My Reflective Conversation with Mom

This Mother’s Day, I decided to celebrate it in a unique way: by having my mom interview me.  This all started when Mom mentioned that even though she reads my blog, she still has some questions about my issues with alcohol.

I’m an only child and she raised me as a single mom, so we developed a very tight bond.  We are more like sisters than mother and daughter.  From politics to religion to health to dating to sex, no topic has ever been off limits.  She even bought me my first vibrator when I was in high school.  She wanted me to know that despite what society projects, there is nothing wrong with female sexuality.  She raised me in a progressive household, creating an interesting juxtaposition in a predominantly conservative community of Waco, Texas.

The following conversation took place on a drive from Waco to The Woodlands.  We discussed addiction, feminism, homosexuality, Texas conservatives, and much more…

Mom: Do you think you’ll ever drink again?

SobrieTea Party: I would love to be able to have a beer, but one drink could lead me to internally justifying a night of partying with my friends.  I don’t want to risk that.

How did you come to that conclusion?

Until I went to my first AA meeting this week, I got so defensive when people asked this.  I was unsure what to say, so my body would get tense and I would stutter and ramble some BS response.  I know that my initial commitment when starting this blog was to go a full year without booze.  I can honestly say that I’m happier without alcohol and won’t be drinking again.

Do you have a different view of AA after going to a meeting?

I do.  I expected it to be a group of older people complaining about the past, it turned out to be a beautiful, real conversation among people my age.  We discussed the dark times, but through a lens of hope, optimism, and clarity.  I’m not a fan of the anonymity of AA.  I believe that keeping things a secret only adds to the shame, kindling the stigma.  I often struggle with semantics, so I have a hard time with the words alcoholic and powerless.  Feeling empowered is so important to me, so I don’t feel comfortable using the word powerless.

Your generation seems to have a hard time labeling things.  Whether it’s relationships, addictions, or whatever.

Maybe it’s because of these stigmas that live in our heads.  I knew I had strong views on gender equality, but it took me awhile to admit that I was a feminist.  I’ve fought my roommate, Alisson, about the word feminist since I moved to New York.  I was overwhelmed with culture shock.  Nobody talks about feminism in Waco unless it’s bashing a stereotype.  I thought feminism was angry women with hairy armpits who hated men.

Women are taught to feel shameful about their bodies, having a period, or liking sex.  That shame gives feminism a negative connotation by society.  If more people take pride on this subject, feminism will stop being a dirty word.

I agree, especially here in Texas.  I mean…women can’t even say “I got my period”, they say “I started” while men laugh and call it “blow job week”.  The gender roles in small Texas towns are so concrete that if anyone strays from the binary they’re seen as a freak.

Instead of me teaching you progressive vs. conservative, you got to experience it.

I remember watching movies like If These Walls Could Talk and Boys Don’t Cry.  You made sure that I was exposed to pieces of art like that instead of being preachy about it.  Sex, periods, and knowing about my body were always topics of conversation.  It was annoying then, but I appreciate it now.

I never wanted to be preachy.  My intent was for you to form your own opinion. I wasn’t going to push a religion onto you, that’s a personal choice.  If you wanted to be Catholic, Baptist, or Satanic, I would have been fine as long as you made a conscious decision.  

I went to church because that was how people socialized in Waco.  I liked the youth group aspect of it, until I started liking one of the boys there and we were told that we couldn’t date until we were married.  That made no sense to me, so I stopped going.

That speaks more of the church than of God.  There’s so much more to that.  I just wanted you to experience that on your own without telling you.

You say you’d be supportive no matter what my choices are, what if I dated a woman?

I wouldn’t prefer it, but I wouldn’t judge you.  I guess part of me is old-fashioned and wants you to marry a man and have kids.  Growing up with two gay siblings, I saw first hand how hard life was for them.  They were so made fun of, they went through an awful lot and probably still do.  Look at Cher, one of the biggest gay icons had a hard time accepting her daughter being transgender.  You can be progressive, but when it comes to your kids, you want safety and comfort and for their lives to be as easy as possible.

I asked Ted Nugent that same  question yesterday about his son and I can’t believe your answer was more conservative than his.

For someone who doesn’t like labels, you sure are quick to label my view as conservative.

That’s what it is!

That’s just my truth.

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What if I don’t want kids?

I’d learn to live with it.  I know there’s a lot of pressure on you because you’re the only child on all sides of the family.  I try not to pressure you or talk to you about it because having kids is a personal choice.

I do want kids, I just don’t know when the hell I’m going to do it.

You’ve always had a nurturing quality to you.  Maybe that’s the seed of wanting to help people, nurturing in a different way.  The minute you could walk, you were pushing a doll in a stroller.  We would have to stop shopping so you could change her diaper and feed her.  As you got older, when you would see someone eating alone, you would cry and lose your appetite.  For some reason, your heart broke.  You wanted to make it better for him or her.  You’ve always had a tender spot for people that you felt needed something.  Now that you’re older, you realize eating alone isn’t a negative thing.

I do it all the time, especially in New York.  I’ve gotten used to doing lots of things alone and I love it.  I can’t believe I let something ruin my appetite…I love food!

Well, you were very sensitive.  You used to cry at the drop of a hat.  I don’t understand why you turned out to be so cold.

I’m not cold; I’m matter of fact.  When did I stop being so sensitive?  Was it around the time I started doing drugs and drinking?  Maybe it came as a side effect from all of the numbing I was doing.  It made me rough around the edges.

It makes sense to hear you say that.  You were numbing yourself from pain.  The root of most addiction is numbing and distracting.  Now, it’s almost like you pick and choose where you want to apply your compassion.  You still have compassion for homeless people, helping animals, and helping people with their goals.  When it comes to personal relationships, it’s almost like you push people away because you don’t want to deal with it.  

Has any of that changed since I’m sober?

You’re more patient.  You help me.  I’m starting to see the compassion that you apply to strangers being applied to me.

Any other noticeable differences in me?

It’s hard for me to differentiate you being sober from you living in New York City, but I think it’s mostly sobriety.  You seem more tolerant of me.  You’re not always trying to change me.  You accept me for who I am.  You’re dedicated to your sobriety and it shows in your actions.  The fact that you didn’t hook up with Cory (my ex-boyfriend) on this trip says so much.  That would have been a major set back for you.  It’s nothing against him as a person, you know I like him.  It’s more about you.  I think he was a big trigger for your past promiscuity and drinking.

What was I like when I was drinking and doing drugs?

You wanted nothing to do with me.  You thought that I was the enemy.  That’s when your art of manipulation was perfected.  You learned how to deflect.  It was so hard to be around you.  You were so hurtful because you wanted me off your back.  I knew it was the drugs and alcohol talking, I just thought it was going to be a phase.  I didn’t know it was the beginning of a 15 year addiction.  You turned into a functioning alcoholic.  You worked multiple jobs, taught Zumba classes, sold Zumba clothes and AdvoCare.  I don’t know how you hid your drinking. 

I hid it from you, but not from my class, friends, or social media.  I was very public about it.

Social drinking and alcoholism are two completely different things.  It’s socially acceptable to go out and get drunk.  People didn’t know the negative affects it was having on you because you looked the part: fit, high energy, professional.  You never did anything bare minimum; you did it all to excess.  How did you do it?

I guess with anything, I put up with so much more at a young age.  I functioned on less sleep, terrible food, and tons of booze.

I remember when you transitioned into the fitness world, you told me about the health benefits of switching from beer to liquor.  You told me it was so much “healthier”, basically justifying why you were drinking so much.  That was a big red flag for me.  

Yea, I recently did a similar thing with Alisson.  Right before I stopped drinking for good, I asked her to give up liquor for a month with me.  She’s not a big drinker anyways, but she agreed so she could be supportive.  I ended up sneaking shots behind her back, and tried to convince her that liquor was better for me than  beer.  About a month later, I came up with the idea of being sober for a year and starting this blog.

How do you think you’ve changed since you’ve been sober?

Like you said, it’s hard to tell the difference between my sobriety from moving to New York.  I care more about myself, people, and politics.  I’m finally able to fully think for myself, like you raised me to.  I’ve realized that I’m actually an introvert.  I thought I was an extrovert who loved being the life of the party.  I’m now seeing that that was the drugs and alcohol making me that way.  While I do enjoy socializing, I tend to find it exhausting and look forward to being at home.

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Mom,

We have had our ups and downs, but I’m so happy to finally be in a healthy place with you.  Thank you for putting up with me when I was at my absolute worst.  Thank you for never giving up on me.  Oh, and thanks for creating me.  I love you.

XOXO,

Tawny

4 thoughts on “My Reflective Conversation with Mom

  1. brandonbenz

    This blog is so wonderful and candid, thank you for sharing it. I genuinely appreciate the honest dialogue you and your mother have, it reminds me of my mom and I. Thank you for giving me extra strength to stay sober and for posting this.

  2. Ruthie

    Beautiful. So glad you had this time with your mom. I know she misses you and worries about you but I am sure she feels so much better being able to see you and talk to you. So proud of you. You have come a long way. Keep on the good path.

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