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A lot of people I’m close to in my family are alcoholics. One member of my family died as a result of a violent struggle involving a gun when he had been drinking. One of these relatives is my mother. She had always been a heavy drinker when I was a kid, but it never impeded with her ability to function until my father died and her new boyfriend moved in. My father didn’t drink, so mom had never had someone who enabled her thirst for alcohol until her new boyfriend, also a heavy drinker, moved in. Then things went from mildly disconcerting to awful. On an ironic note, when things got to the peak of the worst for her, the boyfriend attempted to shift the blame for her alcoholism onto me, saying that I was a cruel, spoiled, arrogant daughter who ruined my mother’s life. I guess he didn’t notice how the alcohol consumption only escalated after he moved in and began providing so much booze and bossing her around, shattering her self esteem. He also drank heavily, but set a double standard where while he was a “social drinker”, she was an alcoholic. It got to the point where I would root around the house and car to find alcohol bottles, and pour them down the drain so that him and mom couldn’t get drunk. To this day, I still am highly mistrustful of people who keep copious amounts of alcohol at home, and only order drinks myself when I am at a restaurant with people I trust.

The last time I went out with my mother was at a restaurant in Seattle. I was watching her like a hawk to make sure she didn’t order any booze. Well, she noticed my vigilance, and pulled out something from her purse and set it on the table. It was a token, for x amount of months sober, from Alcoholics Anonymous. I patted my mother on the shoulder and congratulated her, but my innards were squirming. I was mainly familiar with AA as an evangelical organization, who conned alcoholics into believing that it was necessary for them to surrender to a Higher Power (You can tell this has been toned down considerably from past AA antics, eh?) in order to overcome alcoholism. I just hoped my former Lutheran, largely indifferent to religion mother wouldn’t take a turn for the worse and begin bugging her non-believing daughter(s).

Just as I suspected though, Mom began spouting AA’s dogmatic garbage at me, and begging me to reconsider my lack of belief in a higher power, because it would be “so good for my success” if I became religious. I curtly answered that if that were the case, it was a religious discrimination problem, and that I wasn’t going to be bullied into adopting something I didn’t believe in to advance my career. She stammered a bit, and said that’s not what she meant by “success”. She then claimed that she thought it would make me happier and less likely to turn to alcohol. I told her I was plenty happy without a comforting lie, and I had never had a drinking problem in my life. I waited until I was the legal age (18 in Manitoba, where I first drank) to drink, didn’t ever drink clandestinely, and limited my consumption to two beverages in a night, nothing more. I didn’t tell her that all of those were inspired by mistakes she had made. She then diverted again, and said that’s not what she meant either. I got exasperated, and said “Just tell me what you really mean then!” She got kind of quiet for half a second, and said, “I want you to go to Heaven. I don’t want us to be separated after we die.”

After some badgering, I finally figured out that mom’s AA sponsor had put her up to asking me those stupid questions, after she’d let it slip at her meeting that her daughter was, in her words, an “Atheist” (I don’t self identify as an Atheist) I am seriously disturbed by what goes on behind closed doors there now. It’s an anonymous program, and I have no way of knowing what else goes on there. But if the people there are actively encouraging my mother to use a very specific “Higher Power” to lean on, then they are hurting her more than helping her. Many problems with my mother and other women her age who find comfort in the bottle stem from the fact that they were never were given the tools to stand up on their own, and were trained to depend on other things, whether it be a man, a “higher power”, alcohol, drugs, or something else. Rather than finding themselves and gathering the strength to be what they wanted to be and becoming the leaders in their own life, they develop heavy dependence on others, real or not. I am glad my mother has stopped drinking. But replacing the alcohol with wishy-washy spiritualism which encourages her to evangelize and condemn the personal choices of others isn’t much of an improvement. I’d like to see her totally independent, pursuing her interests, and developing a strong sense of self which she’s always seemed to lack, preferring instead to mould her life around whatever she’s depending on, whether it’s a man or a god.