September 9, 2021

Having your children grow up is tough for any parent. All the moments you think will always be there, and then one day you wake up, and feel like life has passed you by.

I remember like it was just yesterday, a vision of a time when I was brutally exhausted as a new mom, but also in parental bliss overcome with happiness with our young children. That memory for me was at Disneyland. 

There is a snapshot in my head of our three year old son in his light brown corduroy pants, and his choo choo train sweater, holding my mother’s hand as they followed the Disneyland character parade down Main Street USA, balloons lining the street. I remember both of us getting teary eyed, and she said, “Remember this moment.” And so I did. 

Our daughter was just a few months old, and I had nothing but time to enjoy our new baby and her older brother. I thought of all the rides we would take in the Magic Kingdom... We had nothing but time.

Or so I thought.

It’s like someone just hit a light switch- and those happy years faded almost as fast as they had come

We had many more years of genuine happiness, until about five years later.

I sought places to escape to when I didn’t want the children or myself to be around him. Immediately, Disneyland came to mind. One day in December I whisked the kids up in my arms to take them to the “Happiest Place on Earth.” 

I took them then. And then again. And again. It became a pattern of behavior- to escape. One time I surprised them at school and “kidnapped them” on a spring Friday afternoon in April to get away from the drinking.

That’s what I would do. I would rush them away to the “Happiest Place on Earth” because I didn’t want them to hurt, and I didn’t want them to see him drinking. I didn’t know how to handle his drinking, let alone stop it. I wanted nothing but a true fairy tale for my little ones.

I still have the picture of my first grade son giving a “thumbs up” in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle the first time we “escaped” in December. I remember what they were wearing- him a red school sweatshirt, my daughter in her Easter dress (because every three year old dresses the way they want- and an Easter dress at Christmas time was status quo for her).

I was attempting to create moments of joyful, uninhibited distraction from the sadness and scary times that would inevitably soon ensue.

I spent many years not facing the reality of what was happening

While my children enjoyed frequent trips to Fantasyland, so did I. However, I wasn’t facing or solving the current situation that was getting worse and worse. I was enabling it by not addressing it head on.

So for years we kept spinning between reality and Fantasyland, because we didn’t know how to handle the hurt.

Then finally, things came crashing down, and years of emergency calls, rehabilitation, and doctor’s offices filled our daily lives.

There was no more Fantasyland

It took about five solid years for our family to sort through the mess and chaos of all that had ensued with his drinking. All of the out of control on his end, and all the avoiding and enabling on my end.

Then we went to work. We went to work on facing the truth even when it hurt. We did the hard, tough stuff even when we didn’t want to. Even when we wanted to quit.

It started with us as individuals, then as parents, and then as a family.

All of us had to put in work. We began to grow and evolve in a different way than I had ever imagined. Some good, some new, some different, some unexpected.

We were far from the days of choo choo train sweaters, Main Street USA balloons, and dancing on parade floats. We were new and different people, as people evolve over time. 

Except we had experienced something difficult to put into words. Even though it’s not said on a daily basis, the life lessons we learned going through a disease like alcoholism change you. It can change who you are and how you see the world- sometimes good, sometimes maybe not as good.

How to deal with resentment

After many years of adjustments, changes, experiences and growth, I woke up one day and POOF. The kids are grown.

I genuinely wrestle with (and this is something that’s hard to admit), some resentment that I missed out on the Golden Years with our kids. I was so busy dealing with this disease, I often felt I could not enjoy them as much as I wanted. 

The Fantasyland retreat, the balloons lining the street, the Zippity doo dah days- were replaced with a disease instead of Storyland.

So, here’s the thing my brother told me not too long ago. That time, that I never wanted to end, that was never promised to me. That was not a guarantee. Life’s battles and crap and heartache are what we all get. We don’t get to put the day, the time, or how long the good or the bad last.

This is life.

Some of our good times did end. But, we also had an end to our bad times. And while there is no guarantee there won’t be more hurt or sadness at some point as we walk the road of life, we can stop and be thankful our children have both their parents in our home, and that we never gave up.

We never gave up on each other, we never gave up on ourselves, and we never gave up our best to give our children a loving, happy home.

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