The years after I moved back to my hometown, near my mother, in-laws, and extended family, were good, quiet years. My kids were 4 and 6 at the beginning, and 10 and 12 when we left that place. They were very good kids. Still are, but those early school years were especially free from the troubles of adolescence and young adulthood. Not only is that a good time of life for parenting kids, in my opinion, but my specific kids were very good, easy, fun kids to parent.
As I’ve written, it was not my choice to be single, to have my kids attend day care, to go back to school or to work, but I can absolutely see now that it was for the best. When I saw that it was inevitable, and not within my control, I like to think I got quickly to the business of making it work and making it good. My kids were the most important thing to me, and their quality of life was my primary concern. I had wanted them very much, and in a way I feel I called them into being. They exist because of choices I made, and was able to carry out. Not through my own doing. So they were desired and, at the same time, a gift.
I was back in the place where I had gotten sober, and some of the people in the program knew me from when I was 16 and brand new. I guess I had about 8 years sober when I moved back. Through those years, I went to meetings, at least one a week. This is not recommended. It isn’t enough. But it’s what I did. I made one meeting a week my minimum, and I often went to more. As a result of this, I never did the drift away from meetings that so many people report precedes a slip. So it worked for me.
I went to school and to work. I had a lot of support from my mother and in-laws. I thought that was very important, and so I let go of parenting things and let them, for example, have unlimited TV at my mother’s house. They went to the schools I had gone to, and I loved the tradition of that. I worked where my mother worked (she gave me the job), and I loved the tradition of that, and came to love the work.
Now I’ve heard enough stories in AA to know that I may be terribly wrong about this (oh, sure, my mother thought everything was wonderful!), but I think it was a good time of life for the kids and for me. I could not take care of anything when I drank, and I have no question that if I had not killed them, they would have been taken away from me then. AA also made me a better person and a better mother, and gave me resources of people and advice that are the best in the world.
I’ve heard enough stories, too, to know that this is one of the primary blessings of my life. I have heard of tragedies and disasters that are much less than tragic, but the pain of a parent who abused or neglected or embarrassed their children due to the drinking is some of the worst pain in my little world. I don’t often like to talk about it, except to young people who have a chance to parent sober the way I did. Otherwise I know that if I mention this blessing in an AA meeting there will be many listening who were not as lucky as I have been.
People will sometimes ask me if I know how lucky I am to have stopped drinking at such a young age, with so much of life still ahead. As much as I can, I know. I’ve also given my children a far different legacy than my parents gave me. Writing this right now, I imagine that if I ever feel like drinking, like actually taking a drink, this gratitude is enough to stop me cold. The time I’ve written about here was a sweet time. It just was. I didn’t work for it or deserve it, and a similar time may or may not come again. It’s all from AA, though. All of it.