'Understanding The Fall'

My book about growing up with alcoholism.

I decided to do something a little different this week. Share a side of myself with you that I haven't yet.

I wrote a book about 10 years ago about what it was like to grow up with an alcoholic parent. When I was a kid, there were no books around that explained to me why my mom acted so different at night after she drank. I wish there had been. It might have helped me to understand things a bit more. Hell, it might have helped me understand things, period.

The name of my book is, Understanding The Fall, and after I wrote it I donated it to recovery houses as well as performed readings of it in juvenile halls across Southern California.

I remember one time going into a hard-core lock-down room—a room filled with gang bangers, drug dealers, murderers, sex offenders. Here I was in my long braids and 501's hoping to get a room of 16- and 17-year-old hormone-raging, locked up, pissed off guys quiet enough to listen to my little story.

It started out as you can imagine—a lot of rowdy, inappropriate behavior and evil eye staring. But, regardless, I put on my glasses, opened my book and started to read.

By the last page of my book, the last word, I looked up and no longer saw a room of scary criminals... instead it was a room of boys. Silent, some with tears, others simply looking at me softly.

I asked, "How many of you come from alcoholic or drug-addicted homes?"

Every single one of them raised his hand.

I was thinking, here I have a column every Monday—why not for this week only use it for a different purpose—a way in which, possibly, I can be of service.

There are five parts to my book. Every day this week I will post another part.  Maybe you know someone you can share it with. 

Understanding The Fall—Part 1

My name is Sally

I'm almost ten

I live in a house

Just up the glen.

I have a sister

Her name is Jane

She's 4 years older

She calls me "pain."

We live with mom

We have no dad

We have 2 dogs

Mo and Lad.

I go to school

I like to dream

I wish for joy

And mint ice cream.

I have a friend

We share it all

Except one secret

I call, "The Fall."

The Fall appears

After dark

When dinner's called

And the dogs don't bark.

The Fall is mean

With ugly face

The Fall is sloppy

It has no grace.

It slurs its words

It can't see straight

It zaps my love

It makes me hate.

I cannot eat

When The Fall is out

My tummy hurts

I start to shout.

Slamming doors

Sitting still

The Fall's my mom

When she drinks her fill.

The smell is strong

It swims in ice

The color, brown

She drinks it twice.

I hold my dolls

And start to dream

I wish for joy

And mint ice cream.

Jane sleeps out

I sleep in

Eyes wide open

And quivering chin.

The Fall's still up

I hear the sound

Of opening bottles

Another round.

Outside my door

I hear her stand

Trying to balance

With drink in hand.

She turns away

Her shadow leaves

And down the stairs

She sways and weaves.

And then, KABOOM!

I hear her land

I rush to her

And take her hand.

I help The Fall

Get into bed

She's fast asleep

I fear she's dead.

I wait to hear her

Breathe and snore

My mom's alive

I close the door.

And that's the secret

I cannot tell

My mom's The Fall

I know her well.

And when daylight comes

And the sun does rise

The Fall is gone

And mom bakes pies.

She hugs me tight

She makes my lunch

I'm off to school

Like the rest of the bunch.

And I wonder why

It must be

The ugly Fall

Must live with me.

And what I've done

To make her sad

To make her drink

The stuff that's bad.

I ride the bus

In day I dream

I wish for joy

And mint ice cream...


Mo May 23, 2011 at 03:23 PM
This is so powerful! WOW! Beautifully written, so heartfelt and sad, yet hopeful!
Kelly Lester (EasyLunchboxes) May 23, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Susan, I had no idea that you had written this. It's truly touching and yes, can obviously be of such help to those who have or are currently experiencing "Sally's" story. Is this available for purchase on Amazon, or perhaps as a downloadable e-book? The e-book route would be a great way to share this content on a large scale.
Susan McMartin May 23, 2011 at 06:46 PM
thank you, mo! i hope you keep reading to the end.
Susan McMartin May 23, 2011 at 06:50 PM
kelly, thank you so much! if people are interested in getting a copy of my book they have to contact me directly. i self publish it. when i first wrote it i actually taught myself bookbinding and made each one by hand -- even covering them in fabric so each one was one of a kind. but that got expensive and overwhelming so i started making less expensive copies of it. i would love it to be published by a publishing house so i can get it out to more people, but, for now, i'm the house! if people want to find out how to get my book i suggest emailing me directly at storytails1@yahoo.com thanks again, kelly!
Linda Rubin May 23, 2011 at 07:45 PM
This makes me think of the column you wrote about seeing your idolized Dad so rarely. I'm sad that he left you girls there to fend for yourselves with a drunken mother.
Susan McMartin May 23, 2011 at 07:51 PM
linda, thank you, but honestly, my mom (as you will see ) had two sides to her. she wasn't always drunk -- which is what made it so painful and confusing. by day she was mom of the year. but by 5pm after that first drink things changed. i hope you continue to read the story (also, i wrote a birthday column about my mom's 80th so you can see some true light!). thanks for reading, linda. appreciate it!
lee May 23, 2011 at 09:58 PM
Cathy Flynn May 24, 2011 at 04:26 PM
How appropriate that only a month ago you posted the story of your mom sharing her 80th birthday with you and your daughter: http://patch.com/A-gv97. Just this week my 4-year old asked, "Mommy... where's your daddy?" My dad died of cirrhosis of the liver the day I graduated from college." He's dead," I told him. "How did he die?" Jake asked. My first instinct was to tell my son, "He drank himself to death." Instead, I just said that he was sick and died. My kids not only will never see their grandfather, my dad will never experience the joy of having grandchildren. I'm so glad Hannah and your mom have that chance. I'm looking forward to reading your book excerpts, Susan.
Susan McMartin May 24, 2011 at 05:02 PM
thank you, cathy. i hope people read the book to the end. the story is actually one of hope and healing. i'm happy to say that my mother is sober today and my daughter has never had to know that other side of her. she is an incredible grandmother and mother... and life really can have miracles. i'm so sorry about your father. alcoholism is an awful disease that robs so many of us... but none more than the alcoholic. thanks, cathy.
Edie Wenczl August 31, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Dear Susan! Watching you and your mom on Dr. Drew right now! Oh my gosh this is my story as well as my daughters! Alanon saved her from drowning from the pain I was causing her. She has devoted her life to helping other children/ families of alcoholics. She is now in her third year of her doctorate in phychology. Even now, she still is working through her feelings of abandonment and confusion just as you are saying.she too has the rage deep down. I am eternally grateful she has given me another chance. I've been sober since 2000 aa and alanon have made that possible. Love how you said you realized it was not your job to fix your mom...my daughter still aches from the pressure she felt from being the most responsible person in the family at age 13. I'd so like to purchase two copies of your book... One for me one for my daughter... You have such an authentic and powerful voice of hope. Thank you thank you for your candid observations and the courage to share. Wonderful inspiration. Thank you
Joan M. Raiford August 31, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Bless you, bless your mom. My alcoholic is my sister. My heartache has been watching her abandon her beautiful.daughter to alcohol, her relationship of choice. 5 years ago my niece's father abandoned her by gunshot, also a sadly seriously ill alcoholic. She's struggling to be strong, in her 2nd year of college, but mom was too drunk to accompany us as we took her back to school last week. Perhaps your book would help her understand that she's not alone & there is reason to hope for a sober relationship with her mother. How can I purchase a copy?
Danielle August 31, 2012 at 09:50 PM
I had the same "fall" who loved with me as a child. She is my beautiful mother... As a young child, I longed for the soft place to fall at night.. In the arms of my mother, instead every night, the evil "monster mother" came out instead. I learned accept not being taken care of, just to take care of my mother. Now I am a mother like you, a mother Of 2 beautiful girls.. Such amazing girls. I am there and present each and everyday.. Giving them a soft place to fall. I know God gave me the mother I have to make me be the mother I am today.. And for me that is a blessing because it has allowed me to forgive & not judge what I can't control. I know my mother loved me then and loves me now, unconditionally.. Just as I love her. She just never lived herself enough. And like your mother, my mom is finally sober. I am 38 yrs old and she is sober for the 1st time in my life. In my birthday 11/4.. Will mark her 3 yr sobriety anniversary.. I look forward to my birthday every year now. Thank you for your amazing book... And your strength.
Susan McMartin September 01, 2012 at 12:58 AM
edie, thank you for sharing this! you and your daughter are an inspiration! i'm so happy my story touched you. you can find my book on amazon as well as the following link. www.createspace.com/3975768 again, thank you for your comment. i am very touched.
Susan McMartin September 01, 2012 at 01:05 AM
joan, i'm so sorry to hear your story. it's heartbreaking what alcohol does to families. you can find my book on amazon as well as www.createspace.com/3975768. i hope it helps her. she is absolutely not alone and, yes, there is always ALWAYS hope.
Susan McMartin September 01, 2012 at 01:10 AM
wow, danielle, you just said something that really spoke to me -- God gave me the mother I have to make me be the mother I am today. i cherish my daughter and, like you, have been fully present for every moment of her life. i mother her the way i always wished i had been mothered. i'm so happy to hear your mother is sober today! what a gift! an incredible birthday gift, indeed. thank you so much for sharing this with me. i understand every single word you wrote.


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