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IF MY HOUSE BURNED DOWN

I found out two days ago that my teenage daughter spent the summer DRINKING at a friend's house. There are barely words for my shock and horror. She, of all my children, has been especially vocal and open about her hatred of her father's alcoholism. I am old enough and been through enough teenagers - be them my own or nieces and nephews or simply witness to my friends' teens - that I know not to be surprised by teens lying or drinking or smoking pot or having sex.


But I was shocked at my daughter drinking.


She says she's sorry. She says she's learned her lesson.


"Mom, I realize now that all men are assholes when they drink."


She says she knows what drinking does to you and to those around you.


And that's when I realized:


The people who see what someone else's drinking has done to you after the fact, only see half the destruction. I told my daughter,


If I had a beautiful house that you had never seen and it burned down, I could take you to where my house once stood and you could look at all the charred ruble and know the destruction. You could smell the lingering smoke and appreciate the horror of what the fire had done. But you would not know what my house was. You would not know the beauty of the morning sun that came in through the kitchen window or the peaceful solitude on the back deck late at night. You could not know the comfort of curling up on my favorite couch or how much I loved the writing nook I created in a corner of my bedroom. You could know the fire destroyed something but you would not know what that something was.


My children don't know the man their father was before 20 years of alcoholism. They don't know who their mother was before 20 years of marriage to an alcoholic. And they don't know fully, yet, how their father's alcoholism will shape or influence their future selves.


I hate his drinking with an anger that eats at me every single day. An anger that is mine to manage and mitigate and release, I know. I told my daughter,


"Alcoholism destroyed my husband, my marriage, the family and home I saw myself having and it's nearly destroyed me."

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