In 1993, my family got together and attempted an Intervention with my mother. Her sister and brother were there, my father and my mother’s two best friends. I was 21, and it was my job to oragnise the thing. I had to call my uncle and admit to him that my mother was an alcoholic, and I had to sit there while he told me it was my father’s fault. I had to call my aunt and admit to her that my mother was an alcoholic, and she didn’t say anything. I called my mother’s best friends, and told them my mother was an alcoholic, and they said, “thank God you’re doing this”. I don’t remember who contacted the Interventionist. I think it was one of Mum’s friends.
She sat on the step and hardened her heart against all of the raw and beautiful stories we told her about how important she was in our lives. She stared at us unflinchingly, her face a stony grimace. She glared at each of us in turn and said nothing. She made not a sound. The Interventionist said, at some point, “you may choose to hate me,” and my mother said, “oh, I do.” He said “but these people love you and they want you to get help.” My mother said, “I’m not talking to you anymore.”
From the moment she walked in the door, she controlled what went on in that room. And that was how she wanted it. Afterwards, for a while, she tried not to drink, but she really had no support; I was living in a different city, my father had mostly given up trying, and her friends had lives of their own. Her brother and sister lived a minimum of six hours away, and thought the Intervention was the end, rather than the beginning.
I remember sitting in that room, in that living room. It was a grey day. At least, I remember it being grey. I’m sure the sun could have been shining brilliantly on the leafless trees of early June. I think I was on the same couch as my father and my uncle, the two men I admired most. And what you have to remember is that in my family, we show two emotions: happiness/laughter and anger. Never tears. Never, never ever tears.
We all said what we’d planned to my mother, as she sat solidly at the other end of the room. She would not let us come to her, nor would she come to be with us. She was, sadly and irrevocably, apart. My uncle said his piece, and fought back the tears. My father read his letter, shed some tears, and told her the ways in which her behaviour had affected him. I had to hear how hurt and worried all of these people were, and then the Interventionist asked me to read my letter.
“Mum,” I began, and the room was suddenly silent. “I could tell you all the ways in which your drinking has affected me.” I couldn’t look up from the page. I’d written the letter on a sheet of pink graph paper. “I could tell you about all the times your drinking has let me down. I could tell you many things, but I won’t. This isn’t the letter I wrote at first. I only have a few things to say. You prize your family above all other things. From as long as I can remember, you told me stories of your own childhood, of your youth. You told me about your family and you wear their name as a badge, proudly. Mum, I cannot wear your name as a badge, proudly. We are not a family. I do not have those stories to tell my children someday. Your drinking has taken from me my mother, and your drinking has taken from me my father. I am an island, alone. You taught me to be strong, to be honest, to be a leader, even when you could not be. I love you, although I do not know how to be your daughter. Please, Mum, can we finally be a family?”
I was not able to read this letter without tears. But she listened without them. She tried to stop drinking. She refused any help.
She missed so much, but worse yet, the rest of the world missed so much of her. I still ask myself how she could choose the life she did, and I know I will never know. I understand many of the reasons she was powerless before her addiction, and I will always hate each and every one of them.
Always I will remember how she sat there, glaring at each and every one of us as we told her how much we loved her. As terrible as that day was, I would give anything to live it over again now.