I Was Raised in a Home Filled with Rockstars and Alcoholics. Here are 5 Lessons I Learned Growing Up in Uncertainty
The band KISS was actively involved in my fifth-grade vice presidential campaign.
Gene Simmons sat hunched over a long table in the common area of the recording studio wearing his signature leather uniform, drawing a picture of himself with his tongue sticking out on a piece of orange construction paper that would turn into oversized pins I handed out. Paul Stanley helped me write my campaign speech, which I decided it would be best to perform as a rap.
“I’m Sarah E, vote for me,” it started.
It may sound amazing now, but I was embarrassed at the time, because what 10-year old even knows about KISS—or Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, or any of the other prolific bands my dad produced?
My dad has been instrumental in creating some of the most iconic rock albums in history, but to me, he was just my dad, and the music was just loud. The music was also the reason he was gone so much of the time.
My mother was absent a lot from my childhood, too, though hers was not a physical absence. No, she could be right next to you and her icy mood and alcohol-infused anger would make it feel as though she were miles away. I’ve never felt lonelier than sitting next to her at the breakfast table in the mornings before school. I was so afraid to say the wrong thing that I’d talk nonstop instead.
I would prattle on nervously, while she sat hungover, rustling through her Los Angeles Times newspaper, a Dunhill menthol cigarette smoking in the ashtray beside us, covering up the smell of toast.
Mornings were always lonely.
The Alice Cooper song ‘DaDa’ was inspired because as a toddler, I would sit at the bottom of the stairs calling for my dad to come down to play as he slept off the night before, snoring until late afternoon. That's my little voice hauntingly repeating, “Dada” underneath the slam of the keyboard.
Dad quit drugs when I was eight years old and decided to stop traveling as frequently. It seemed like we could finally get to a place of stability, but my mother’s drinking worsened and my older siblings (many of whom had been kicked out of the house for their own forays into drugs and alcohol) all moved back in again.
You would think I would have felt less lonely with a house so full that my sister had to sleep in the office, but they were much older than me—and what 20-year-old wants to hang out with an elementary-school aged kid?
My siblings moved out just before I started high school. They were sober and grad school-bound and with the house empty once again, my ever-the-vagabond father went back on the road while my mother’s drinking escalated to the point that she finally hit her bottom. She got sober when I was 16 years old, and just as we eked toward stability, we moved houses again and my parents inched closer to their inevitable divorce.
But where all the changes from my youth had led to more uncertainty and upheaval, these changes were different. As disruptive as it is to have your parents’ divorce, and to pack your life up into boxes for the umpteenth time, these were changes that would eventually bring everyone closer to their personal truths and happiness.
My family is currently the closest it has ever been. My mom was my best friend before she lost her life to lung cancer in 2010, and for those of us that remain (we lost a sibling, too), we are all doing the best we ever have, with beautiful families and passions of our own. Despite the uncertainty and loneliness I experienced as a little girl, I wouldn’t trade a single second of my childhood, because every one of those seconds has led me to where I am now: a senior yoga teacher, an author, a mother of two. And every single second imparted some powerful lessons and gifts that I get to share with my students and family today.
Lesson No. 1: The only constant is change. As a little girl, I craved stability, but my life was non-stop commotion. Whether it was physically moving houses—we lived in seven houses by the time I graduated college—or the psychological upheaval of living with alcoholics and drug abusers. Movement, “The ground was always moving,” as my Dad likes to say. But even if we had lived in the same house my entire childhood, or my family was bone sober, things would have still changed. Change is an inevitable part of life—something the entire world was reminded of thanks to the pandemic in 2020.
Lesson No. 2: There is power in forgiving another. My family hurt one another many times in the early years. Some of those offenses would have led other people to disown each other, but thanks to the introspective, healing work of Alcoholics Anonymous, and a commitment to therapy, my family was able to accept responsibility for their actions and make amends for their wrong doings. Those of us who were harmed or affected by the disease of alcohol or mental illness, were then given the gift and freedom of choosing forgiveness.
Lesson No. 3: Parents are growing up, too. I put my parents on a pedestal when I was a little girl. I assumed they were these all-knowing beings, which made their misbehaviors and missteps even more jarring. When they got sober and began to share their humanity with me, I realized that parents are learning right alongside their children. My circumstances and follies are different now with my sons. I’m not loaded or exploding with anger, but I still make mistakes. And rather than trying to act like I have it all figured out, I remind my sons that I am new to this whole motherhood thing, too. I’m learning life right alongside them.
Lesson No. 4: It’s never too late to start over. My family had to start over many times. With each reboot, we learned even more about ourselves and the world. My dad quit drugs when I was 8 years old. My mom got sober off alcohol when she was 54 years old. My siblings who had been kicked out of the home for drugs and alcohol ended up graduating with honors from prestigious graduate schools. My parents divorced when I was 17 years old and my dad is happily remarried to my amazing stepmom. I myself got sober off hard drugs in my early 20s, and even now at 41 years old, I am embarking on a new phase of my career, publishing my very first book.
Lesson No. 5: We are all human. In addition to working on forgiving one another, my family had to do intensive work to forgive themselves too. Whether you’re a rockstar playing to sold out stadiums or a parent to a child, you will make mistakes—and that is okay. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of being human, because mistakes are opportunities for us to learn and grow.
Sarah Ezrin is a world-renowned yoga educator, content creator, mama, and the author of The Yoga of Parenting, based in San Rafael. Sarah loves guiding people along their wellness and parenthood journeys. Her words, classes, and social media are supportive, healing sources for people to feel seen and heard.