I celebrated my 16th birthday in a substance abuse halfway house for women. Celebrate may be a little too cheery for what actually happened. As you may have guessed, I did not have an ideal family life. My twin brother and I were raised (fed, clothed and housed) by our mother. Our mother was a drunk until we were 14 years old and then she got sober. I pretty much went off the rails when she started to dry out. My level of self-destruction was about an 8 out of 10 and the speed at which it happened was super hyper fast (that’s a highly technical scientific term).
The day of my 16th birthday was a sunny Sunday in June of 1984. My mother and brother picked me up to go out for a few hours. I honestly don’t remember what we did for the first hour or two. What happened on the way back to the temporary place I called home is forever tattooed to my brain. I asked if we could stop at McDonald’s for a cheeseburger. I was after all not “free” to come and go as I pleased so this would have been a treat…..on my birthday….my 16th birthday.
The place I was staying at was in the country….not Nebraska country but rural New Jersey. It took a solid 12 minutes of winding country roads to drive to McDonald’s. You would have thought I asked for a kidney, a bag of cash and an all expense paid trip to Europe. At first the request was met with a slightly irritated shrug and an OK attitude. As the minutes and miles ticked upward the resentment and outward rage began to boil over, for both of them.
My mother started bitching about how far it was and soon my brother chimed in. He had friends to see and things to do – fun things, with real people in what once was my home town. No one had the time or inclination to satisfy my stupid request and yet here we were driving toward a cheeseburger…..it was horrible.
I’m sure I fought the tears as long as I could, that was my way. I just couldn’t believe how selfish and cruel they were being. It was my 16th f*cking birthday and I’m basically in a lock up facility….getting sober. Early sobriety isn’t easy for anyone let alone a teenager and you two can’t take an extra half hour out of your day for a simple request. Assholes.
By the time we got to McDonald’s I was a wreck. I’m not sure how much it showed. I was told to go in and get my cheeseburger and come back. They waited impatiently in the car. I got out of the car, walked straight through the place and ugly cried in the back parking lot of that McDonald’s. I gave myself a good five minutes before I could muster the strength to get back in the car sans cheeseburger. They didn’t know I skipped the burger, they didn’t care. They just wanted to drop me off so they could get on with their much-better-than-mine lives.
When we got back to Crawford House the place was empty and the doors were locked. I assured my mother that someone would be there soon. She did not require a lot of convincing and quickly left. They left me there outside oblivious and/or indifferent to how shitty they just treated me. Who does that?
I was out there maybe half an hour before other residents started to return with the weekend supervisor. Those women hugged me and comforted me and treated me like a human being. I was safer there with drunks and addicts in early recovery than I was with my own family. Perhaps my mother did me a favor by keeping me away from her.
To be continued……………https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/29/1-out-of-37-part-10/