I knew in the pit of my stomach that Sunday night was going to be rough for me. I could just feel a heaviness in my heart and tears welled up inside of me waiting to get out. Sunday nights are already kind of dreary as it is, but add in some rain and the fact that I was home alone- well that’s just a fine recipe for overthinking, anxiety, regret, and sadness. I tried to ignore it (listening to podcasts, watching SNL reruns, distracting myself with games on my phone), but as soon as I put on Sufjan Stevens’ album Carrie and Lowell as I was cleaning the kitchen, I knew I was done for.
You see. My parents are both alcoholics. By parents I mean my mom and my stepdad. My biological dad is also an alcoholic but he’s been sober for over a year now so fingers crossed on that one. Somehow I managed to turn into a well functioning adult despite growing up in a very dysfunctional home.
In my almost four years of blogging, I’ve never once told the internet that dark truth about my parents. I often allude to having “family issues” or “family stress,” but I’ve never opened myself up to the extent that I am right now. I don’t really know why… I mean, everyone who is close to me knows. Half of the town I grew up in knows, my friends know, my entire family knows, my friends parents know, some of my teachers know- it’s certainly not a secret.All my life I’ve had to try to differentiate between the two versions of my parents that I had come to know: drunk parents and sober parents. My drunk parents are the absolute worst. They’re mean, loud, disruptive, scary, aggressive, immature, and reckless.
My sober parents though- they’re the best. They both have great senses of humor. My Mom is compassionate, kind, generous, and everything you would want in a Mom. My stepdad is one of the funniest guys you’ll ever meet, he’s tough on the outside, but warm and sweet on the inside. Some of my fondest memories are of my whole family (my parents, me, and my three sisters) eating dinner together. We almost always ate dinner together. On good nights, we would hilarious games, talk about our days, and laugh about anything and everything. THAT to me was what family ought to feel like all (or at least most) of the time.But all of those good memories are clouded by bad ones. The good times are over shadowed by late night scream sessions, holes in the wall, cruel insults, harsh words, bruises, tears, stress, worry, and fear.
I always struggled with my relationship with them. It was really hard to try to take the good and forget the bad. I felt like I wasn’t being honest with myself. I felt like I was saying that their toxic behavior was okay. It was heartbreaking to hear from my sisters about what was really going on at home when earlier that day I had a lovely, seemingly normal phone call catching up with my Mom. I felt like I was living this epic lie.
Recently I realized, I can’t have this kind of relationship in my life. I just can’t do it. It tears me apart inside. I can’t have a real and genuine relationship with them if they’re going to continue to be alcoholics and not get help. I knew I needed to set up some boundaries in order to protect myself.So a few weeks ago, after yet another big blow up at my house that I wasn’t present for but heard all about, I sent my Mom a letter outlining basically what I just said. Telling her how much I love her, but how I can’t do this weird half on half off relationship anymore. It was simultaneously one of the hardest and easiest things to do in my life.
I’m not going to lie, it felt amazing to write the letter. Getting it all out of my stressed out to the max brain and onto paper.
But now we haven’t talked since March. It’s weird and it’s depressing and it’s maddening. This is what I wanted, but I wish things didn’t have to be this way. One of the truths you learn when being close to an addict is that you can’t make them change- they have to want to change. It took me a while to accept that, but now I know it as gospel. But what they don’t tell you is, you have to wrestle with the feelings that come along with your parents not feeling like they have a reason to change and stop drinking when you think there are a million reasons staring them in the face (four beautiful daughters at that).Addiction is twisted and it sucks, quite honestly. I can barely wrap my head around it- it makes me so angry and sad at the same thing. I hate that it engulfed all of my parents and turned them into monsters.
So last night I was thinking about all this too much and getting too sad. I’m not asking for much from the future- I just want a family that doesn’t have this epic thing destroying us all and tearing everyone apart. No family is perfect by any means- every family has their issues- but I just want a normal set of issues. Problems that aren’t too big or crazy. Some heavy stuff here and there is fine. But years and years of constant alcoholism that breaks everyone down completely? C’mon, no thank you.
I was alone last night and made dinner for myself.
I needed something comforting. I roasted a whole chicken (classic comfort food) and served it with mashed white sweet potatoes (my fave), very roasted asparagus (another fave), and this simple rhubarb sauce that brought the entire meal together (rhubarb reminds me of my grandmother who always makes me feel better when I’m upset).I needed something to give me hope. I didn’t find hope in my food. But I did find hope in the thoughts that accompanied me while I made dinner. I let my mind dream of someday in the future where I’m surrounded by family and loved ones- no crazy drama (minor drama is welcome)- no hateful words- no negative feelings. Everyone laughing. Everyone happy to be together and no one feeling like our good time together is limited by anything. Me having made a big dinner for everyone and despite whatever may be going on in our lives, enjoying each other’s company and being happy to be together. I don’t know how realistic it is for me to picture my parents there, but I do, I picture them being there, older, and having been sober for a good handful of years. That’s my hope. That’s what I really hope the future has in store for all of us. I want happier times in the future.
I’ve always been a very family centered person. I’m a Cancer. Read up on my sign and you’ll get a window into why for me, family is everything. It’s for this reason that my family strife is weighing so heavily on me- I’m nothing without my family. When we’re disconnected in some way, I’m not right.
But I feel like this is how things have to be right now. I have to protect my heart and preserve my sanity. I have to take care of myself and believe that the future will in fact give way to better days.
Here’s what’s in my bowl:
- Shredded rotisserie style chicken
- Mashed white sweet potatoes
- Roasted asparagus
- Rhubarb sauce
For the chicken, the key to getting a crispy skin is to dry the entire chicken (outside and in). I simply make sure the chicken is dry, put it in a roasting pan, cover it with sea salt, and cook it in a 425 degree oven for an 75-90 minutes. Once the internal temp is at 165, I take it out of the oven and let it rest for a good fifteen minutes more.For the sweet potatoes, I boil white sweet potato cubes until they’re tender and then puree them in my food processor. I like using my food processor with them because it makes the mash super smoooooth. I add in some coconut oil to make it even smoother. And I season the mash with Himalayan pink sea salt.For the asparagus, I put it in the oven as soon as I take the chicken out. I like roasted the crap out of my asparagus till its really crispy and kind of burnt. I roasted these guys in olive oil with a ton of kosher salt at 425 for about twenty minutes.
For the rhubarb sauce, I chopped a little under a pound of rhubarb, tossed it in honey and olive oil, and roasted it for 15-20 minutes. I then pureed it with my immersion blender and added in 1 tbl of honey, 1 tsp of molasses, 1/2 tsp ginger, and a pinch of salt.xxx