Dear Becky at 14,

Do you remember that book you wanted to write? How to Survive Being 14 Without Losing Your Mind. You can’t write it yet because you haven’t figured out how. I truly am sorry. This is the year everything changes. This is the year you grow up faster than anyone ever should, the year your snow-globe life hits the floor and shatters. This is the year you find out your mom is sick and dying. She is slowly killing herself without even realizing it. All at once, everything you tried to justify away makes agonizing sense.

I know you never saw it coming. Lots of people enjoy wine and keep a bottle in the fridge. Lots of people drink at the end of the day to relax. Lots of people who aren’t your mother, your sweet, amazing mother who you never knew had a drinking problem before you were born.  The same strong woman who kicked the habit and stayed sober and careful for 17 years. I’m going to tell you something that you won’t believe for many more years despite the efforts of your friends and family. This is not your fault! You could not have seen this coming and could not have stopped it.

Becky, I am so sorry. This is the year when you go from an innocent, carefree and confident girl to a survivor of guilt and pain. Don’t start second guessing yourself, you will find it is a clinging habit. Even after the danger has passed, the hurt will linger and resurface at random times in your life altering your perspective.

But guess what? While life will get worse for you this year it will get better, I promise. I know how you will feel and I know you won’t let it make you bitter and unreachable. Good for you! You will find out that you are stronger than you know. You will try to protect yourself by cutting yourself off from the person who hurt you the most, but you will fail. For this you will always thank God. This is the year God will become everything to you. He will be the only thing to hold on to. Your mom and dad will try their best to keep you from getting hurt but they can only do so much. I know you don’t want to burden them with how you feel, your confusion, your anger, your betrayal, but please, you need to talk to someone.

You will have to wait two years before you meet your new best friend but believe me, she is worth the wait. Her mom is chemically dependent like yours. Finally, you will have someone to talk to who understands.  By the time you meet her, you mom will have already begun her recovery. You should tell her everyday how proud you are of her and how much you love her, that she is a great mother who loves a great man.

The year you meet your best friend you will consider killing yourself to make the pain stop but you won’t. You will be too afraid that your death would send mom over the deep end, that she would drink herself to death out of grief, then your dad and brother would be all alone. Your best friend will give you sanity. She will give you strength on the hard days through her understanding. She may not understand a lot of things about you, like your faith in God, but she will understand what you are feeling. She may not realize that she is saving your life but she will.

You still won’t believe that this isn’t your fault especially after mom relapses. This will be the darkest time of your life. She will try to kill herself twice in 30 days. You will see the signs and ignore them in desperate hope that you are making it all up. You will want to scream and smash things but you won’t. You will determine to hold yourself together, to take care of your family, because you know that if you let yourself lose control you may never get it back.

You are very smart. You know exactly what the consequences of your actions will be and you choose carefully the releases that are least dangerous. You will bottle a lot of it inside until it froths over but you will eventually learn to trap these feelings on the page. Writing will be your exit. When you lock yourself in your room and curl up on the floor feeling like the world is ending you will pull out that beat up journal and scribble songs, poetry, and thoughts that you may not be able to read later because of the passion in which you wrote them but they will be yours and you can control them and remake those words.

Take a breather. Once you get past all that, the worst will be over. Your mom will restart her sobriety and keep it. Things will be tough, there will be trials ahead but somehow you will feel more secure knowing that you have survived the worst and what comes may be bad but it won’t as bad as it was. You will regain the mother, friend and confidant that you had lost. She will get better and so will you. You will tell her that you may have hated what happened in the past but that you are not sorry about it. You wouldn’t go back and change it if you could because what we have been through makes us who we are and girl you are meant for great things.

You may not see it now but you will someday provide comfort to someone, maybe multiple someone’s, because you will understand what they have been through and how it felt. You will help them survive their 14’s without losing their minds no matter when it happens for them. Someday you will feel the pang of harsh memory and regret but you will savor it because it wasn’t for nothing. Someday you will realize just how much you owe your parents and your friends and your God for bringing you through it all.

You will go to college out of state to gain your independence, not from your family but from the expectations you accepted because you grew up too fast. You will make a fresh start where no one knows you and you will meet the one man who will make you tear down all those walls you built up to protect yourself. He won’t understand a lot of what you went through but he will love you for who you are and not for who you pretend to be. Through this man God will show you facets of love you never knew before, open places in your heart you thought were welded shut. God will once again teach you to be whole. Take courage Becky at 14, it will get worse but I promise you, the best is yet to come!