A Time to Heal by Peter Marinelli
January 23, 1974 I woke up to something I never thought would happen. My mom, who battled alcoholism and pill addiction, finally succeeded in taking her life. The finality of this was too much to comprehend when it happened. Albeit, she had made prior attempts, but when it really happens and you get the news that “mom died,” well how can any child handle that kind of news?
I was about 14 years old when this happened (my brothers were 11 and 8) and although I sensed my life and the family life was much different then other families, I had no idea how this was about to make a drastic change into high gear of uncertainty , doubt pain and misery – Quite frankly to the breaking point with all of my immediate family. Now I don’t contribute all of this to her death, but it seemed that way.
Moving forward a few years and it was obvious that as a family unit we lost our roles and in so doing, lost our way. It seemed as if everyone went into survival mode and all of us were trying to keep up with life, but we looked more like a ball bouncing around in a pinball machine. Anger inwardly and outwardly was daily, street fights the routine. We talked at each other rather than to each other, and for me, drinking and drugs went into overdrive, which would make everyone else’s life that much more out of control. On a side note it wasn’t until the mid-90’s (a few years into my sobriety and my family seeking help via therapy and al-anon) did my family begin to discuss my mom’s death. It was something that I and my brothers would not dare bring up to the family or dad, and we only began to mention it to each other from time to time.
One of the many things I am beyond grateful for is the healing that we were allowed to have as a family. The day came for us as a unit as well as individually that we ran out of road and had to deal with this elephant sitting in the living room.
Now every once in a while my mom’s death will sneak up on me and I will sometimes swallow hard and I wonder “what if.” Healing has allowed us to feel, yet not continue to die.
It make no sense to logic how a family could be torn apart by addiction and death, be stretched to the breaking point of no return, and return back to each other on a different footing, walking a path where wellness is key. Dialogue between me and my brothers was drastically revised – openness and being comfortable weeping in front of each other took place and still does. We have realized in our own way how God has us in His care.
Life – well it comes at you and sometimes it seems really unfair, yet doing this walk with God there is always an undercurrent of safety love and gratitude. As Jimmy Valvano once said “Never give up, don’t ever give up”.
Chop wood, carry water