A couple of years back, our family was fortunate enough to go on an Alaskan cruise. We'd never dared travel before. Our daughter was too unpredictable. Things which were supposed to be fun never turned out that way. What was the point? Travel seemed to be something we would lose to Asperger's. But at a certain point, I decided I was going to stop blaming my kid for not doing things I wanted to do. With a lot of preplanning, we went, and it turned out to be an amazing experience.
At dinner one evening, the waiter poured me a second glass of wine. I enjoy one glass but rarely have two, and just as the pouring was complete someone else was snapping our picture.
"Great!" I said. "We'll call this photo….the night Mommy got drunk."
As the picture was taken, all lightness and frivolity, I looked down to find Riley trembling.
I took her face in my hands and asked her what was the matter? We'd been having so much fun.
She'd heard of drunk. "It's when people get all strange, and their legs get wobbly and they talk funny." She had no understanding of "drunk" as a temporary condition. In her mind, it was only a matter of minutes before her mother became permanently drunk. My sweet black and white thinker was terrified.
It is unsettling to see a parent under the influence. Ask me how I know.
My heart goes out to all children of addicts, especially those with minds like my Riley's. I can't even imagine how much more stressful it must be for them.
*Michelle O'Neil is author of Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar.