It is common for one’s view of authority to develop in their adolescent years. What is your view of authority, and what event most affected it?
This was certainly true in my case. My mother was an alcoholic. At least one afternoon a week, when I returned home from school I’d find her passed out on the living room sofa. The elementary school bus brought my younger brother, Ethan, home an hour after me. Before he arrived, I’d clean the house; if I could rouse my mother, I’d help her to bed.
The first time she attempted suicide, I was twelve. I found her on the bathroom floor. At first, I thought she’d passed out. The puddle of blood – maybe she’d cut herself shaving. I was young, naive. Years later, I realized it was a cry for help. I couldn’t wake her. Terrified, I shredded a hand towel, tied a tourniquet to stanch the bleeding, dialed 9-1-1.
As a teen, I always felt watched. I felt judged.
From behind, I watched the paramedics work on my mother-and I felt their eyes on me. It happened again and again, and always those questioning eyes. I resented the EMTs, their control over me. Resentment of the situation morphed into resentment of authority.
I wanted to be a better parent to my children, make a better home than my parents had given us. Unfortunately, even if we try to escape, our lives are haunted by our parents’ mistakes. Those of us who don’t follow in their footsteps often go too far in the other direction. Either way, the result is the same. We’re still fighting the emotional demons.
When I was a kid, if you’d told me I’d battle addiction one day, I’d have laughed. It started when Justine was a baby. I got pregnant a few months after I had her. My doctor had inserted an IUD at my six-week post-natal visit, so it shouldn’t have happened. My doctor pressed me to abort. If I hadn’t had children, I might have felt differently. I was devastated. After the procedure, he gave me painkillers. They got me through the days.
I kept going back, wheedling, begging for refills. In retrospect, I suppose it was a power game – see who wins, him or me. At the time, I just wanted my fix. I worked his guilt in a big way. I blamed him for the abortion. Obviously, it wasn’t his fault. Getting pregnant with an IUD intact was a fluke. That rarely happened. There was no way he could have known or predicted. But I didn’t care. The truth didn’t keep me from using it against him.
For a while, I was on top. When he finally threatened to cut me off, I freaked out. I screamed, I cried. He left me in the room and called Will. Together, they talked me into checking myself into a hospital. Will’s mom came, stayed with the kids. I was in for two weeks, while they gradually weaned me off the pills. Rested, I came back a new person.
Knock on wood, I haven’t had a problem since. But the possibility is always there, so I have to be careful. I still resist authority. Intellectually, I recognize the need for authority. Without it, people would kill one another. The strong would take advantage of the weak. Of course it’s not an intellectual response. It’s visceral, and those are harder to control.
If I’m driving and a cop pulls me over, I mouth him off. It’s ridiculous and I know it while I’m doing it – I even think about it – but my inner adolescent won’t listen to me.
Anyway, I’ve passed my authority issues to my daughter. Leah’s a good kid at heart. I’m treading lightly. If I don’t push too hard, maybe she’ll escape the demons that haunt me.
About Zoe: Zoe Tyler holds a master’s degree in social work and is employed by Cortland Child Services. She is founder and executive director of ‘Success Skills for Women on the Move,’ a motivational workshop for women seeking life changes. She lives in Cortland, Massachusetts, with her husband, Will, and teenage daughters, Justine, 12, and Leah, 16.
About In Leah’s Wake
The Tylers have a perfect life-beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine, more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years, just wants her sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly together kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life…until everything goes wrong.
As Leah’s parents fight to save their daughter from a world of drugs, sex, and wild parties, their divided approach drives their daughter out of their home and a wedge into their marriage. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Justine observes her sister’s rebellion from the shadows of their fragmented family-leaving her to question whether anyone loves her and if God even knows she exists.
Can this family survive in Leah’s wake? What happens when love just isn’t enough?
Margot Livesey, award-winning author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, calls In Leah’s Wake, “A beautifully written and absorbing novel.”