BY AMY BUTLER SMITH

I’m a big sucker for online quizzes. Every time Buzzfeed tells me that they can predict who I would vote for in the upcoming Australian election based on my favorite cheese, I am immediately drawn in. Even though I’m American. And I’m allergic to dairy. 

But I recently took an online quiz that asked if I believe that my childhood was happier than most people’s. This caused me to pause for quite a few moments. On paper, my childhood was tumultuous at best… Dad was an alcoholic with one-too-many DUIs, so Mom kicked him out when I was 4 and for years he struggled to figure out how to be in my life and my brother’s life. Tons of missed events, total tension between Dad and Mom, and then Mom sunk into a deep depression.

When we got home from school, she was too exhausted to help us with homework; I have so many memories of giving her my spelling list and her falling asleep before reading me word 3 out of 10. Having a single mom meant that we were shipped around to a lot of family members, including a heavy reliance on my grandma. And I never really saw a healthy marriage.

However, that is only one side of the story. The other side is the fact that my dad only moved 10 minutes away so that he could see us. He got sober within 1 year and stayed sober for the rest of his life. I had the pleasure to spend time getting to know cousins, neighbors, and friends. My mom got the help she needed, went to counseling, thrived in her career, and never missed a performance or even a rehearsal. 

I don’t think I realized how tough my childhood was until I learned about psychology in high school and college. As a kid, I loved the way I was raised! Looking back now and knowing what I know about the struggles that all families go through in our world, I would definitely say that my childhood was better than most. Which was due, almost exclusively, to my mom. 

My mom always had a fun and cheap activity for us to do, like making coffee filter flowers or building Legos. She taught us how to swim, how to fold laundry, and how to share our feelings. From where I sat, she never let her difficult circumstances impact her relationship with her children. I think the thing I admire most about my mom is that she had convictions and lessons that she stood by and never wavered on those things.

I carry her lessons with me in my heart and share her simple phrases on an almost daily basis.

Right now, I’m the same age that my mom was when she became a mom. Although I don’t have kids of my own yet, I feel that I can see the world closer to the way that she saw it when she was my age. We’ve both experienced love, heartbreak, success, failure, pain, and overwhelming joy. I think I see now how my mom’s lessons weren’t just lessons for us as kids, but reminders for herself about how to survive loving an addict, loving herself, and loving her life. 

I hope that sharing my mom’s lessons for me can also be lessons for others who are learning to love in life with an addict...

 

Stay tuned for more in this series, Lessons from My Mother.

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