Moving back into my parents’ home after a month away in the wilderness at Outward Bound—not to mention three years of boarding school and two years of college—was difficult. My mother’s lifelong alcoholism first surfaced my senior year at prep school when she went to a treatment center to dry out. Despite her commitment to Alcoholics Anonymous, her behavior and sobriety were still on shaky ground. I only learned later that alcohol masked deeper problems.
One day I walked past her suite of rooms and completely out of the blue she started yelling and swearing at me. “You are either crazy or drunk,” I said to her. Though both were probably true, it was not a smart thing for me to say. She continued cursing, then reported me to my father when he got home. Together they banished me from the house, scoffing when I assumed I could drive away in the extra family car. They made me leave on foot.
I walked three miles to the downtown bus station and called my friend John from a pay phone. He said I could come to his cottage in northern Michigan. When I arrived late that night, his mother, who abhorred me, was furious and would not allow me to sleep in any of the bedrooms but instead gave me a moldy sleeping bag to use on the couch. Her scheme to isolate me backfired. In the middle of the night I woke up wheezing and unable to breathe. I was so frightened I had to wake John. He had suffered from asthma since childhood and was the perfect person to calm me down and help me regain my breath. His mother and my parents unwittingly cemented our friendship which four years later turned into marriage. We didn’t know it at the time, but God was creating a new family for both of us.