Age 23: It’s been 5 years since we have spoken. It sounds weird saying that because it doesn’t seem possible. That amount of time doesn’t necessarily make it easier, but the days of nonstop crying and emotional breakdowns are mostly over. I wonder how she is doing and where she is. I fear for her safety, but I can’t spend too much time worrying about it. It doesn’t do me any good. I have been given so many wonderful things in my life and I’m so grateful. I won’t let her ruin it.
Age 22: I’m graduating college after 4 years. I worked really hard and even graduated summa cum laude. I also got accepted into graduate school at USC. I have never worked harder for something in my life, and I am so proud of myself. I wonder if she knows I’m graduating. I wonder if she knows how well I am doing. I try not to care.
Age 21: I’m getting married. I have never been so happy and so sad at the same time. I always thought my mom would walk me down the aisle. Friends, family, and even strangers ask me what my mom thinks about my wedding. I never know what to say. Sometimes I lie because it’s less awkward than saying, “She’s not invited.”
Age 20: How dare you do this to me? Every time we’re on the phone you lie to me. I find out new lies and hurtful things daily. Did you think of what this would mean for my future? I stop answering the phone calls. After a while, they stop coming.
Age 18: I’m graduating high school. It should be a very happy day in my life, but I am sad. I am angry. My mom was supposed to be here. She said she was coming. Instead, she lies in a hospital bed. I feel bad even saying I’m angry with her. It makes me sound like a terrible person. But I know she did it to herself and I think she is selfish. My family has spent the last two years arguing with me, saying she doesn’t drink anymore. “She’s better,” they say. They get mad at me when I disagree. I was the one who lived with her all those years so I know the tricks she uses to hide it. So now they see the proof: she drank so much last night that she is in the hospital missing her daughter graduate from high school. I told ya so.
Age 17: I live with my dad now. My whole life is different. My mom can barely speak to me without breaking down in tears. It makes me feel guilty. My grandma told me that I’m the reason my mom drinks. I feel guiltier. School is going well. I got nominated as Homecoming Queen. My parents were notified prior in case they wanted to see me get crowned. No one comes. I don’t feel like much of a Queen.
Age 17: I am running away from home. It has all become too much for me. My home is a toxic place. My grades, social life, and mental health are all slipping. I cry all the time. I push my friends away. I feel like I have no one to turn to. I have lied for my mom so many times I can hardly keep it straight anymore. I put clothes in the trunk of my car while no one is home. I can’t tell her I’m leaving because I can’t stand to watch her cry. She will beg. She will tell me she won’t want to live if I leave. Then I will have to stay. When I go to school tomorrow, I know I will never come back to this house. The home I grew up in. I’m not sure what my plan is. I guess I will go to my dad’s house even though I hardly know him. I wonder if he will believe me.
Age 16: Mom is fired from her job. She loved her career at the bank so I’m confused. She’s really angry so I’m afraid to ask her about it. She says her coworkers were out to get her. They seemed nice when I met them. My aunt mentions something about my mom drinking on the job. My mom says that is ridiculous. I get my own job because I don’t want to be a financial burden on her right now.
Age 15: Rehab didn’t work. It’s worse than before. Everyone thinks she is better. No one is checking up on me.
Age 14: My mom went to rehab. I am so glad she did. The intervention was really hard for me. My family pressured me into giving my mom an ultimatum. I did, but I knew it was an empty threat. I wouldn’t leave her. It’s my job to take care of her. She needs me. I know she loves me more than anything. If I can just help her through this, things will get better. If I can be good enough, she will stop drinking.
Age 13: My teacher told me I am really good at writing. I write all kinds of stories for my mom. She loves them and shares them with our family. That makes me proud. I am focused on getting the best grades I can and being a good daughter. My mom makes a drink every night that I’m not allowed to try. She lets me have soda instead.
Age 12: We moved to a new house in the country. It’s really beautiful here and I already made new friends. I like the days when I get to hang out with my mom all day. She is really funny.
Age 10: My mom is getting married. I don’t like the shoes she got me for the wedding, but I love my dress. All our friends and family will be there. She’s getting married in our church. I get to drop the flower petals down the aisle and she told me it’s the most important job of the whole day. She is happier than I have ever seen her. I am happy too.
Age 9: It’s take your daughter to work day. I go to my mom’s job at the bank. She has lots of friends there. I get to wear a headset and listen to her phone calls but I have to be real quiet. She is smart and I want to be just like her.