When Mother’s Day Hurts

Usually when I write a post on this blog, I write it with the hope that what I have to say will be helpful to someone else. I write it hoping that someone who is going through what I have gone through, whether they are in recovery or not, will be able to see that there is joy and fulfillment on the other side of life’s challenges. This is not one of those posts.

This post is being written with a very heavy heart. A broken heart. One that, despite the fact that I live a glass-is-half-full life of recovery from alcoholism, feels empty and sad tonight.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I will not be spending it with my mother or my daughter. And that makes it hurt. No, neither of them have died, they just aren’t in my life. But the grief is still very, very real.

When I began trying to get sober six years ago, my family washed their hands of me. My daughter, who was 14 at the time, went to stay with my mother while I went to treatment. When I got out of rehab, she didn’t want to come home. I couldn’t make her. I had so much guilt and remorse that making her do something that she didn’t want to wasn’t something I was capable of. It’s my biggest regret–one that I think will never go away.

My relationship with my mother wasn’t great. Not ever. And if I’m honest with myself, I know that I could never have gotten and stayed sober if I had remained in a relationship with her. I’ve done a lot of grief-work around the relationship that I wish I had with her and I no longer yearn to rewrite our history. But on some holidays, especially Mother’s Day, it still makes my heart hurt.

Before I started drinking alcoholically, I had a great relationship with my daughter. We were close, we were happy. We talked and laughed and had fun. I loved being her mom. She truly was my everything. Booze changed that. I wasn’t able to be the mother that she needed, and she did what she had to do to take care of herself. I cannot blame her for that.

I know better than to try to stuff my feelings, I have to let myself feel sad tonight and tomorrow. There have been tears and I know there will be more. I miss my daughter. There is a space in my heart that can only be filled by her. It doesn’t matter how great everything else is, or how much love I have in my heart for others, that space will remain empty until we reconcile. And that might not happen. Ever. That hurts.

I wish that when I had come home from rehab I had known what I know now. I wish that I had been as strong as I am now. I wish that I could’ve shown my daughter that even when you screw up, you can rebound; that even when you’re an alcoholic, you can get better. And I wish that she knew that no matter what my drinking caused me to do, I never stopped loving her.

I think about my daughter every day–there hasn’t been one that has gone by that I haven’t. But the pain I feel on Mother’s Day is just a little bit worse. A little bit deeper. A little bit more intense.

I know that tomorrow is just another day and that I will make it through it. I thank God that my sobriety isn’t threatened, and I’m grateful for all the good people in my life. But, right now, I just need to be sad.




Don’t Stuff the Birthday Blues

Yesterday my husband and I had a discussion about stuffing emotions, and whether or not there is a difference between stuffing and just telling ourselves that those thoughts and feelings may be real, but it isn’t doing any good to wallow in them. It’s a fine line, I think, and when I am struggling with an uncomfortable emotion, I’m often not sure which one I’m doing. My husband’s thought about it that is that it depends on what your self-talk is saying about it. Are you telling yourself to suck it up, that you can’t think about that? Or are you telling yourself that these feelings are there, but there isn’t anything you can change about it?

The conversation that started this was about the fact that it’s my daughter’s birthday today and I’m sad. If you’re a reader of my blog, you may remember that my daughter and I are estranged; we have been for nearly five years. Holidays and her birthday are hard (I suspect they always will be) because I always wish that we were together. It’s not that I don’t miss her everyday, I do, but special days amplify my longing.

So, yesterday I wasn’t sure if I was stuffing my emotions or not. I told my husband I was feeling sad, but when he pressed for more, I didn’t have anything else to add. It was the same as always — little snippets of happy times that I had with my daughter flashing through my mind, willy nilly. That’s all. And that’s what it always is, so why talk about it? I think there’s a saying about a dead horse that applies here. At least that’s how I usually feel about the situation. Is that stuffing?

Actually, thinking about it today, I think it was. The reason I say that is because later in the evening last night, I gave in to the emotion. I let myself cry, and I said out loud, “I miss her so much.” My husband hugged me and held me for a while. I didn’t have to say anything else, I didn’t have to discuss every memory that was in my head, I just had to actually feel the feeling…let it take hold for a minute. I didn’t have to wallow, but I did have to acknowledge what I was feeling, whether I liked it or not. But then, after I took some ibuprofen and a hot bath, I felt some relief.


I woke up this morning and the sadness was still there. I haven’t cried today, but I’m not stuffing it…I’m writing this post.

Happy Birthday, Kari. I love you.

19th birthday

An open letter to my daughter

To my daughter on her 17th birthday:

Happy Birthday!  Seventeen years ago I was in the hospital at this time, waiting for you to make your entrance into the world.  I was filled with hope and excitement and  little bit of fear, as I think all new mothers are at that point.  Mostly, though, I was filled with love.  It was the only time in my life that I felt such overwhelming love for someone who I had not yet met.  I couldn’t wait to be able to hold you in my arms. Now, seventeen years later, I still feel that overwhelming love, and I am still filled with hope.  And once more, I can’t wait to be able to hold you in my arms again.

I would so love to know you as the young woman who you are now.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since I’ve seen you in person.  When I last saw you, you were still a little girl.  A little girl who was hurting and was scared, one that had already had to essentially say goodbye to her father, and that was now losing her mother too.  That is way too much for a young teenager to have to deal with, and I am so sorry that you had to go through that.

I want you to know that I don’t blame you for the choices you made.  I can’t even imagine what it’s like to watch your mother sink into alcoholism like a rock in the ocean.  You were so strong to be able to make the decision to remove yourself from the situation, and I know that you were doing what I wasn’t able to at that time – taking care of yourself.  And that meant getting away from me.  As hard as it is to admit, I think you did the right thing.  It just never occurred to me that our separation would go on this long.

Being away from you these last few years has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through.  When I was newly sober, and trying to get my life back together, I didn’t have the emotional strength to reach out to you, to try to rebuild our relationship.  My thinking still wasn’t quite right, and I had convinced myself that I would be doing you more harm than good by trying to reconnect with you.  I wish now that I had made a different decision.  I wish that I had inserted myself back into your life, whether you liked it or not.  But my guilt and shame wouldn’t allow me to do that, and things became what they are today.

As you celebrate your birthday today, I hope you know that I am thinking about you.  I am remembering all of the good times that we had as you were growing up.  I hope that your memories of those times are as happy as mine.  Now, I hold onto those stories in my mind like a child holds onto a security blanket.  They remind me of what it feels like to be mother, and even though it hurts to know that I lost that privilege some years ago, I love remembering the feeling.

Please know, today and always, that I love you.  I miss you so much that I sometimes feel like my heart might stop beating from the pain.  I think about you all the time, wondering how you are, what you’re doing, if you are happy.  I truly hope that you are.  Your happiness, with or without me in your life, is so important to me.  It is what I hope and pray for every day.

I also pray for reconciliation for us.  I want that more than anything, but I am willing to wait until you are ready.  Just know, that all you have to do is say the word, and I will be there with open arms.  Until then, I will love you from a distance.

Happy birthday, sweet girl.  I love you and miss you terribly.