Betty Ann Hoehn, who lives in Del Mar, California, is mom to a daughter, Brooke, and a son, Rhodes, and has two grandsons, Garrison and Leeland. An art historian and independent lecturer, Betty Ann is also an accomplished classical pianist and tennis player. She is author of “Corinne and Me: An Unlikely Friendship,” a recently published memoir about a friendship that crossed racial lines against all odds. The book addresses segregation among mankind as a whole, as well as the impact of addiction on families – particularly alcoholism, a disease she herself succumbed to and triumphed over. For more about her, go to www.bettyannboehn.com.
Dear Brooke and Rhodes,
Fifteen years ago this month, at the age of 43, I walked out of the Betty Ford Center, head held high, hopeful about entering “life” a new person, a new mom. Not a single day has passed since that life-altering experience that I have taken my sobriety for granted, that I have not thanked God for you, that I have not thanked Him for another day.
The years leading up to my demise are indelibly marked in my brain, my soul. Nana had passed away in 1990. Your dad and I separated a few months following. You were nine and six years old at the time, two innocent children now products of a broken family. Though I was seemingly carrying on, raising you in as healthy and loving a way as I knew, inside I was drifting, sinking lower and lower into despair, bereft over my mom’s death, shameful over now being “a divorced woman,” and worst of all, feeling a sense of failure as your mom.
As the days and months passed, after you had done your homework and gone to bed, I would reach for a glass of wine to unwind. Over time that one glass became two, three, and ultimately a bottle, or even two. I did whatever it took to deaden my senses, to put myself into a coma-like sleep.
As the years passed, though I tried to hide the glasses, the bottles, you became increasingly aware of my drinking, so much so that out of love, not disgust, you went to my brothers to tell them your mom needed help.
That afternoon as I entered your Uncle Billy’s house thinking I was coming to a barbeque, the silence in the walls spoke loudly. Billy put his arm around me and brought me into the family room where before me you sat, tears streaming down your faces. Surrounding you were the rest of the family and a pastor, himself a recovering alcoholic. You read a letter to me as to how my alcohol problem had impacted you. I listened intently, heart aching, knowing full well the truth you were speaking.
That very afternoon I walked through the doors of the Betty Ford Center with trepidation, wondering what lay before me for the next thirty days, looking at the desperate faces of other men and women, moms and dads, children, wondering what their story was, wondering how they had reached rock-bottom as I had. Though I was in a daze, the one single thing I was sure of was I KNEW I never wanted to have another drink again, that I would do whatever it took to make that happen.
And so my journey began…buried somewhere in my mind was a glimmer of what could be, of hope for a future…through adversity would come joy…I knew this much…
Through the years I have shared with you how addiction has wreaked havoc on our family from one generation to the next, causing heartache, broken relationships, and often times premature death. Addiction is an insidious disease. It knows no boundaries. I pray that this disease in our family has seen its end.
Today you are adults living solid, healthy lives. Brooke, you are a wonderfully loving wife and mom. Rhodes, you are a man with a kind, carefree spirit that I so admire. I am so very proud of you both. Without the love you showed me in my darkest hour, I might not be here to write you this letter. I am so blessed to be your mom.
I love you so dearly,