I come from a long line of alcoholics on my biological dad’s side. As an adult, my interactions with this side of my family have been minimal at best. A few weeks ago I received a text message from my paternal grandfather. It was the first time I had heard from him in over 2 years. He wanted to invite my daughter and me to a cookout at their house. A lot of my cousins would be there. After a lot of thought, I decided we would go.

My husband was supposed to go with us, but backed out last minute. So, yesterday I loaded my daughter up in the car and told her we were going to go see her cousins. I never mentioned the word “grandparents” to her. I didn’t know how to explain that since for three years she has grown up only knowing my husband’s parents and my mom and stepdad as her grandparents. 

We were greeted with hugs and smiles, and my daughter instantly befriended my grandmother (step-grandmother technically) and aunt (step-aunt). I love that my daughter didn’t need an explaination for who these new people were, she was just happy to have people to play with. 

Several of my cousins asked if my daughter acted similar to the way that I acted as a child. My grandmother was quick to say no. My daughter is lively, outgoing, and talkative. When I was little, I was quiet, shy, and compliant…. submissive even. 

I spent a lot of time with these grandparents when I was little. They often watched me while my mom worked at a bar. In my baby book, my mom wrote that these grandparents witnessed my first words and my first steps. I have vague memories from my childhood at their house. The memory that stands out the most is me sitting on my dad’s lap in a smoke-filled “sunroom”. It’s night time and I try to comprehend the conversation that my dad and grandfather are having. I sit quietly and listen, engulfed by the smell of Marlboro cigarettes and liquor. 

My grandparents are supposed to be sober now – at least they were the last time I saw them, over 5 years ago. However, the boxes of wine and bottles of Crown that lined the kitchen counters said otherwise. My grandmother had several styrofoam cups full of wine during the two hours that we were there. 

My cousins also drank excessively during our two hour visit. One of my cousins has a known drug and alcohol problem. To see him barely able to stand, and unable to remember my name or my daughter’s name, was heartbreaking. He and I grew up together, we’re friends on social media, and we’ve seen each other a few times as adults.  The disease of addiction runs rampant through my family, and as a sober outsider looking in, it is truly tragic. 

Being in that environment yesterday, even after two productive therapy sessions this week and an AA meeting, brought up a lot of tough emotions. Today, I am feeling emotionally hungover from the week. I went to yoga this morning with my favorite yoga teacher. I struggled to stay present as memories of the past flooded my thoughts. I’m sure she noticed because she kept making comments about staying present and letting go of the anxiety that we walked in with. Occasionally, she would make eye contact with me and offer a smile filled with compassion and kindness. I left class feeing more at peace with the events of yesterday. I left feeling more present. 

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