What is your view of authority, and what event most affected it?
By Zoe Tyler
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, naïve. 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.
Who is Zoe Tyler? She is Leah’s mother in Terri Giuliano Long’s novel, In Leah’s Wake. 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 the author
Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the novel In Leah’s Wake. Her life outside of books is devoted to her family. In her free time, she enjoys walking, traveling, and listening to music. True to her Italian-American heritage, she’s an enthusiastic cook. In an alternate reality, she might be an international food writer. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel.