Mother’s Day isn’t always about love, chocolate candies and flowers. If we grew up in a dysfunctional family, it can bring up deep feelings of abandonment and serve as a painful reminder of what we didn’t get from our mother. Like many of us who attend Celebrate Recovery (CR), that is my story too.
My mother died of breast cancer 23 years ago. She was 64 years old. I started my recovery work a little over 10 years ago. I have been through at least 4 step study groups in that time. My first few inventories mostly looked at the effects of my mother’s alcoholism on my life.
In the past 3 years, I have looked at other ways in which she impacted my life. On the positive side, she had a wonderful sense of humor. In her sober times, she was able to look at the humorous side of different events, and she loved to laugh. She was gregarious and outgoing, with an ease of talking with friends and strangers.
More recently, as part of my 4th step work, I am now looking at a broader perspective of my mother. You see, when my mother quit drinking 2 years before she died, I thought I would get back the mother that I remembered from my youth, before she started drinking. I remember hugging her when our family members went through rehab with her, and feeling like I was hugging a shell of a person. My stomach dropped as I experienced this new reality.
I had idealized my mother in order to be able to survive the truth of who she was.
In actuality, my mother was devoid of the ability to connect with me. Based on letters that I have uncovered, she had an inability to look at herself deeply, and therefore, an inability to connect with me deeply. I don’t remember her asking many questions about my life. Conversations revolved around what she was experiencing on a very superficial level, or what she was witnessing in other peoples’ lives.
Back then, I didn’t have much of a feeling vocabulary, but I remember whenever I left her apartment after a visit, I felt a void. My internal conversation might have gone something like this: “What just happened in there? I spent 2 hours conversing with my mother. I should feel connected and filled up, and instead I feel empty.” This is the reality of being around a person who is disconnected from themselves, and from others.
I am choosing to grieve the reality of who my mother was and wasn’t, and the lack of empathy and connection that she was able to give me. It has been a very difficult process to go through this, but it is my reality.
This is what the 4th step inventory involves—accepting the reality of what has or has not been given us, and what we have or have not passed onto others. With every step toward reality, including grieving, I move closer to freedom.
Is it easy? No. Is it freeing? Absolutely!
When we step out of denial and into reality with people who have walked before us, like sponsors, and receive God’s grace in the process, we become free of the internal shackles that bind us. We then increase our awareness of how we have been wounded, and thus, how we have wounded others. Without this awareness of how I have been wounded, my personal tendencies are to go to self-condemnation.
My relationship with the Lord, and with others who are walking on this road of reality, keep me from heading into too much self-condemnation. As I grieve my losses, and receive grace and understanding from others, the wounds gradually heal. I am able to face the realities of life, and there is freedom in that process!
…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
(Psalm 30:5, NIV)
Contributed by a leader at Celebrate Recovery on the Plateau.