by Joanne P.

The recent passing of my mother this year has got me to thinking about many things, one of which is how our relationship changed during my continued sobriety.

My sobriety date is December 30, 2006 and I came into the rooms of AA in 1999, so that should tell you how I struggled to get this thing. Like many of us, I did not come into the rooms willingly. And perhaps like most of us, it is interesting now upon reflection to see how a mother always knows what’s going on long before we do.

Nothing is as precious as a mother’s instinct and my mother always knew when I was lying or trying to hide the truth, even when I didn’t know myself. Uncanny, really, how she could coax things out of me. As a matter of fact, she was the one who sent me a copy of our Twelve and Twelve with the inscription “Maybe this will help you, Love and Good Luck, Mom.” I still chuckle over that.

To give you a brief history, I was born in a small town in Newfoundland with four other siblings and am the youngest twin to my twin sister. (My twin sister never let me forget about that one!) Both of my parents were alcoholics and I swore I would never drink!

I never knew what I was walking into at home and life was very unsettled and unpredictable. I don’t remember a lot of family time or hugs and kisses and certainly not long discussions of what was going on at the time, or even how I was doing. It may have happened, but to be honest I really don’t remember it that way.

My father died at the young age of 53. Prior to that, my folks had split up. My mother felt she had to take control of the situation and place us in a healthier environment so she decided to leave dad and start over. At that time and being in such a small community, my mother had a lot of courage and strength to do this. The funny thing is that this is when my mother’s drinking really kicked in. I won’t go into the sordid details, but I think you get the picture.

The good news is that my mother managed to get a number of years of continuous sobriety herself (she never disclosed) and died sober. Not living in the same province as my mother made it difficult for me to see how she was really doing. She struggled, I do know that much, and I remember at least one intervention by one of my sisters in the States. To be honest, I was so busy doing my own drinking that I really never totally understood what was going on or how serious this disease can be.

But things changed in our relationship when I got sober. First things first, I was actually picking up the phone to call my mother on a regular basis. After making a thorough amends to her, I was able to share honestly how I was feeling or, better yet, get her to share how she was feeling.

Unfortunately my mother’s choice was to isolate and she never attended any AA meetings. To this day I think this would have eased her loneliness, her depression and her anxiety. It has been my experience that when I get to a meeting (even when I don’t want to go) or help someone else, I definitely get the benefits of participating more in life.

In my sobriety, instead of asking for money to bail me out of my own financial dilemmas as a direct result of my own drinking and lack of responsibility (of which there were many times during my drinking, trust me!) I was able to have money in the bank and fly home and see my mother on four occasions before her death and see where I could be of service and, frankly, be the daughter and grown woman my mother so deserved.

Interestingly enough, my mother was able to make amends to me for the neglect that her drinking career caused, and for that I am very grateful. Our relationship not only grew as a daughter and mother, it transformed into a solid loving relationship. Forgiveness and empathy for another human being are the greatest gifts of this program, simply by one alcoholic sharing with another. It is truly a powerful, magical thing that I hope I will never take for granted.

During my last visit at home in December while my mother was in hospital, I shared with her that it was my AA birthday of eight years that day. A calm moment of silence. Then my mother told me that I had helped her. Bewildered, I asked how? She said that she told herself, “If Joanne can do it, I can do it” and that was what had kept her sober for the last eight years of her own sobriety. With that, she fell into a peaceful sleep and I was left in a world of amazement. I still am. Mom passed away three weeks later and there was nothing left unsaid between us.

We just never know where we are going to get or give the message and how we can be of service to others. In this case it came full circle. Amazing Grace, to be sure.