OC HIGH / STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : Brushes With the Bottle : Sarah Suffered Physical, Emotional Abuse Until She Escaped Alcoholic Mother

Corey T. Griffin will be a junior this fall at Troy High School in Fullerton, where this article first appeared in the student newspaper, the Oracle.

Coming home from school, most teens fret over homework, chores and what's for dinner.

Sarah, however, feared finding her mother drunk.

When Sarah's mother was intoxicated, she turned violently unpredictable.

"One afternoon when I came home from school, my mom was on her bed drinking pineapple daiquiris. I wanted to get away from her, so I asked my father if I could go over to my friend's house to study," said Sarah, a Troy High School student who asked that her real name not be used.

"My mother obviously overheard, because all of a sudden she burst into our den and screamed, 'Why are you going over to her house? What do you think you're going to do?' My only reply, as I looked at the computer screen in front of me, was that I just wanted to study.

"My mom reacted by throwing (at me) a wine glass that she had been holding. She just missed my shoulder by a few inches, and the glass shattered near my bare feet," Sarah said. "I was so scared that I was shaking. I ran upstairs, closed the door and started crying. It took me a long time to get over it, because I couldn't get rid of the fear."

Sarah is just one of an estimated 10 million children each year who daily face an alcoholic.

In alcoholic families like Sarah's, physical abuse is usually more common than in the general population. And the abuse Sarah suffered did not stop at broken wine glasses.

"I was fiddling with the remote control because I was so nervous being around my mother when she was drunk. My mother came over and yelled, 'I told you not to turn the TV on!' She hit me hard across my head several times, and I was crying because it was the first time she had hit me. I just kept repeating, 'I didn't turn the TV on. I didn't turn the TV on,' " Sarah said.

Sarah said she didn't want her friends to know about her mother and her drinking, putting more emotional strain on herself in order to preserve her friendships.

"Whenever the fear and pain became too much for me to bear, I went up to my room and cried alone. I kept my feelings bottled up because I feared it would be too much for my friends to take, and I didn't want to bring any negative emotions into the only good part of my life," Sarah said.

Sarah said keeping her mother's influence out of her friendships was difficult because her mother would never give her any privacy and insisted on staying home to keep her eye on Sarah. Her mother even listened in on her telephone conversations.

"My friend Jose, whom I've known since elementary school, and I were talking on the phone (and I was) in my room," Sarah said. "I noticed the phone connection sounded kind of funny, so I opened my door and walked into my mother's room. She was sitting on her bed with the phone next to her. I asked her if she had been listening in on my phone calls. She replied, 'I don't like that Jose person.' Then I knew she had listened in on my phone call, and I felt extremely violated."

When Sarah's father divorced her mother and gained custody of Sarah, she hoped moving away from her mother would free her from her emotional burden.

"I wanted to leave my old life behind because my experiences with my mother were horrible, and I didn't want it to ruin my life forever.

"I started with the cleanest slate possible by going to a new school in a new town. Now that I was away from my mother and her alcoholism, I could finally start my life."

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