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The holidays make me reflect on my mother

As a kid growing up, I knew Christmas would mean my Mom and Dad would both drink too much.

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The author is a father, and son, in Halifax.
  • The author is a father, and son, in Halifax.


My Mom was a lovely, caring woman who meant well, but she was an alcoholic. She would swear that she would give her life to protect me. But she was an alcoholic. I tried to help. It’s hard, though, when others around you are enablers.

As a kid growing up, I knew Christmas would mean my Mom and Dad would both drink too much. Then all the stresses would bubble up and they would fight, sometimes violently.

Eventually, when I left home and had a family of my own, I would still get stressed on Christmas night knowing it was probably happening. I limited exposure to my folks to before 2pm—we would have Christmas brunch. One year she came over and she looked like death the whole time. She was just shaking. I found out she had gone cold turkey because she knew how Christmas bothered me.


In this case, it just highlighted how bad it was, I discussed it after with my sister and Dad. They dismissed me. A couple days later I had a talk with her. I expressed my concerns and told her I couldn’t risk having her alone with my son anymore. She said she understood and made promises.


Six months later and with no real improvement, I told her that I could no longer risk that my son would see any of the shit I had seen and their relationship ended that day—one of the worse days of my life.

I had talked to my Dad, but even when I suggested that he not be the one that goes to the liquor store, he said “She’ll just go do it herself.” I said “And then they won't sell it to her if she’s f'd up. Maybe public humiliation would go a long way.” But it never did any good.


I continued to visit on my own for a while, but no improvement. It was getting worse. So I told her goodbye and told her to contact me if she every decided to get clean.

To me, that was the day I processed that my mother was dead.

It was a couple more years. I hesitated to go see her on her death bed, but I thought I should. She bawled so much when she apologized, told me I was right to do what I did and how awful she had been. She died about 15 minutes after I left.

At some point you just can't win if everyone isn't on board, and you have to choose how you continue that relationship.

My son is becoming a wonderful adult, she would have been proud of him and me…but she was an alcoholic.

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