Explore O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press offerings on Amazon.
Subscribe to the O:JA&L YouTube channel.

Alana Goldberg

How My Day to Day Became My DNA

The Alienation by Gela Mikava

Enigma. This is the only word I can think of to describe the relationship between parents and their children. Like a fingerprint or a snowflake, no two are the same. These relationships possess emotions both futile and jubilant. Actions both unpredictable and invariable. Words that cut as well as words that revere. All of these emotions, actions, and words fuse together to make the perfect Frankenstein of which we spend our whole lives trying to push with a centrifugal force in the hopes of compartmentalizing and making sense of. We walk through this labyrinth of binary code trying desperately to solve it. Enigma.

I can only speak to this type of relationship from the child perspective. Children that are brought into this world are helpless; they are delivered by the force of others and have no say in the matter. There are children in this world that are born into the epicenter of poverty, destruction, and loss. There are children in this world that from the moment their eyes meet the atmospheric glow of Earth’s air surrounding the sterile hospital walls never feel a moment of hunger or disparity for the next eighteen years. Every individual’s pain, while possibly trivial to others, may very well be a blindsiding missile of darkness to themselves. Personally, I do not know what it is like to be hungry to the point of emaciation, or elated to the point of naivety, however; I do believe that I am somewhere in the middle.

For as long as I can remember my mother had become more like the child in our twisted, outlandish relationship, and through all the trials and tribulations she had suffered by being an addict, she bared down and knocked on every labyrinth door. She brought us down the rabbit hole of her spirals just to chew us up and spit us out. She also taught us about resilience and love, and at a certain point in her journey she became rendered powerless over her illness. The Jekyll and Hyde between her sobriety and her benders started to become too enmeshed and the signals going in and out of this proverbial ganglion web became too tangled to separate. Much like the chicken and the egg we would be left wondering – did the addiction feed into her mental illness or was mental illness the catalyst for her addiction?

For many, many years my mother had carried on her rehab tour, in one institution and out the next, each time proving that the results were the same. With every week that passed after she would return home, I could see her skin begin to crawl and her brain begin to itch with the disease that controlled her life. The last time that she was sent away, however, was different.

It was 5:00 on a Saturday morning and I woke up to her incessant screaming. What exactly she was screaming about I could not tell because her words were no more than a cauldron of slurred curses and nonsense. Usually, my dad and I would walk around the house on tiptoe for the fear that even the slightest creak in the floorboard would wake her. This time we did the same only there was an unspoken word between my dad and I that no amount of silence could stop the raging monster that my mother had become. My dad knew that something had to be done and fast. We walked downstairs to find my mother chugging a bottle of Xanax as if the bottom of the bottle was her secret key to happiness. At this point, my dad had no choice but to call the police for two reasons: the safety of her, and the safety of us.

The police arrived no more than twenty minutes later to find my mother lying on her bedroom floor so helpless and about to hit the tip of the lifeless iceberg she had created as her shelter. She did not want to go with them so they gave her an ultimatum: either she willingly goes with them, or they forcibly bound her to a stretcher and carry her out for all the neighbors to see. In her stupor, she agreed to go willingly with the searing sounds of “I hate you” escaping her body and penetrating the ears of mine and my dad’s. The police seized her out of the house and I was able to watch from my window. She had a cop on each arm and although her back was to me, I could envision her eyes rolling behind her head. She no longer possessed the demonic look she usually wore on her face because she was dying, slowly, right outside my house. She tried to shake herself loose from the cop’s hold but she could not because she is barely walking; the cops acting as her legs.

At this point, my mother’s hair is a matted, disheveled mess. The black spaghetti strap tank top she is sporting had risen above her belly button so that examining her from head to toe all you see is her black, soiled, dirty sweatpants, an exposed section of midriff that displays her C-section scars from both me and my sister, and her tank top. They piled her almost lifeless body composed of vodka, water, smoke, skin, pills, bone, and blood into the back of the ambulance; she had turned her body into a heap of toxic waste. My dad followed the ambulance to the hospital leaving me home alone to sweep up the debris from the aftermath of this metaphorical storm.

In an eerie way, this time felt so much different than all of the others because as I slumped my tired body onto the couch, I could not feel more alone. My tiny house had transformed into a vacuum of silence and I felt numb. I knew that in a few days, my numbness would turn into sadness and anger that would seep through my pores, my teeth, and my hair, but for now I was in a tranquil state, so unusual for the events that had just occurred that I began to scare myself. For a couple days after I could still feel the numbness. My tendons did not want to move, and the paralytic state I had entered, although mental, felt as though it had reached the very tips of my fingers and toes. Eventually, I began to regain feeling and all I wanted to do was scream, and all the while I knew that I couldn’t. I thought I would implode.

Nonetheless, I maintained my composure and prayed for life to go back to normal, whatever that means. I don’t think there was ever actually a “normal”. The normal life I’ve fantasized about so many times would never breathe life through our front door. Yet, I fantasized on. The many years after that one Saturday morning began to feel like the movie Groundhog’s Day. Like a volcano that’s waiting to erupt and spillover, my mother’s disease became a pressure bomb. It eventually released, culminating with her death after one particularly brutal detox. Since then, I’ve acted like an archeologist trying to uncover all the subconscious feeling fossils that I’ve buried so very, very deep inside. My day to day became my DNA. And while I’m still searching, I am no longer fantasizing. I’ve created a life for myself void of loud noises and explosions. And, maybe one day, I’ll dig deep enough to reach the other side.

About the writer:
Alana Goldberg is a reading teacher on Long Island. Her goal is to use her pieces as a platform to share personal experiences that others may relate to. She hopes people continue to have open dialogue about and break down the stigma on the effects of addiction.

Image: The Alienation by Gela Mikava (contemporary). No medium specified. No size specified. By 2022. By free license.

Explore O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press offerings on Amazon.