MANKATO — When Tamara Gretz thinks about what kind of mother she was to her children, it brings tears to her eyes.
And they're not tears of joy.
"I'd have to decide 'Do I drink today, or do I see my children today?'" Gretz said of that time of life, more than 2,000 days and hundreds of support meetings ago. "I missed baseball games, I missed sleepovers, I missed seeing my kids be with their friends, I missed knowing their friends, I missed first dates."
And after holding back tears, she mentions the thing she missed that hurt most of all.
"I missed my daughter's graduation," she said.
Today Gretz is a healthy, happy and sober example of the power of recovery. She's also a volunteer at Southern Minnesota Recovery Connection, a Mankato-based nonprofit holding its inaugural awareness walk Saturday in Sibley Park. SMRC is calling it, "a day of celebration, hope and fellowship."
They're hoping it becomes an annual event. They're also hoping to get the word out about the resources it offers — counselors, library, support groups, referral expertise — so that when someone like Gretz comes along, they can get her the help she needs.
Gretz, born in upstate New York, said she was around drugs and alcohol a lot. She took her first drink when she was 9, a shot of blackberry brandy.
"Even as god awful as the taste was," she said, "I was mesmerized by the burn."
She wouldn't drink again for a decade. But she had other things to worry about, things that would shape the rest of her life — including what kind of mother she'd be.
Gretz came from a home where her step-father physically and mentally abused her and everyone else. She described the lives of the children in the house as a case of "survival of the fittest," with each of the three kids finding their own way to avoid their father's rage. Her way was silence. If she kept her mouth shut at home and didn't breathe a word of the goings-on to friends, she thought that was the best way to keep herself and her family safe.