On Being Normal

on-being-normalI guess I never knew what normal was growing up. I thought I was a normal kid with a normal life and normal friends, but that changed as I began to grow older.

At night, my father and I would have a ritual of watching television together, usually around 7 or 8 PM and before my bed time. Some nights though my mother would come quite literally out of nowhere, screaming at both my father and I about how I loved him more than her, how I never spent any time with her, how she did all the work and he did nothing. I must’ve been around six or seven years of age then and I had no idea what was going on.

“Daddy, what’s wrong with Mommy?” I remember asking. “She’s just had a long day,” he would tell me, “Don’t worry, she’ll be okay tomorrow.” That would be the end of the conversation and we would continue watching the Twilight Zone together. I never understood that this behavior wasn’t normal; I thought everyone’s mommy got like that several times per week. It was just what mommies did.

On the way home from elementary school, I loved it when Mom picked me up because it meant we were going to a store and I could get a treat. “You get one thing,” she would tell me, and I would go to the candy aisle and pick out my chosen treat. She would always buy a bottle of wine or two and then we would be headed home. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal for someone to stop almost every day at a liquor store to purchase alcohol. I didn’t mind because I got a treat out of it, and because I didn’t know any better.

By the time I was in middle school, I knew that I could only invite my friends over when it was earlier in the evening, before my mom started drinking which was usually anywhere from 5 – 8 PM and would go until she passed out. We had a nice house and people liked to come over, but I didn’t want them to spend the night because I didn’t want Mom to yell at my friends.

Sometimes she’d be okay. Sometimes she’d take us to the mall or the zoo, or even out to dinner at a fast food place. As soon as the evening rolled around, I tried to usher my friends out. I thought it was normal, that many mothers had a time at night where they were angry or sad or screaming. Again I asked my father what was wrong with her and he said that she was just a bit stressed from her job. That seemed to make sense and I accepted that.

It wasn’t until high school that I really began to understand that our family wasn’t normal, that she wasn’t normal, that something was seriously wrong. Although I recall only a few incidents from my middle and elementary school years, I remember many more throughout high school, especially as I visited my friends’ houses and saw what real normal was.

My family wasn’t normal. Something was wrong, but it would take me years to figure it out.

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2 thoughts on “On Being Normal

  1. Finding this acoa site has been extremely helpful to me. I can relate to most of the scenarios​. I am female and had an alcoholic father. I idolized him and did my​best to please him, but my best was never good enough and he criticized and belittled me, no matter who was present. At those times I hated him and wished he would die. I felt if he wasn’t around, our family would be happy. Usually when he would drink he’d be the life of the party, and he was a truly funny Irishman. But if he heard from Mom about something trouble us kids had caused, he would turn into a man with a very ugly disposition and would take us over the coals. Sometimes he would take off his belt and we knew we were in real trouble. My mother never put punished us; she left that up to Dad. She was the messenger. The go-between. We kids walked on eggshells when he was around. He drank to handle stress. Both my brother and I became alcoholics. Even though Dad was an alcoholic, he was a high end one and never shirked work. He was a successful farmer and we’ll respected in the community. All the farmers drank, but as a kid, I accepted it for what it was. When I stopped drinking thirty years ago, I was drinking a quart of rum a day. Once out of rehab, which was eleven days (my insurance had run out) I was never tempted to drink again. My first psychiatrist told me I belonged I Acoa, and I attended meetings every week until the group drifted apart. For the first time in my life I learned how to share my feelings, and made a good friend. Unfortunately she started drinking again that eventually led to the dissolution of the friendship. But I’m looking for an Acoa meeting in my area. Until then I’m going to AA meetings and have an awesome Higher Power. Life is good and I feel gratitude every day.

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