say she was going to do this without medication. And she did dryly reply “I’ll find my own way, thanks” when I sent her a link to One Year No Beer, hoping the community might give her extra support. hmmm……..
Then I spoke her on the phone the other day. “Ooooh, turns out my quit date was a bit too ambitious. I’m going to cut down more slowly and then I’ll stop”.
My stomach sank when I heard those words. It sank like it has so many times before, and I got that familiar feeling I felt to often as a kid: never get your hopes up.
The broken promises. The disappointed hopes. The anger, the frustration. The fear. The certainty: never trust your alcoholic parent. Not even when their life is at stake, apparently.
I mean, I get it…. a week or two before my own quit date, I was terrified. I lied, I hid my drinking. Anything but having to give it up.
If MY first couple of weeks were hard, then what’s it going to be like for HER? This is a lady who’s been pouring herself a glass of wine first thing in the morning for YEARS.
So once more, I find myself having to detach. To give up hope, even when it’s the hope that my mother won’t drink herself to death.
It’s really hard, because I care. It has taken me 30 years and a lot of therapy to stop wanting to change this, to fix her.
By now, I know that all I can do is keep “setting the right example”, and refrain from preaching. This is her life, her choice, her responsibility. I cannot save my alcoholic parent. I can only focus on my own path.
Maybe she will quit, just not as soon as she announced. Either way: it’s her path.
As I approach this 6 month mark, I therefore find new motivation: to keep going, at least until I hit 1 year. There’s no way I’m sitting at a bar, downing pints, while my mother’s “tired” liver slowly carries her to a sad, poisoned, pickled (yes, that’s a reference) death. This has also given me more fuel to keep ignoring the “you’ve come so far, one drink won’t hurt” crap.
And remember why I’m doing it in the first place. To not become her.
xxx Hang in there everyone!