I am currently in a hotel in Knoxville with my 10 year old. He and I are traveling to Kentucky to see my parents. I thought he would chill and I would write. I was wrong. He hasn’t chilled yet. Hotels are way too exciting for children. Even a Hampton Inn in Knoxville, TN. Jackson is spinning circles in the chair and asking me thousands of questions. His most recent question was “are you mad at me?” I told him “Of course I’m not mad at you” and I asked why he thought that. His reply was that I seem annoyed. I had to remind him that it’s after 9 o’clock and Mommy hates everyone after 8:30. He knows this. And then, because I am a good human, I assured him I am not annoyed with him and I love him all the world full. I’m just a bit tired and grumpy. It’s been sweet traveling with Jackson. He mostly watches videos with his headphones on. But, we also got some good one on one talk time in. Jackson was in 5th grade this past year. His last year in elementary school. In 5th grade the children participate in the DARE program. He learned all about addiction/drugs/alcohol/peer pressure and such. He knows I don’t drink but he’s never asked why. Until today. My older two children know the story. They lived the story. They remember the story. Jackson was a little guy. I asked him if he remembered when I was sick and he came to see me in that hospital where he got to play foosball. He does remember. He told me he remembers coming to see me a few times in the hospital. The hospital was a treatment center, and it seems he remembers a bit more of my stay than I realized. Once that topic came up he asked what that was all about. He wanted to know why I was in that hospital. I have had ALL the conversations about these things with his brother and sister, but Jackson, being the baby, and not really remembering that life, well, it just hasn’t come up. Until today. He could care less whether I drink or not. When I explained to him that alcohol makes me sick, he compared it to an allergy to red dye number 40, or yellow dye 5. He’s not really wrong. Other than the fact that as well as making me sick, alcohol makes me crazy and depressed. I guess he’s never cared or even considered why I go to “those meetings.” Which cracks me up because I have always said it’s Jackson’s world and the rest of us are lucky to be living in it. It’s just something I do that he’s never questioned. We talked about those meetings and he decided I go for no reason and I don’t even need to go because obviously I am cured. Then he threw in the word hippie and eluded to the fact that AA is for hippies. I love this child. AA in my community certainly isn’t full of hippies. Or, maybe they were at one time, but they grew out of it. Jackson is a joyful child. A young 10 year old. He’s been able to stay little a bit longer than his siblings did. Innocent. He has no idea that I rolled straight out of jail and went to his kindergarten orientation with him 5 years ago. Never have I ever felt more shame or guilt than I did that day. I had gotten a DUI the day before and had to sit in jail for 24 hours. Actually, my husband had the option to bail me out, but chose not to. He was over it and he knew if I was in jail for the night, I was safe for the night. I got sober three months later. I remember going to his class and talking to his teacher about my sobriety. I wanted her to know why I had been absent for the past few months. I wanted her to know how much I appreciated all the love and support she gave Jackson and how grateful I was for her. When I explained to her that I had been struggling with addiction and had been away in a treatment center she looked at me like I had two heads. I was sure I couldn’t have been the first person she had ever met with a drug/alcohol problem. She assured me I was the first. I was mortified and I wanted to die. But I didn’t. I stood there. I was getting sober. I was being honest. I was standing in my truth. Uncomfortable and awkward, but I stood there. For whatever reason, I felt like she needed to know. I felt like that was a conversation I needed to have with her. It was the first time I had announced with any seriousness that I was getting sober. For the first time ever, I was able to hold my head high in that school. Simply because I was sober. I didn’t feel judged by her. It was just very matter of fact, “I have never met an addict or alcoholic before.” I think I expected her to share her own personal story of the people in her life who are either addicted or in recovery. Maybe I expected a bit of praise for my hard work. Not that I deserved an award for doing what I needed to do, because I certainly did not. That experience was a big moment for me in early recovery. Being honest about who I am is OK. Being open and honest made it easier for me to be a good mother. I no longer felt like I had to pretend to be perfect, because now it was known that I wasn’t. But I was there. I was trying. Not being perfect meant I could be me. Being an alcoholic mother is hard. I had a lot of shame about the way I drank. I had always felt less than when I was with the other Moms at school because it seemed like they had it all together. They all seemed so perfect. Then there was me. Just hoping they didn’t smell alcohol on me. That was a special kind of Hell. (There are many kinds) Now, after being sober for 5 years and spending time with emotionally healthy people, I understand that nobody has their shit together. At least not all the time. We all do the best we can and everyone has their own problems to deal with. In whatever form that comes in. As long as we keep showing up, we are winning at life, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Today I am showing up for my children by being a living example of what recovery looks like. They have seen addiction. It’s not the life I had planned for us, but we made it and became so much stronger and closer through the process. My children know that they can talk to me about the difficult things. They know they don’t have to be perfect, because this life is messy and chaotic and beautiful. We just have to keep showing up.