After the unflattering point of departure of admitting powerlessness over my life and my baby, I had to find God again, not in the fridge or in my baby or at the mall, but somewhere deep down in my depleted breast, which had crushed cabbage on it by now. I had to move on to the solution, which is step two, and come to believe again that there is a god who would restore me to sanity. I felt a new kind of infantile insanity now, doing the same things over and over again, expecting different results, thinking that if I found the right combo of sleep and food and play we’d all stop crying. I sorely needed some more power.
Having been sober awhile, I already believed in a higher power because I desperately needed the grace to stop taking that first drink, and I did not have that kind of power. There have been many times when my only defense from the first drink was a prayer to the unknown that saved me from myself. Enough of these moments equals faith in something.
But now I needed the kind of super-human strength every mother needs — the 24/7 kind, the stamina, judgment, love, tolerance and acceptance kind. I needed a tough love goddess. Because I’d always wanted my gods with skin on them, or in bottles, it’s not surprising that my baby became God and I his devoted worshipper, kneeling prostrate in front of him, never letting my gaze falter, believing him to be my personal savior. How could I not believe in a god, a creator, a beneficent universe now that I held proof — Daniel — in my hands? As he sucked from my breast, expanded and breathed and grew in my care my faith in the goodness of the universe rocketed.
Ah, but the insanity. I sat-stood-knelt (repeat) all day long in front of my baby, a one-woman show of non-stop entertainment, an always-on freak show of over-stimulation, thinking this would make Daniel happy. Then he revolted. You know he was thinking, “Who is this woman? Does she ever shut up? Turn the channel.” I twisted my tired and loopy self into balloon animal shapes. A neighbor dropped by one day, and when I asked her why he was crying, she said, “He’s probably bored.” He’s probably bored. How could he be? I’d been on since 6 a.m. for God’s sake. Stay for the show and then review me!
It’s said that even dogs bark out of boredom.
She was telling me to get a life, one other than his. Stop taking him hostage. Introduce Daniel to the world, to some alone-time, to something other than me. I’m still recovering from people-pleasing codependency, so it was natural I became a baby pleaser. God speaks through people, and he struck me with my neighbor’s words. To quiet the voices in my head, my disease, which says I’ll never do this mother thing right, I listened to the messenger, and turned myself off. I cannot afford the SuperMommy syndrome. I have syndromes enough.
I was the quintessential new mother: hypochondriac, hovering, neurotic. One of those who controls the lighting, blinds, thermostat, white noise, clothing, diaper, ointment, food intake, crust behind the ears, and pimples, as if my baby were a science experiment. One who plots the data on a graph, like there is a formula for a happy human specimen. A guaranteed result.
Once I realized the trap, I saw my insanity (that’s me in the corner crying like a baby, whining on the phone to my husband, “But when are you coming home?”). That oozing mass of humanity in my arms had no more power than I did, and he was a poor substitute for the real higher power I need. (I prefer a god who can control his bladder anyway.) It was time to switch Baby Mozart on in the morning, put Daniel in his swing, and let him be. I could then pray alone in peace, look at the sky, the trees, something other than the eyes of my human beloved. And God was still there, outside myself and in. He had not moved, but expected me to. I started coming to, showing up for marching orders.
After six weeks stirring crazy at home, I began escaping to meetings again twice a week. I’d rather run to the movies or the bookstore, but it’s a program of action, and I’ve been brainwashed. (If anybody’s brain needed washing, it was mine.) When I bring the body, the mind follows and the spirit envelops me. It’s one of my few disciplines, my medicine for all the -isms that plague me, and it reminds me where I came from and where I can return.
A.A. will give you a life that will take you away from A.A.
I’ve been sober long enough to see what happens to those who stop coming: the drunken women who lose custody of their babies, the relapsers who die alone, the many who kill themselves. A mother shared how she’d been drinking all day and took some sleeping pills and then put her son in the car for a drive. The policed warned her that Social Services would take her son next time. Even though my 20-year A.A. birthday is soon, I know this story could be mine. That’s why I still go to meetings. To listen, and to pass it on. To hug her and say, “There, there. You are not alone.” Sometimes that’s all we can do for our children, too.
Every A.A. meeting confirms that God will restore my sanity if I remember who I am, that I’m the one here who needs help, if I can swallow both pride and ego and get right-sized. It’s not for the faint of heart this faith thing, nor this motherhood thing. Every time I return home to a sleeping babe, humbled by what is at stake.
I came to believe in this crazy baby who is becoming a boy before my eyes. More importantly, I believe in an even crazier god, and that bunch of crazy sober kooks, my tribe, in recovery. Divine Mother Love heals me more than a bottle of tequila and a blackout ever could. I get to wake up alive in my own bed, no bruises on my body, no rusty zippers, and no vomit, except from my baby. I get to feel painfully human and not black it out. What a gift.
About that time, when Daniel was six weeks old, I was kneeling in front of him (still) beseeching him to “Smile at Mommy. Smile at Mommy. Smile at Mommy.”
And he did.
I bet God has been saying the same to me all my life. Smile. You are not alone. There, there. Everything’s going to be all right.