On my 56th birthday this year, I woke at dawn to breakfast in bed served from my 16-year-old daughter and a call from my 81-year-old mother singing “Happy Birthday.” Neither of these things would’ve been possible prior to my treatment of alcohol and drug addiction.
Like so many other women impacted by addiction, I had cut off, damaged or strained all of my close relationships. At 25, I was avoiding my parents like the plague, except when I needed them to bail me out, I ruined my marriage of less than two years, and my job was in jeopardy. My friends were also addicts, and we used each other mercilessly. I certainly didn’t talk to my mother on her birthday, let alone Mother’s Day. I felt Mother’s Day was a holiday designed for guilt, and I wanted none of it.
Today, I view Mother’s Day as a celebration of the ways women bear life in all forms. Nurturing and protecting on the material and spiritual plain; listening and witnessing deeply to dreams as well as losses; sustaining with the essentials of life during hard times; holding the space for tender new growth during the better ones.
It’s those things my mother did for me at the height of my addiction, especially when I was least aware of them—saving a place at the table for me to come home whenever and however I arrived, the prayers I never knew about yet received anyway. It’s the Big Book she read cover to cover to understand my disease, and the way my very reserved and private mother cried in front of a group of strangers during the Family Program in order to save my life.
It’s the things many women have provided me in my journey. Mothering is the memory of Anne Marie, the nurse who admitted me to treatment and treated me with grace and dignity when I felt I deserved neither. It’s my counselor who said she’d been hopeless too and the clear light of day in her eyes when she told me about the freedom of admitting I needed help. It’s the evening shift tech who sang Amy Grant’s “El Shadai” when I said maybe I could use that phrase to begin my way back to a power greater than myself. It’s my sponsor who listened to me at all times of the day and night, held me while I cried over a lost love, and celebrated with me at my marriage and the birth of my daughter. It’s the women of Cumberland Heights, along with my faith community, who carried me through my husband’s bypass surgery, feeding me spiritually and literally, until my refrigerator was overflowing with food.
Because they taught me, I have been able to mother my daughter with a heart more open than it would have been. I know that she is more important than the Cherokee vase she broke when she was three. She is stronger today because I know she can take risks, fail and get up again. She takes adventures to other places because I know where to go and what to do to walk through the fear. She is driving now, and we are both safe and sane. All these things are possible because of the women who mothered me in treatment and throughout my recovery. They love me, feed me, protect me, sustain me and teach me how to give it back to my daughter, my mother and the other wonderful recovering women in my life.
If you are one of us, I invite you to celebrate your recovery and mothering along with all the women who have mothered you. If you are not here yet, hurry up! We’re waiting for you. We need you. Let the women of Cumberland Heights love you, because, really, that’s what Mother’s Day is about love. Simply, only, always. Love. And Love transforms lives.
Cinde S. has been with Cumberland Heights for 25 years. Cinde is a bachelor’s prepared nurse with a master’s degree in counseling. She served on the Board of Directors at both AWARE and Thistle Farms. She is an Oral Examiner for the Tennessee Board of Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors and a Qualified Clinical Supervisor for the LADAC.
Cinde received her bachelors in nursing from Western Kentucky University and her masters from Trevecca Nazarene University.