Giving Back To Your Parents: Your Kid Is Not Dead Or In Jail

It was quitting time and the end of a long string of exhaustive days, nothing would get in the way of my vegging out in front of the tube and watching my favorite television programs, then disaster hit President William Jefferson Clinton was honoring us with his presence shortly.  Crap, didn’t the President know I had a particularly trying day, didn’t he know I hadn’t brought my car to work so getting home late was an inconvenience, maybe I could look really miserable and beg off due to having the bug that was going around? But before I could get my well thought out excuses out of my mouth, I was greeted with more bad news, Bill Gates, Patti Murray, and other business and political luminaries would also be present. So when I was asked what I wanted I just said, “Oh, nothing”, realizing it would be useless to feign an illness, in fact I was starting to feel a little sick at the prospect of the evening ahead. I had a sudden revelation, I said to myself why suffer alone I can call Mom, at least give her the opportunity to see and be in the company of these Big Wigs. I called Mom who was delighted at the idea of attending this special event, gave instructions where to park and had a security guard escort her to my office, we had to line up with the administrators entering first followed by less important staff.

Mom was pleasant and stoic as usual and didn’t seem to mind the slow meandering line, especially since all the important people from work stopped by to pay their respects to her, and told her what a great important asset I was and how much they all appreciated me. Okay, here’s where the title comes into play, it should read “Your Kid Isn’t Drunk, Almost Dead, or in Jail”, which twenty-five years earlier was the usual dreaded phone call Mom would have been expecting. No employers or colleagues would have been praising me because I would have again been fired or quit another promising job, and in all likelihood the money I had used to become drunk and disorderly had been begged or stolen from her. In the beginning of my recovery I had taken some Assertiveness Training, Relapse Aversion, and Alcoholic Anonymous Open Meeting courses, and they all encouraged the healthy important step of Amends and Restitution.  I saw asking for forgiveness and truly forgiving myself, as a twofold step to reestablishing a pattern of honesty and a virtuous lifestyle, which in my case never existed but could be obtained. My new lifestyle meant I had to abstain from; Alcohol, Drugs, Riotous Living, Unhealthy Eating and Exercise practices, Smoking, Lustful Relationships, and Unforgiveness. My mentors and religious teachings encouraged me to do this in moderation or “One Day At A Time” as it says in the Bible, the sad fact that I was responsible for causing my mother and others pain and suffering for eleven and a half years, was only lessened by my earnest hard working efforts to actively become the kind of person I wished I had been or pretended to be (or not to be) publicly.

My aunts and cousins told me if I really wanted to give back to my mother I would attend church with her, they said “returning to the faith of your father’s”  would make her feel happy and blessed, and please her church peers who were devoutly praying for me and my  return to the church fellowship. It seemed a bit much to go back to a church that I had abandoned, besides I could do similar things in my twenty-fourth year of recovery that I believed equally showed my sincerity, it’s an old selfish alcoholic motto to, “give them what they need, not what they ask of you”. So almost twenty-five years into my recovery I’m moaning to my counselor about always upsetting my mother, that even if I’ve resolved an issue and succeeded, when I discuss it with my mother she becomes fearfully upset and critical. “Then why are you laying your problems on your mother, if you know in advance these things will upset her, why not try communicating with her about non-threatening topics?” At first I  initially judged that my counselor didn’t understand me or the situation, then I realized that he accurately saw my “sharing” with my mother as a habitual juvenile attention/ approval seeking behavior, which blocked true adult communication with someone I regarded as my superior. I stopped calling Mom to win her approval, and when temped to try and fix family problems she just happen to mention; I’d usually but with great difficulty no longer volunteered my services, instead wishing her and the family good luck on solving their problems.

Our telephone Mother and Son Talks became something we did every morning, noon, and bedtime, we talked about The Antiques Road Show TV Program and the British television series As Time Goes By, or PBS specials or marching parades which were on or scheduled in the future. At the end of each conversation we thanked each other and said, “I Love You”, and we began having regular Saturday evening dinners at her home, and eventually I surprised her by showing up at her church and becoming a regular Sunday member. There were times when I intervened in family matters of a dire nature, but I continued to have friendly conversations with my mother daily, and we showed our love and appreciation by voicing it and worshiping as family at our church.  The church eventually recruited me into the choir, ushering, running the sound system which I rebuilt into a modern Audio/Video system and teaching the New Member’s Class. My efforts meant Mom was showered in praise by her cronies, but sitting next to her each Sunday service became a rarity. Every so often a mother and father would appear at church with their son or daughter who was freshly into their recovery, and or had been recently released from incarceration, showing up in ill fitted clothing and embarrassed from all the loving attention we showered upon  them. I was thankful to see them because it was a reflection of my journey with my family, through hard times that I compounded with my negative behavior, and if I hadn’t accepted a new way of living and made earnest effort to turn my life around 38 years ago, then today I’d be either Drunk,  Dead or in Jail.

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