At the end of my mom’s life, she died from accidental suffocation related to chronic alcoholism. However, she was always more than her disorder. We did not have a close, easygoing mother daughter relationship but I loved her and I miss her. You may wonder how I can be so proud of who my mother was. I’ll tell you how but first let’s talk about how she became an alcoholic.
How I think she became an alcoholic.
I’m not sure what made my mom start drinking. She came from a family of alcoholics. My father was an alcoholic. When I was growing up she was a social drinker and attended Al-Anon. She also encouraged us to attend Ala-teen.
However, when she met my stepfather, she began drinking more often at social events then at family dinners as well. About 10 years ago, her drinking became a noticeable problem.
Then she lost her job 5 years before retirement. She couldn’t find a good job in her field partly due to her age and to her drinking. She fell into a depression.
Any suggestions about getting help was returned with silence. She had completely given up. We spent less and less time with her. Finally, I stopped calling her because when I called, she wouldn’t remember what I had said the next day.
My mom had an Illness. Substance use disorder did not define her anymore than my mental illness defines me. The exact cause is unknown. Substance use disorder did not define her anymore than my mental illness defines me. The exact cause is unknown.
Some risk factors are genetics, family history of substance abuse, mental illness, stressors, and low self-esteem. To learn more about substance use disorder, read this article from Medline Plus. This who I remember when I think of her:
She was a strong independent woman.
My mom was so strong. She had been through so much but she kept fighting. She was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused in her life.
She sacrificed a lot for us.
- She went back to school with three young kids to give us a better life.
- She moved away from all her family support to give us a life without welfare.
- She made sure we had food before herself which often meant she went hungry.
- She had depression and a history of abuse, but she made sure all of us received mental health treatment before her.
She was resourceful.
When she was in school, we had a Christmas where there was no money. I was 7 when I learned Santa wasn’t real. She talked a Christmas tree farmer into giving us a tree and on Christmas morning, we each had a handmade ornament to hang on the tree. That began a tradition I still follow with my own kids.
She taught me to love others.
She was a Christian and taught me to love Jesus. I don’t know if she was still Christian at the end because she didn’t talk about it but I hope and pray I will see her again someday. Even though we were very poor, “I am the richest mom in the whole world. I have you three.”
She was my safe person.
She was the only person I could fight with, be myself, and know she still loved me.
Some may say that my mom just did what any mother would do. That there wasn’t anything special about her. They would be wrong. She survived so much in her life but always did her best to get help for us.
There’s so much more I could write. I just want to remember my mom for who she was not how she ended up.
Mom’s death was tragic but she was loved. To read more about her death, click here.
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