Minty, creamy and easy-to-make, Grasshopper Pie is a holiday tradition that's been handed down from generation to generation in my family. As a child, before getting sober was a thing I worried about, my mother and I would make it every year at Thanksgiving. I vividly remember her handing me a fork and a plastic bag full of Oreos, telling me to crush. The youngest of five, I was appointed to this special pastry-assistant position, and I crushed and crushed and crushed.
I don't remember when I started making the pie with my own children, but I do know it was long before I got sober. Year after year, my kids and I would make this pie together at Thanksgiving. Molly, you whip the cream. Nora, you crush the Oreos. I would assign tasks and they would eagerly get to work, excited to lick the bowl.
At some point, I would sneak away and drink the crème de menthe I had bought earlier that day. I remember walking into the liquor store to buy it, thinking, This is for the pie, Suzanne, you will not drink this.
But when I got home I would measure out the ¼ cup of crème de menthe needed to make the pie and hide the rest, despite the sad reality of knowing I would find it and drink it. And when I did drink it, it wasn't a glamorous 1 ½ ounce serving in a coffee with whipped cream on top. It wasn't served in a fancy glass and sipped with friends and good conversation. It was guzzled from the bottle as if I were a dehydrated athlete gulping water after a long run.
I was drinking it for the effect. I wanted to be drunk. Just as I had every minute of every day of my life for however many years alcoholism had its firm grip on me. There were times when the alcohol made me energetic, giddy and happy and my kids saw me as fun mom. But there were times when the alcohol made me angry, depressed and lethargic and my kids saw me as scary mom. Either way, I was drunk mom. And as my kids got older, they started to figure out my little secret — which wasn't difficult when my teeth, lips and tongue were bright green.
When I look back on those years, I see that at any given moment I was either drunk or full of self-loathing. There was always a gaping hole in my soul that couldn't be filled. I desperately wanted to be a good mom, a mom who knew how to play and discipline and love without the alcohol, but I didn't know how to do that. I truly thought the alcohol made me a better mom. A better person. The only time I liked myself was with a few, strong drinks running through my veins. And so I chased that feeling: I kept drinking, even if it was hidden and forbidden crème de menthe. And this tradition — which was so special to me and generations of family before me — was now the epitome of my alcoholism.
Then I got sober. I didn't hit a rock bottom — or maybe I hit too many of them. It's hard to put into words exactly how I got sober, or why, even. There were arrests and horrible stories and detoxes and rehabs. But then, in 2014, one detox turned into a six-month rehab stay, which turned into one year of sobriety and then two, and three. Now I am almost nine years sober.
I had to shut my mouth and open my ears. I had to listen to others who had quality sobriety and I had to do exactly as they said. I had to shut off my own mind because my mind was sick. I had to live for today and not tomorrow. I had to ask for help. I had to trust that one day, it wouldn't be so damn hard to not drink. I had to do it for me and not my kids or my mother or my career.
When the first sober Thanksgiving rolled around, I wondered if I had to say no to Grasshopper Pie.
I couldn't be in the same room as alcohol, let alone go to the store, purchase it, keep it in my house, measure it and pour it into a bowl. The smell alone might tempt me. With almost a year of sobriety under my belt, I knew my sobriety had to come above everything else if I wanted to keep it — even a treasured tradition, and even my kids.
Ask for help. Ask for help. Ask for help.
Then I remembered what had been drilled into my head over and over during my six-month stay in rehab. Ask for help. I had to learn to ask for and receive help if I wanted to stay sober. Maybe our tradition didn't have to die. Maybe it could be ... altered.
I did one of the more difficult things I've ever had to do in my life. I called my mom and asked for her help. I asked if she could buy the crème de menthe for our Grasshopper Pie and make the pie with us. I desperately wanted to stay sober and I couldn't risk being alone with alcohol.
"I just want to be sure that I am not tempted to drink the crème de menthe. Just this year," I said, "until I feel stronger in my sobriety." Of course, my mother agreed. She came over with just enough crème de menthe for the pie and we baked it together. There was no hiding of the alcohol, no green teeth and no drunk mom.
My mom has been showing up with crème de menthe ever since. Somewhere along the way, that day — the one in which it wouldn't be so damn hard to not drink — arrived. Over time, our tradition has transformed in many ways. It has become better than I could have ever expected. This year Molly will not be with us because she is an international post-graduate student. Nora will whip the cream in her stead and my youngest will be the special assistant who crushes the Oreos. My mom will help in more ways than one: She will bring the crème de menthe. And I will be good, fun mom — the one who knows how to love without alcohol.
Want to create your own holiday tradition baking a Grasshopper Pie? Here's my family's cherished recipe.
Courtesy of Suzanne Hayes
1 Oreo pie crust
1 jar (7 ounces) Marshmallow Fluff
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup crème de menthe
crushed (by hand) Oreo cookies
Mix crème de menthe (a little at a time) with Marshmallow Fluff with a wooden spoon.
In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form.
Fold (with a large, wooden spoon) whipped cream into the mixture of Fluff and crème de menthe.
Pour into Oreo pie crust.
Sprinkle crushed Oreo cookies on top.
Freeze overnight (at least 6 hours) until firm.
Allow to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
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