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A Mother's Struggle, A Family's Recovery

September 17, 2012, 7:17 PM by Kelly Bartnick

A Mother's Struggle, A Family's Recovery

Many addictions are kept behind closed doors. But a Sioux Falls mother's bout with alcoholism affected not only her but her family life until she finally found help.

"I probably drank more than what the typical teenager drank. I drank it faster. It didn't seem like more but it was. It's the same thing in college. I drank more than what the typical person going out on a weekend drank," Mary Madson said.

Madson's tale is the story of so many, growing up in a small town, graduating from college, finding happiness and building a family.

"The little girl's dream is to grow up, get married, have Prince Charming in your life, and get married and have kids, just continue with life and work and continue with that kind of thing.  And it was great," Madson said.

She had four children in six years, a happy home and a life as a neo-natal nurse. Eventually she gave up nursing to be a mom. And for years Madson barely had a drop to drink. She was distracted by life and was by all accounts a social drinker. But everyday pressures soon took hold and her drinking crept into everyday life.

"Slowly it increased. There was more stress at home. He traveled more and the drinking increased. I thought I'll just have a drink in the evening just to relax. The drinking got more in the evenings," Madson said. "I never thought I'd be an alcoholic. People like me aren't alcoholics. I'm successful. I'm a nurse. I went to college. I know better. Yeah, I know better, but it has nothing to do with knowing better."

As her kids grew and became more involved in school activities, Madson found herself even more tempted to take the edge off. First it was with two drinks, then three. That was before her kids even came home from school.

"It was mostly hard liquor. And it became anything just to get the effect because I really didn't like the taste of any of it. So if I could drink the hard alcohol, it was just faster to get that high," Madson said.

On the outside she was a great mom with a perfect family and a wonderful life. Behind closed doors Madson was a drinker who self-medicated family pressures with alcohol.

"There were unexplained naps. I didn't get my kids picked up like I had promised to," Madson said. "They didn't know if mom had been drinking. They didn't bring friends over. When they did they would be in and out so fast that they didn't want their friends to know what was going on."

And for years things just got worse. Madson says her family was falling apart. She went into a 30-day treatment but relapsed within 24 hours of being home. Then less than six months later, Madson hit her bottom.

"I just impulsively grabbed a bottle of vodka and sat in the parking lot before an AA meeting and drank it," Madson said.

Madson passed out at that Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She ended up in the ER and eventually spent time in the county's custody drying out. Even then she didn't realize how severe her problem was. And most people still have no idea.

"I was that person. I went to church. I was sitting next to people and people didn't know," Madson said.

Six months later Madson was back in treatment. This time it was a much longer period. She spent months away from home. Her family joined her and faced their mother's alcoholism with her. They shared and shred the shame.

"My son, I missed so many of his baseball games. And somehow I explained it away that it really didn't matter, but I know that it hurt him deeply. I missed almost all of his golf events," Madson said. "I could come up with an excuse or a reason why I missed so much and I regret it.  And the fear it gave them that something was going to happen to me; it scared them to death."

Now three-and-a-half years sober, Madson works her program, relies on her faith, and tells her story just to get through. That involves volunteering by helping people find resources she wished she would have had.

"I didn't know where to go. I felt like a lost puppy out there. I wanted help but didn't know where to start to look. And that is what Face It has started to provide other people," Madson said. "I don't like being an alcoholic but who likes having breast cancer? Who likes having another disease? But it's what you do with that disease or what you do with those gifts. You can wallow in self-pity or you can move forward with that gift and help others."
Madson volunteers on a weekly basis. She says friends and neighbors still come up to her today, years after finding out about her drinking problem, and their support has been unbelievable.

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