I haven’t blogged in awhile. As much as writing is my joy and therapeutic outlet, it has a tendency to occasionally burn me out, spurring periodic breaks lest my passion also become a dull, monotonous chore. Taking a short leave of absence enabled me to catch up on my movie watching, particularly a new release titled Smashed.
I’ve written about two of my favorites When a Man Loves a Woman and Flight, titles that resonate for their accurate portrayals of alcoholism. A movie of a similar nature that has flown under the radar, Smashed is an independent production that had a limited U.S. release in 2012, preceded by its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. In fact, it’s a film that I nearly missed but, fortunately, remained in my Netflix queue after I decided to give it a Saturday-night chance.
Smashed is a delightful surprise, a low-budget gem among today’s mega blockbusters. It’s an honest, true-to-life depiction of alcohol’s grip on the substance abusive. In short, Smashed features a teacher who repeatedly leads the classroom from a state of drunkenness, negatively fueled by her husband’s addiction of the same kind. Night after night of public intoxication, coupled by tavern karaoke or billiards, the two have an innocent, carefree romance — or so they think.
The young woman, Kate, frequently bikes from bar to bar, sometimes drinking alone, rarely to return to her bed most nights. One night she sleeps with the bums on the street. Another night features her late-hour alcohol craving, prompting a visit to the local convenience store, where she is denied the sale of alcohol; Kate reciprocates by peeing on the floor, stealing a bottle of wine, and biking away, only she falls and, too drunk to know the difference, falls sleeps from the spot where she lands. As the sun rises over her face and awakens her chilled body to the harsh reality of what she had done, Kate begins the slow walk home, where her husband had, just hours before, similarly passed his time with booze.
Rude awakening after rude awakening, including the cataclysmic event of vomiting in the classroom in front of her students, Kate slowly realizes the reality of her situation, health, and marriage. Her life has become a catastrophic downward spiral, leading to a horrible and unfortunate ending unless she enacts drastic changes. Eventually, she enrolls herself in group therapy, finds a sponsor, and begins her path to recovery, only her husband refuses to sober up with her, which leaves her isolated in her new life.
Despite his attempts to lure Kate back into the bitter game — a true indication of an insupportable partner — she remains strong, yet her resentment of her husband grows and ultimately boils over. She leaves him, fully aware that he brings her both sorrow and joy (albeit joy that is artificially disguised by the effects of drinking). Despite her heart telling her that she loves him, Kate knows in her mind that her husband will spell her ultimate downfall if she doesn’t escape. He will destroy her, and living a sober life, something to which she aspires, will never be possible with her positive change and his destructive lifestyle coexisting under the same roof.
As I write about Smashed on this Mother’s Day, I think about the parallels of that movie and my own life. While my mother is not an alcoholic like Kate, she had to make a tough decision for my sister and me. She knew that to give us a healthy, “normal” life meant breaking free from my father’s grasp, to distance ourselves from his intoxicating lies. While we loved him, always did and always will even after all his stunts, we could never be together, for he brought us down. He left us paralyzed, financially, spiritually, and emotionally. Where there should have been trust and respect was a void too great to mend.
Staying together in that uncompromising situation would’ve been easier. But each of us would’ve passed through life in an emotionless coma, never fully living but constantly fearing, wondering, regretting. The decision to leave, even at the risk of upsetting the family makeup, was the harder road. Though harder, it presented the promise of a new life in which potential could be realized and dreams could come true. My mother knew that, and she set us free from the linked bondage of my father’s alcoholism. We would always support and encourage my father — hell, we wanted him to beat alcoholism more than he wanted it for himself — but our days of living together were over; he had lost that privilege.
My mother, just like her mother, is a fighter, a warrior, life’s soldier. Life hasn’t always been kind to her, but with her pick-up-the-pieces attitude, she won’t be dragged down. And because of that, she has engrained in me the values of resilience and hard work. She taught me how to fight through life, for every penny and ounce of happiness, with determination and earnest fervor. She made me realize that it’s never too late to break free and give yourself the chance you deserve. Because of my mother, I live with no regrets, creating for myself the life I want, never idly sitting around and waiting for it to come to me.
My mom embodies more than motherhood; she is a walking testament to love and sacrifice, for the years during and after our family’s breakup meant hard work, even when the end seemed out of sight, when the nights grew long, when second guessing often overran assurance. My mom bore sore fingers, tired eyes, and weak legs from years of dedication to her family. But it was a small price to pay in her mind, and it instilled in me never to take anything for granted.
On this Mother’s Day, like all Mother’s Days before it, I’m indebted to my mom’s support and faithfulness. I would not be where I am without her. Over the course of this blog project and the past year of my life in which my own depression and self discovery have come to the forefront, I have reflected with a serious nature, fully realizing my mother’s true influence and appreciating it with renewed perspective.
Thank you, Mom; you’re the best.