#131 Daughter—alcoholic mom—estrangement—guiltDEAR ABBY:
A few years ago I talked to my mother about her drinking. She’s a binge drinker and her excuse is always, “It’s my day off."
I am focusing on myself and trying to figure out my life, as well with the help of Al-Anon - the only thing that has kept me positive.
I knew that once I uttered the word "alcoholic" aloud, my relationship with my mother would forever be affected. I asked her to contact me when she was ready to quit because I can no longer enable her drinking.
I miss the mom who doesn’t drink, but I can’t be around her when she does. As I grow in my recovery, I may figure out how to do that. But for now, I need to put space between us.
My family is worried something drastic will happen (as her health isn't good) and I will have regrets. But I have expressed my thoughts and accepted that Mom and I may never speak again. Is that wrong? - STILL A LOVING DAUGHTER IN WISCONSINAbby's Reply
:DEAR STILL A LOVING DAUGHTER: No, it's not wrong. Your mother’s binge drinking was affecting her health as well as her relationship with you, and while it may have been difficult and wrenching, it was the right thing to do - for both of you.
Let’s hope that your strength in doing that will give her the strength to stop her
alcohol binges. —AbbyGabby's ReplyHi Loving:
I applaud your decision to recess your mom however, it's doubtful that your communication, “I asked her to contact me when she was ready to quit” will produce the result you say you want. Your use of the word, "asked" reveals that you didn't mean it, that it wasn't a firm decision, one that cannot, no matter the circumstances, be changed.
This problem calls for lots and lots of conversations about the subject of estrangement; it must be with someone whom you respect, and one who can communicate from personal experience. However, and this is important, you must get clear about everything before you issue her an ultimatum, one that will work.*
For certain most agree that it's not only "bad" it’s abusive to drink in a way that negatively affects a loved one.
As you've probably heard via Al-Anon, all addicts have integrity issues, as such they can’t be trusted to tell the truth when it comes to promises about quitting; worse yet, they hang around enablers (you) who unconsciously set them up to fail. I suspect your mom will call and tell you she’s "ready to quit" but won't have started yet. If you ask "When . . .?" — she’ll give you the answer your mind needs to hear. It looks to me as though you’re opening yourself up to (unconsciously intending) more abuse and drama; you will create her dumping reasons and excuses in your space, none will feel good. In other words, it will be more of the same with you acting the role of her sponsor-mother.
She can't heal with you in her space. Your leadership-communication skills simply don't inspire her to opt for healthy choices; what's missing in the relationship is respect; her for you and vis-a-vis, and, you don't have her permission, nor the skills, to coach her, to change her.
I mention this because if/when you do decide to estrange yourself you must get clear, up front, if in fact you’ll mean what you say. Your mother knows you well; if you’re not telling the truth (if you can’t be trusted to mean what you say) she’ll intuitively know. She'll let some time pass after your ultimatum and then you
will unconsciously intend for her to call you (for an excellent reason). In other words, she'll think that you won’t be strong enough to follow through with your ultimatum.
To issue the ultimatum you must be prepared to decline phone calls, to not listen to phone messages, to not open letters, and, to return all gifts – for life if that’s what it takes. The mind, to be right, will destroy the body and take as many down with it as possible. She may never choose to heal so her greatest gift to you may be to unconsciously force you to leave the family to (start your own lineage) so as to make something of yourself.
Re: "My family is worried something drastic will happen (as her health isn't good) and I will have regrets." I see that you're worried also, and with good reason. One of the tricks estranged alcoholics try is to get sick or to unconsciously intend an "accident" that forces estranged family members to do what's expected; i.e. To lend them money, or even take them in, ". . . just till I get back on my feet," which most always ends up being longer than envisioned. For addiction estrangement to work the rule should be, no communications except for emergency/in-hospital about-to-die visits. Why such a strict rule? Because you don't yet have the communication-leadership skills to engage in a mutually satisfying conversation with her we can't be absolutely sure if she is the cause of the friction or if it's you. If you are equally addicted to abusing and to setting it up to be abused
then you'll find yourself screwing up new relationships, but at least you won't be able to blame her.
About "regrets." Yes, you will have them. You'll need to continually verbalize them (via journaling or a clearing process) each and every time such thoughts appear, until they disappear. This might take years. As long as you stay true to your word (your ultimatum) you'll reap the karma of a person committed to service.For example
: Let's say you successfully estrange yourself and later are happily married; after a few years your successful communications with your new partner will lead you to believe that you are healed and powerful and clear enough that you can successfully interact with your mom. Not so. Within a few minutes of the first visit you will undo all the work you've accomplished. You'll be back as-a-child finding yourself tippy-toeing on egg shells, overwhelmed with withholds
(thoughts you won't share because you know they'd trigger an argument). She'll repeat things (incompletes) she's tried and failed to communicate to you. On the way home from that first visit you'll find yourself trash-talking your mom (behind her back) to your spouse. Badmouthing another produces undesirable karma. Plus, dumping a problem you're unwilling to resolve, with finality, in a partner's space, is in fact abusive.
Read Parole—The 1st 24-hours
) to find out what contributes to recidivism (42% of parolees return to prison). In other words, unless she too attends counseling and meetings, etc., she will remain the same.
It will be as hard for you to not be in communication with her as it will be for her to process what she needs to process (her incompletes
) so as to be able to choose to drink responsibly. With aloha, Gabby
PS: Be sure to tell any prospective partners about your mom (assuming that you are going to follow through with the estrangement). It would not be a gift of love to submit them to your mother's abuses.
PPS: You might have to estrange yourself from all your relatives, if, as it sounds, they will abusively make you wrong, dump guilt in your space, etc. Remember, they are all enablers; without their behavior-reinforcing support your mother might just choose to heal. Most "bag" ladies have estranged themselves, or have been estranged from their families. *
A supportive estrangement-communication goes something like this; “Call me when you’ve not had a drink for six months in a row.” (more about estrangement