Guinea Pain

By Heather King

It hit me right then. Oh, I said to me. One of the reasons I was drinking so much was to be nice to me. Of course now, in recovery, I see I wasnít being nice to me at all, but then? I wanted to claim my time, give myself the treat of glass after glass that felt like kindness.

It hit me when I got an email from a reader who also struggles with her drinking. In it, she told the story of her day, one in which her child had repeatedly physically hurt her. You know, in the ways that a toddler can – a sippy cup to the head, a tantrum slap to the cheek – things we chalk up to irrational little emotions because a kid is a kid and theyíre learning and itís not personal. But as this lovely mother described this difficult day, I could feel exactly what she was saying. She wasnít just left with red marks on her skin, she was left emotionally hurting. I hadnít†really seen this in myself until I was reading her words, but yes, it made perfect sense.

Our mother ego, she takes a lot of hits and she has been split wide open with vulnerability from the start with all this crazy love. †I love you so much, why are you hurting me? Sometimes we are still just children, trying not to get hurt on the playground.

A Beautiful Moment?

The other day Asher was cozied up next to me in my bed, a beautiful moment. Then he looked up at me and with the honest words of a child, he slipped a knife in my heart with the†I love Daddy more than I love you line. Is this true? No. I mean, he might feel that way these days – Daddy†is more fun. But his love for me is intense and connected, I know that. Yet it hurt, because I spend my days loving him and giving to him, wearing myself out with his needs. My heart is intertwined in his and has been since the day I knew he was a little seed in my belly. Thatís the truth with all three of my children. So it hurts. By the end of the day, I want to run from that hurt even while I want to stay cozied up with my three amazing children on my bed for the rest of my life, no matter what they say or do to me.

This love-pain, it is at the crux of the sacrifice of motherhood. A connection thatís being twisted and bent all the hours of all the days.

Sharp Pains to the Soul

Iím a sensitive spirit. I feel intensely and love wildly, and my kids have more power than anyone to send sharp pains to my soul. Learning to accept this and surrender to it has been an essential part of healing for me. Because when I let go, I see it – that as much as it has pained me and will pain me as the years go by – when my children express themselves in ways that hurt me, they are showing me that they know theyíll be accepted and loved no matter what they do,†and I want that. Thatís not to say that their behavior is acceptable and doesnít need re-direction a lot of the time, itís just to say that my children feel safe with me while they hurt me. Thatís what they need while they try to navigate their own bumpy emotional terrain and learn to express it in ways that are healthier.

I am their mother. I am a guinea pig. Iím, at times, a tortured little guinea pig who would rather it be me than anyone else, to teach them.

When my drinking increased and increased, it was a season of serious hits. I acted out emotionally like my†tantruming toddler. Though I was unaware of it at the time, I was feeling assaulted at every turn. Asher cried for most of every 24 hours and Miles started to handle that with defiance, fighting for control. Naps and mealtimes became more of a fight than ever before. Ryan was traveling for work almost all the time. It was a mess. I was a mess. I didnít realize it then, but the natural things my boys were going through felt like serious attacks on my heart. †My fragile sense of self was shocked. The pain was coming in, unintentional as it was, and I was taking it on as if it spoke my worth. Logically, I know that their behavior was nowhere near personal, but my heart was crying out for some kind of kindness and recognition. I just wanted someone to be nice to me, for just one minute. And I thought wine was nice to me because it felt so good.

Let Go

Today, in a rare few hours, I was left alone with Elsie Jane. Miles was at school and Asher was with Grandma, so naturally we went to Target. Elsie had been completely freaking out about taking a morning nap, another non-attack that started to feel like an attack. So I scooped her up out of her crib and packed her into her infant seat and just LET GO. She fell asleep in the cart at the store and I shopped slowly and carefully, which is so rare. I had head space and time. She even stayed sleeping through the check-out and transition to the car. So then I drove and it hit me that I could EVEN PICK UP A FANCY COFFEE. Oh, it had been so long since all the stars aligned in such a gloriously†caffeinated way.

I sipped that coffee, NURSED that coffee, its hazelnut goodness all up in my nose. I almost closed my eyes at the joy of it, but I couldnít since I was driving aimlessly, listening to music and thinking my thinks.

We got home and Elsie woke up and we came in the house to keep going. She fussed and whined about me not getting her food ready fast enough, slamming her little hand on her highchair tray and I hurried and tripped over bags and noticed the dog hair on the floor again. I looked at the clock to calculate the next nap and school pick-ups. †I thought then, about how all the messy behavior in my kids is wrapped up in our messy love for each other and in our messy life. I see that now, unblurred by wine or its shameful hangovers, and I know itís true like Iíve never known it before – like all other things, there is grace in every painful and joyful messy day. †I donít have to run from it, but I will most certainly give myself small joys like hazelnut in the middle of it all, just to be nice to me.


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