My mom was an alcoholic. But she was also my hero.
Partly because of some poor choices she made, my story didn’t start out so great. But partly because of some better choices she made, it’s turned out so much better.
I didn’t know it then, but God used Mom to change the course of my life. The funny thing is, she didn’t even know she was doing it because she was often blinded by the messing up.
I still remember sitting in that dark, empty, musty apartment. We had no food, no furniture and no dad. I was 10 years old, I felt like I had screwed up, and I was angry.
I remember Mom slowly walking across the living room on her way to bed one night. She paused, leaned down, and whispered five little words in my ear. Those five words changed my life. As I sat there confused and angry, she gently said, “This is not your fault.”
I didn’t believe her at first. I thought that if I had only been quieter when Dad was home or had better manners at dinner or picked up my clothes off the bathroom floor, he would have stayed. I didn’t know how to process the pain of my dad running off, so I blamed myself. But that night, I chose to believe what Mom said. Because, frankly, believing the alternative made me miserable.
I once heard, “Sometimes we make choices, and other times choices make us.” The choice I made that night—to believe that other people’s choices are not my fault—helped shape who I am today.
In five simple words, God used my mom to change the path of my life. I decided in that moment that I was not a victim. Other people’s decisions would affect my path in life, but they couldn’t determine my final destination. My destination changes only when I quit—when I allow myself to become the victim.
I think Mom struggled to believe the same words she told me that day. I think at times the self-blame may have triggered her alcohol abuse and chronic depression. But in the middle of those dark battles, part of her was a fighter. She managed to work several jobs at a time in an unmatched drive for survival. She protected me from much of the violence she endured. She never left.
Mom taught me that often our greatest struggle in life becomes our best message. She’s not with us anymore, but I think she can hear me when I say, Thanks, Mom. I wouldn’t have survived, and I wouldn’t be thriving now, without you.
"I think she can hear me when I say, Thanks, Mom. I wouldn’t have survived, and I wouldn’t be thriving now, without you."
I saw the alcoholic mother, but I saw the heroic mother too. And because of her—because of the outlook she planted in my 10-year-old mind—my life today is blessed. I’m married to a strong, loving wife who is a great mom to our three kids. God has blessed us with plenty of food, a safe and comfortable home, and stability for our family—everything I longed for as a kid.
My mom was doing a lot better than she thought. And so are you.
I know that moms everywhere—even those who are worlds away from my mom’s circumstances all those years ago—struggle to feel like they’re good enough. I’m here to tell you that doing the best you can and loving those around you is more than good enough.
You don’t have to be perfect to make an impact.
Moms, give yourself some credit: You're doing better than you think. Don’t quit.
Whether you’re working outside or inside the home.
Whether your baby food is homemade or store bought.
Whether your kids are enrolled in an expensive summer camp or you rely on babysitters.
Whether you’re buying organic or making ends meet with a food bank.
You don’t have to be perfect to make an impact. You’re doing better than you think. Moms, your kids love you and look up to you. In their eyes, you’re their hero.