My Alcoholic Grandmother
I have always loved poetry and words. When I was eleven years old and experienced depression for the first time in my life, I turned to poetry. I found people online sharing their words, their wounds, and their vulnerabilities through art. It appealed to me. It became an outlet – writing, truth-telling, confessing. I was able to put my emotions into my poetry and talk about issues and traumas and experiences and hurt in a way I had never done before.
by Lara Frazier
When I look back at my poetry, the overwhelming theme is alcoholism. My grandmother was a drunk. I don’t enjoy putting these words into the universe, knowing that they will be read by others on the internet. However, it’s the truth. I grew up with an alcoholic grandmother. My grandmother always had a glass of wine in front of her. Always. This – her alcoholism, overshadowed everything I knew of her.
My mother reminds me my grandmother is kind and giving. My father tells me my grandmother was well-meaning. She just married the wrong man. She was living the wrong life. I heard that my grandmother wanted to be a ballerina. She was young and passionate and beautiful and she had big dreams. However, she fell in love with a man who I now know as my grandfather. And this man could be selfish, mean, and ugly to her.
This is the main reason I know that my grandmother turned to wine. She wasn’t happy and was trying to escape. She didn’t know how to live the life she was currently signed up for. I forgive her. I do. However, the lasting impression of her intoxication and drunken mistakes still sit with me. The experiences of watching my grandmother fall down drunk at restaurants, while shopping, while riding horses, at home. My grandmother was constantly passing out.
I remember the good times too. I remember when I was young and my parents bought me rollerblades. And my grandmother, the adventurer, put on my sister’s roller blades and laughed her way down the street. These were the good times. But as I said before, these times are overshadowed by the fact that I rarely saw her sober.
I used to write poetry about spitting in red wine. About how I would not turn into her. How I didn’t even want to be compared to her. My grandmother was an alcoholic and I saw the terrible way it made her lose control. I vowed that addiction would never overtake my life. And yet, it did.
I remember my grandmother used to mix her alcohol with pills. As I grew older, I found out she was prescribed benzodiazepines for anxiety. These pills were not meant to be mixed with alcohol, and yet my grandmother mixed these pills with alcohol. My grandmother did what I was doing in my own addiction. She was checking out and numbing. She had no healthy coping mechanism for dealing with her unhappiness. If she had an outlet, it was walking the mall with her girlfriends.
My grandmother was sweet. She loved me, she loved her family, and she made that clear. However, as a young child, I didn’t trust her words. I trusted her actions. And her actions terrified me. I re-read the poetry I wrote throughout my life and it is full of resentment when it comes to my grandmother. I think what if I had never gotten sober? What if my life had ended as hers did? Still an alcoholic. What if I died as an alcoholic?
My grandmother and I have far more in common than I care to admit. I grew up dis-liking my grandmother because of her drinking. I can now see her alcoholism in a different light. I know what addiction is and I know how it feels. My grandmother had lost control. I believe that my sobriety honors my grandmother. It shows her, the angel in heaven, that there is hope. It proves to my family that addiction can be overcome. It also reminds me to remember that my grandmother was far more than an alcoholic – she was a loving, kind, giving woman who cared for her family and her friends.
Lara Frazier is a truth-teller, a sobriety warrior and a writer. She is a FIERCE believer in the power of owning our stories and is a strong advocate for addiction recovery. Lara shares a story of healing: in sobriety, through addiction, in life and love, and in all the other big huge moments of fear and magic that we rarely talk about, but we should. Find more of Lara’s work on her website at www.larafrazier.com or follow her on Instagram @sillylara.