Crackling pops and sizzling hisses tore my attention to the blazing fire in the backyard. My heart stopped as I saw the empty space alongside the garage which previously held several large black garbage bags of my son’s most treasured possessions. My mom’s boyfriend jabbed the torching flames, causing a piece of shriveled black plastic to get caught in the wind, drifting over the tree tops. Nightmares of my own lost childhood flashed through my mind as I watched the rolling black smoke swallow all that my son had owned. Inconceivable amounts of emotion paralyzed me from expressing any emotion at all.
I whisked my son into the house where we came face to face with my mother and the overpowering smell of alcohol. “He burned Charlie’s stuff.” I spoke blankly, unable to comprehend the horror of my current reality. “I tried to tell him” my mom slurred, stumbling into the counter that stood next to her.
My mind screamed as the rage inside of me boiled. Only 3pm and the level of drunkenness rendered any logical reasoning pointless. I stood there in front of my mother after working both of my jobs, picking up my one and only son from preschool, just leaving that same son’s father the night before and moving back “home”. I had just left a bad relationship, for this!
I wanted to give my child the healthy environment that I never had. I wanted to scream at my mother, “YOU ARE MY MOM! My safe place. My home, in every sense of the word.” The consequences of alcohol addiction littered my childhood with nightmares. She would let alcohol ruin my son too?!
My anger raged deep inside of my heart as I turned and walked away from my mother that day. I had no safe place. No home. No one to run to when I needed it most. I felt hopeless and all alone. How could she stop her boyfriend from burning my son’s entire childhood when she couldn’t even stop herself from stumbling into counters? How could she catch me, when she couldn’t even hold herself up?
Charlie and I barricaded ourselves in the tiny yellow bedroom that we shared as the storms of drunkenness roared all around us. We sat in that room, huddled together, listening to Sponge Bob at full volume, in an attempt to drown out the chaos that stood on the other side of our bedroom door. The television blared so loudly that they could hear it all the way down in Bikini Bottom, yet the storm vibrated through our floor boards and echoed off of those yellow walls as the sun set that night.
If not for Charlie, I would have drowned in my own tears. Unimaginable pain coursed through me. The anger grew with every glass that I heard shatter against a wall, every thud of a chair heaving to the floor, every drunk rambling of nonsense that fell out of their mouths. As Charlie snuggled closer and closer to me, I thought of a way to sneak him through this maze of chaos, into our car, down the road, to anywhere else, if only for the night. I needed to get him out of there!
Before I could devise an escape plan, red lights bounced off of our bedroom walls and sirens screamed over the antics heard only moments before. I whispered sternly in Charlie’s ear, “Do not move. Do not leave this room. I will be back” as I slipped out of the bedroom and into the chaos that awaited me on the other side.
I approached the back door to the house cautiously, fearfully. The flimsy screen door lay half propped open by the tip of a foot. My eyes traced the foot up to the shape of a naked body hidden beneath a white sheet, to a head laying awkwardly on the landing of my mother’s concrete steps. My eyes grew larger as I watched the puddle of blood spread from the unconscious body that lay limp before my eyes.
Charlie needs out of here, NOW!
I whipped around, scooping Charlie off of the green checkered quilt I had made at age 14, across the make shift living room, and straight out the front door. Before I even knew that I had left the doorway to the back porch, I stood on the other side of the street cuddling my son, watching the tragedy as though it didn’t belong to us.
Before long, my mom stumbled over to my side of the street asking, “Are you okay?” My blood boiled hotter than volcanic lava. Hotter than the Earth’s core. Hotter than the blood of Satan himself. Okay? That was nearly as ludicrous as the police officer asking her if she had been drinking! Numb to any level of rational emotion, I simply nodded and said, “I’m not staying here, with HIM, ever again.”
What could I say? What could I do? At the risk of losing my mom forever, I would save my son!
An officer came over and informed my mother that her boyfriend would be held in the hospital for several days. He would survive. The officer looked at Charlie clinging to my shoulder, then he looked at me, “You’re going to lose him if you have him in this type of situation again.” Really? Really! Of all the words, he chose to say this to me?! He had no idea! I desperately did everything that I could do to keep my son out of this type of situation! Instead, I simply nodded in agreement, saying that his father would let us crash there for the night, as if I really had a choice of anywhere else to go.
I knocked on Charlie’s father’s door like a homeless person searching for refuge. He ushered us in listening to the events of our night. Then he stabbed a knife through my heart as he pointed out the obvious fact that my son will not remain living with me if I planned on living there. Only a few hours before sunrise, I curled into a ball on the hard wooden floor, hugging my pillow to me, the last thing in the world that I had left to cling to. I had nowhere to go. Nowhere to run. No one to go to. No one to run to. Life had no safe place, not for me. I cried myself to sleep, briefly escaping my nightmares once again.
Waking up nearly five years later, I typed the last few lines of my most recent blog post, reflecting back at all that alcoholism had stolen from me, from my family. So much more than one story of a blazing fire could ever reveal. I slowly closed my laptop as I proudly thought about the four weeks that my mom has gone without a drop of alcohol. Just as my laptop gently clicked shut, I met Charlie’s eyes and a wide smile spread across my face.
The time to heal had finally arrived.
~ It takes a great deal of courage to tell a loved one suffering from alcoholism that they are destroying you. It also takes a great deal of courage to be an alcoholic and reach out for help. Someone MUST take the first step. Will it be you?