A pocket full of “change”


When I was in middle school, my two best friends also had alcoholic parents. I always thought this was pure coincidence, but I know now that it wasn’t- we needed each other because only we could understand what we were going through at home. We could share with each other our shame, our pain, our stories, our fears…

I am still best friends with one of those two girls and our friendship has spanned over two decades. We know everything about each other and that history has kept us close through the years. The friends that I have made as an adult are so amazing, but they will never truly understand what I went through as a teenager the way my best friend does. This is not only because she witnessed my father in action for herself, but because she experienced life with an alcoholic as well. We are more like sisters and her parents and sisters are like an extended family to me. In fact, my current boyfriend is her first cousin (talk about “keeping it in the family” wink!)

I am proud to say that my best friend’s mother (my “Ma”) has been sober for over ten years. She has struggled, but I am so happy that she created a second chance for herself to be a mother to her three daughters (and to me!) She is a wonderful woman and has accomplished many personal goals since becoming sober. I have been to about six of her anniversary AA meetings to celebrate her years of sobriety and it has always been a bittersweet experience for me. Sweet because I was inspired by people who were facing their addictions and trying to get help and for my Ma, who I had seen at her worst and was happy to see become healthy and alcohol free. Bitter because I knew without a doubt that it would never be MY father who would be one of these brave people. I will never sit in a room and hear my father introduce himself and admit his powerlessness over alcoholism. I know I can’t predict the future, but I have very little doubt that my dad will die as an alcoholic. He simply does not have the desire or willpower to get sober. Nothing has ever happened to make him want to change- not losing his job, not his health problems, not getting arrested for assault…there has never been a “rock bottom” for him.

This is my favorite memory from one of my Ma’s anniversary AA meetings: Another man was there celebrating several years of his own sobriety and spoke about his life story. He ended by saying that he always carried his AA yearly sobriety coins in his pocket and whenever he felt a moment of weakness, he simply put his hand in his pocket and jingled them around. Just the sound of those coins clinging together reminded him of all his hard work overcoming his addiction and gave him strength. He said that one day someone asked him what he was doing and what was making that noise in his pocket. He simply stated “change”.

I was so touched by this story- probably because the English teacher in me loves the symbolism of it. It is a beautiful reminder that people can and do change for the better when they really desire a better life. I have become resigned to the fact that my father will probably never overcome his alcoholism and even if he did become sober, he has become so mentally ill that he would never be the person I remember from before he started drinking.

So I will live vicariously though my best friend and be grateful for her mother for teaching me that people can fight their demons and win, that people can take responsibility for their actions and that people really can change.

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