12 Steps Away
The first time my mother admitted that she was “powerless over alcohol” was the night that my father sent me into the local bar to bring her out. He stopped doing it himself because he would usually find her at the bar with another man and invariably there would be a fight.
My mother always knew that she couldn’t control her drinking by herself.
Unfortunately, her idea of turning her life over to God was to beg him to help her get over her hangover.
Over the years she made many “moral inventories,” however, she didn’t need to admit her wrongs to me because I had lived most of them. They were forever burned in my memory.
I truly believe that my mother only saw the “defects of character” in everyone but herself. She was so convinced that she always drew the short straw in life that it almost made her drinking justified.
I know for a fact that she made lists of the people that she had harmed with her drinking, and that she was probably willing to make amends to the best of her ability. What I never understood was that she never made any effort, to my knowledge, to make amends to me.
Admitting when she was wrong never came easy to my mother, however, there were periods of time when she read her Bible, went to church and seemed to be trying to be a better person.
I’m not sure if she ever experienced a “spiritual awakening,” but in between relapses she did attend a lot of meetings and even sponsored a couple of people.
I grew up in a household where everyone was familiar with “The Big Book,”
”One day at a time,” and of course the 12 Step Program. The older I got the more I found it odd that a woman who spent so much of her life thinking only about herself and drinking, could expect to be helped by a program that basically required a person to be completely self-absorbed. For quite a few years with each new episode of binge, detox and rehab, I expected to get a whole new “mom” who actually cared about and thought about me. Unfortunately, the person who usually came back was too busy working her program to even notice that anyone else was around.
As an adult, intellectually I must admit that Alcoholics Anonymous and their 12 Step Program are very effective tools that have helped a lot of people. The problem is that in my heart that 5-year-old toddler, 10-year-old child and 15-year-old teenager still don’t understand. For them, those 12 steps only took their mother further away.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.