I walked into the liquor store and went straight to the checkout counter. The man standing behind the counter asked if he could help me find something. I nodded. I was slightly embarrassed and a little nervous. “I need some really cheap vodka. It’s for my hair,” I quickly stated. I knew what he was thinking…sure lady it’s for your “hair.” Wink. Wink. I wanted to tell him it REALLY was for my hair. A bunch of us make this awesome recipe with Vodka and essential oils. But I knew he’d think I was just covering for my own addiction. I wanted to tell him how much I hated vodka – that it had killed my mother. It slowly and painfully killed her 5 months ago. But I didn’t. He showed me a few cheap brands. There it was. The one I really hated. The one I had purchased several years ago when mother was still alive. It was the first and last time I had ever bought it for my mother. It was the last time I had ever purchased vodka.
My mind took me back to that painful time…
Out of desperation, I had driven to the liquor store with mother in the car. She had been drinking heavily for a long time and I knew if she didn’t get more alcohol she could die from life threatening alcohol withdrawals. Going against everything I believed in, I drove her to the liquor store and while she sat in my car in a very bad way, for the first time in my life I went in and purchased what she needed…and the very thing that was killing her. I purchased the cheap brand she had asked for. I had never bought my mother vodka before that particular day. I had always refused because in my mind I was contributing to her addiction. I wasn’t going to spend my money on vodka she was slowly killing herself with. I had learned over the years to stop giving her money. It made me angry when she used it for a substance or alcohol. I somehow felt it made me part of her addiction and I tried desperately to separate myself from it. But the truth was I couldn’t separate myself from it and she always found a way to get the things her body and mind desperately craved. At one point, when she was still driving, I thought I was a genius when I had decided instead of giving her money I’d just put gas in her car. But somehow she always managed to outsmart me and still managed to somehow use that gas to get her substances. Walmart cards worked the same way – she’d trade or sell those too. I could never completely separate myself from the darkness.
Earlier, the same day I purchased the vodka for Mother I had found out about more darkness my mother had been living through. The kind of darkness you only see in movies. The kind of darkness that doesn’t happen to those you love. Something bad had happened. Something unbelievable. Something that made my heart hurt whenever I heard of those things happening but it disgusted me and broke my heart that it had happened to my mother. It made me cry and it made me so angry that she kept doing the same things over and over again. Everything was spinning out of control. It was so much worse than in years before and the years before had been excruciating. I didn’t know how to make it stop. I didn’t know how to help. All I could do was limit myself. Protect myself from the toxicity and pain. Powerlessly sitting by and watching the destruction she was creating and causing was paralyzing and heartbreaking. I wanted desperately to make her stop but I couldn’t. The truth was – I was as powerless as she was. She had to want it. She had to do the work. I couldn’t want it for her or do the work for her. Everything was getting worse. All of the ugliness centered around her powerlessness of substances which happened to be vodka at that point in time. Mother had always struggled and always been powerless to drugs and alcohol for as far back as I could remember.
The day I bought her vodka, I had so much hope. Because of the darkness (I can’t bring myself to share those details), I had brought mother to our home. I was going to save her. I was going to move her closer and protect her from the evil that surrounded her. The evil she was a part of. The evil her addiction was holding her hostage to. My plan was to ration her vodka so she could get sober and I’d find her a clean little apartment and get her help. I told Scott my plan. He agreed. He was in charge of rationing the vodka out to her a little at a time until we had her tapered off of it. It was too heavy for me to give my mother Vodka. I couldn’t emotionally handle it. But Scott could handle it. It didn’t create the pain for him like it did me. That illusion of saving my mother lasted from a Friday to a Monday.
Everything was going well according to my brilliantly stupid plan, or so I thought. It was Monday evening and I was driving home from Mason’s baseball game when I got the phone call from Derrelyn. She was laughing hysterically. She said “have you talked to your mother?” We all had a pretty crazy sense of humor. “No, why?” I questioned. Derrelyn replied “She’s drunk. I just got off the phone with her.” Derrelyn was still laughing. Dang it! I was pissed! She found the vodka Scott hid from her. I thought he put it in a place where she couldn’t find it. She was so resourceful. I was disappointed. I thought she wanted to get better. Derrelyn was still laughing. She was trying to tell me more but she was laughing so hard. I was so mad! She kept on…“That’s not all.” Oh goodness! What else? She was laughing so hard she could barely talk. Which made me laugh too. She kept on…”she walked around your neighborhood knocking on doors until she found someone to take her to the liquor store.” Derrelyn laughed louder. My heart sank. Holy Cow! I couldn’t believe it. Derrelyn was still laughing. She wasn’t laughing because she thought it was funny. She was laughing because it was so stinking crazy and that’s how we dealt with the crazy. We laughed through the craziness. That’s how we got through it. We inappropriately laugh. How the heck did I think I could just whisk Mother away and save her? I started laughing and my stomach hurt at the same time. I was driving home going from being super mad to laughing in complete disbelief. Poor Madden. He had stayed at home that evening and she was there. Poor us. Scott and I had roots in this town. We knew people. People knew us. Whose door did she knock on? Who took her? Holy Cow! I was embarrassed and mad. Scott was on the School Board and I had previously been on the School Board. I wasn’t going to allow my kids to live through the embarrassment and junk I lived through. I was so mad at her.
I called Scott. He checked on Madden. Madden was okay.
I pulled into the garage and hurried into the house. I found mother. Of course she was totally hammered. There is no reasoning with an intoxicated person. Don’t waste your breathe. I did anyway. It did no good. I did it anyway. I asked in desperation – “Who did you get to take you to the liquor store?” Mother’s drunken slurred reply almost made me laugh “I walked several blocks over, Kandy.” Like somehow that made it okay. Like we might not know the people who lived that far from us. Mother muttered her drunken slurred words that made no sense. I was so stinking mad at her. But mainly my heart hurt. She finally went to bed. But she kept getting up and down going to the bathroom. Each time she’d mutter and almost growl some drunken hateful words showing us her ugliness that the vodka brought to life.
That night, Mason went to his other grandmothers to spend the night. He couldn’t take it. It was scary to be around. Madden and I slept in my room while Scott slept on the couch in the living room that separated where Mother was sleeping from the room his family was sleeping in…as if to protect his family from her craziness.
The next morning, I called work and told them I wouldn’t be there. After Scott, Mason and Madden were all gone to work and school, I went to mother and told her she wasn’t doing this in my house. She wasn’t going to do this to my kids. I told her I couldn’t help her if she wouldn’t help herself. I told her she had two choices. Go to treatment or go back home. She was still mean and hateful as if I was to blame for the current situation. And the truth was…in some way I probably was. She didn’t ask me to drag her to my house and save her. I just decided that’s what needed to happen. We made phone calls. She cried. I got angry. She called Derrelyn and cried and told her how mean I was being. She said I was being really mean to her. I was. I was mad. She needed treatment and I wanted her to make the right decision. But she didn’t. Ultimately she chose to go back to her house. It was a long two hour drive back down to her home. Just she and I. I had knots in my stomach. I was angry at her for once again choosing the alcohol over a better life. I had offered to help her. She refused. I cried the whole way home. My heart hurt. I was disappointed and didn’t get it. But I was also thankful. Thankful I had somehow been saved and that my children hadn’t grown up in a home filled with that junk. I hated taking her back down there but I wasn’t living this way and neither were my kids. I had to protect myself and them. This disease wasn’t stealing any more from me.
Sometimes you have to make a decision to remove people who bring toxicity into your life. I couldn’t completely remove her. I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. But I had to limit the time I spent with her. Because I knew if I didn’t I’d turn into something I’d hate. If we’re honest we’ll see that as much pain as those people bring into our lives – we bring pain into theirs as well. Sometimes it’s better to set boundaries and love from afar.
I hate vodka. For me, it symbolizes the heroin, cocaine, alcohol, prescription pills and all the substances that took my mother from me. I know it’s not really about the vodka but sometimes you just need something to blame and something is better than someone. I hated it for all the ugliness it brought into my life. I know it was really about Mother’s disease and the choices she made or didn’t make. But I hate vodka!
The man said… “Is this the one you want?” I pointed to the other one. The one I didn’t recognize or have a relationship with… “I’ll take that one.” I purchased the Vodka and took it home. I made the beloved “Sassy Hair.” Stupid Vodka! It isn’t going to control my life anymore. I’ll spray that junk on my hair and wear it like I own it!
Finding the sweet side of crazy!