Hey joon joons,
In the Iranian community, its all about image. Who looks the happiest… the best-dressed… the most social. Its not about what you ARE, instead its about how you present yourself.
You embody this persona that you think will make people jealous.
And sadly, you want to believe in it too. You WANT people to be jealous of you or of your lavish lifestyle. That’s how my family was. We didn’t talk about my terrible grades in public, or the fact that I ditched class like it was nobody’s business. We never admitted to my parent’s marital problems until the divorce papers were signed and my dad moved out. I was always told, “zeshte… nagoo” (it looks bad, don’t say anything).
I really don’t know when it started, but for as long as I can remember, my mother loved her glass of wine at the end of the night. It started out innocently enough. But when she started having problems with my father, the one glass of wine at the end of the night turned into several from the time I got out of school until bedtime.
When my parents divorced (click here), things got a little worse. My mother’s denial spiraled out of control and the occasional glasses of wine became a frequent “problem solver.” I was in my senior year of high school when I came home and she was passed out drunk on the living room floor. I tried to take her to her bed but she couldn’t walk. Instead she kept getting sick and I had to clean up after her.
I moved into my best friend”s apartment the next morning.
I thought that my “lecturing” her and taking drastic measures like moving out would serve as her much needed reality check and she would get her shit together. But like most addicts, she transformed into an incredible liar.
When I moved out of my hometown for college, I thought I had left her capable enough to take care of my younger brother. She hadn’t been drinking for some time and I thought that somehow she had miraculously solved her issues. But I was wrong because you see, the problem with addicts is that they are in denial. They think they can handle it, but their solution is to turn to something else to take the edge off. And in my mother’s case, it was Vicodin. So while she wasn’t drinking, she was popping pills — and unlike being belligerently drunk, Vicodin allowed her to pretend like everything was normal.
There were still incidents when I would come home to visit, and she would get a little too friendly with the alcohol- but for the most part, she was “herself.” Or so it seemed.
It has now been eight years later.
And two weeks ago, my 15-year old brother called me worried because my mother was passed out on the floor- completely belligerent and heavily medicated– and he wasn’t strong enough to lift her up to take her to bed.
That was the final straw.
I lost my childhood innocence at a young age. After the 100th time I had to walk my mom to bed because she couldn’t see the wall in front of her- you just stop believing in rainbows and magic. I worked to keep her issues separate from my brother’s life because I believe that kids DESERVE to maintain their innocence for as long as they can– and my Iranian mother would just have to embody the perception that she lived up to the standards that our community set for her: perfect mother.
But I will be damned before I let her hurt my baby brother the way she continuously hurt me through her evident self-loathing. Addiction can take form in many different ways- whether its your addiction of shopping or eating to pills and crack. I may be strong enough to limit my drinking to once or twice a week, but my mother wasn’t and one of the biggest reasons for that is because she gave up.
She gave up on her happiness. She gave up on trying to find a job because the economy made it difficult and she took it out on herself.
She gave up trying to find acceptance within the Iranian community because she was blamed for the divorce. And she turned to something that would numb the pain.
Ultimately, we are all in denial. And for us (Iranians), a big reason for that is because we are terrified of the JUDGEMENT from our Iranian counterparts. For the past ten years, my mother has been in denial– she truly believes that she has her addiction under control. And me? Until now, I’ve been in denial… convincing myself that I’m not the product of a family where the mother is the horrible drunk who could potentially kill herself from overdosing. I never believed that her problem was that serious.
The first step to overcoming your problems, your denial is to ADMIT that you or someone you love has a problem. For us, its even harder because we are raised to SUPPRESS anything and everything that might cause the gossip to circulate among fellow Iranians. But it took for me to admit that my mother’s problem requires professional help before I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel… and the Iranian community I grew up resenting stepped up in a way that I would have never expected. They reached out to my mother and showed her that she was not alone.
No judgement, no questions asked.
DON’T feel bad for me. I was able to overcome my denial and I’m working my ass off to help my mother overcome hers. How many other Iranians can say they’ve achieved the same?
Promise to be funnier next time,