Friday, August 31, 2012

Daughter of an Alcoholic Speaks Her Truth

A note from Ellie:  alcoholism and addiction is a disease that impacts everyone around the addict/alcoholic.  Especially family.  Every now and then we like to post submissions from family members/loved ones; to remind us all how this disease consumes not just the alcoholic but those around them.  


***Submitted by Anonymous

I am the daughter of an alcoholic. 

I am an adult myself – 32 years old, with three young children, ages 5, 3, and 1. 

My mother has not met my youngest two children at all. My oldest has met her but the only thing he remembers is her having a breakdown and sobbing uncontrollably. He asks about it and I am not sure what to tell him except that Grandma is sick. 

She has been an active alcoholic for most of my life, but was somewhat functional when my sister and I were children. However for the past four years she has really gone downhill and for the past year and a half she has not left her house except to buy more booze. She does not have a job and is spending all of the money she had previously saved for retirement – which I think might run out soon, but I am not sure, since she does not want to tell me the extent of it. She has many brothers and sisters, and of course, her children. We all love her dearly and have tried many different approaches – from staying with her for a week or two and helping her get “back on track” to formal interventions with a counselor. 

She has been to a few different rehab places, although nothing long-term. 

Nothing has worked. 

Now I am trying to practice detaching with love, but it is very hard for me. 

Every time I talk to her I feel like my heart is shattering into a thousand pieces. My sister has gone to her doorstep but she will not let anyone in. She occasionally calls on the phone but I am not sure what to say. 

She says that she cannot imagine any different future except drinking herself to death. 

I am not sure how to convey to her that I love her and I want her to recover, without her thinking I am trying to make her feel guilty. I cannot help thinking – what is wrong with me? If only I were better in some way, she might love me enough to choose another future. 

I made up a photo book of me and of her grandchildren and sent it to her, thinking that might incite her to choose to get some help. But then I think maybe it made it worse – because she was getting a “reward” of seeing her grandchildren even though her actions make it clear she does not want to meet them. She says that she has no interest in seeing any of us again. 

I feel so powerless – there is nothing I can do in the face of this addiction. 

I still call once a week, but now I do not tell her things about the children any more. I think that is petty behavior but I cannot help it. It is the only thing I can control. I alternate between sadness and anger. I try to be compassionate but I am not sure what to do to help her.  I get mad and defensive and act like a child – you hurt me, so now I will hurt you, by withholding information. She does not seem to care. I tell her that I know it seems bad now, but she cannot change the past, only the future, and ask if she wants a different future than drinking herself to death. But she says that she does not.

I am at a loss. 

I look at my own beautiful children and I cannot imagine ever treating them this way. I have no idea what it will take for her to wake up and have a moment of clarity about her addiction but I pray every day that it comes soon, before she dies.

Why doesn’t my own mother love me? She says that she remembers that she loved me once, but she cannot feel it any more. I wish there were something I could do to change this situation. I have only (my attempts at) loving detachment and prayers. But those are not enough thus far. I am failing at detachment and this is really affecting my life. 

There is not a second that goes by that I don’t think about her.

I feel like it is negatively affecting my own mothering. I am not present for my children like I should be. I cry. My children notice and ask me what is wrong. I feel terrible for putting this burden on them. I am not sure how to let go and this is just tearing me apart. 

The mother-child relationship is the most primal of all things. And I feel rejected by the one who is supposed to love me the most. What is wrong with me? What is wrong with her? Why me? Why us? Why anyone? 

She had a hard childhood but so did I (thanks, alcoholic mom!) and so do a lot of people. No one is perfect, but I am trying to be better every day. But she does not care to even try. She is slipping away and I have no idea how to stop it. At this point I fear that the constant drinking has taken such a toll that she will have physical problems for the rest of her life even if she does stop drinking.

I would love to hear from anyone about what I can do here, how to manage my own feelings and my own life without being crushed by sadness every second of every day. I know for my mom, there is nothing I can do to get her into recovery until she wants it herself. 


  1. I identify very much with your post. I wrote this two years ago:

    I went ten years - from when I was 21 until 31 - with no contact. I think that was the right thing for me to do. It may not have been the kind thing to do, but I had to get away from her emotional manipulation and focus on myself in order to see it all more clearly. I also had to come to see how what our family went through was not one person's fault.

    I've been in therapy since I was about 20 and I've been lucky enough to have a couple of really amazing people who have helped me tremendously. If you're not doing that I would really, really suggest that you do. It's an expense that I put with food and mortgage payments and other necessities.

    I see my mother once or twice a year. She has a menial job, having been fired for unreliability from other, better jobs. She looks much older than she is. Her speech is slurred. Most of her family has disowned her.

    But I feel badly for her, where I used to hate her. I feel sad about how life treated her - she grew up oversensitive and lost in a huge poor family - and how she chose to react to it - addiction - instead of feeling frustrated that nothing I could do would help. It is sad, but it is a calm sad, and that's not great but it's better than the way it used to be.

    I'm not fixed, she sure isn't, our family sure isn't, and nothing probably ever will be. But I can deal with it better than I hoped I could, and I'm looking forward to continuing to get better at it.

    Please do consider finding a therapist. (And maybe consider dropping contact for a period of time so you can work on the best way for you to handle things for your kids. I'm not a professional, though, so I have no idea if that would be best for you.)

    If you want to talk, I'm happy to. Be proud of your husband and kids and the family unit you've created!

  2. It is terribly sad, and I'm sorry that your mom is living her life this way and that you have to suffer through it as well. My advice would be to find and focus on positive relationships that can help you get the love and support you need. There are good people out there who want the best for you. Unfortunately, your mom can't be one of them because of her disease.

  3. Oh, this is hard. I wrote a post on this as well:

    My mom found out last week she has cancer to the liver from her drinking. They will work on removing the tumor with chemo.

    Hang in there. Like the above lady said, don't be afraid to do whatever is best for you and your family. She is making her choice, and you can't be her savior.

  4. Call dr. Laura. She'll help you alot. Also read her book Bad Childhood Good Life available at Amazon. Please start living for your children and break the cycle!

  5. Thank you for sharing your story.

  6. You are brave to share your story. It's a disease. You do have to do what's best for you so you can be the mom that YOU want to be. The mom your kids deserve. I agree with the suggestion of therapy...but you may also consider al anon as a first step too.

  7. This is absolutely heart-wrenching. I agree with Sarah up top - therapy would be really helpful here. Dropping contact may also be a good idea, but I wouldn't presume to know how to decide something like that.

    I wish you the best, with sincerest hugs and compassion being sent your way.

  8. I went through a similar situation with my mom. I understand your pain. Really I do.
    Try as best you can to detach and not feel guilty.
    Your kids need you to be present. Your mom is an adult. There is nothing you can do for her. I know that sounds cold. But don't waste your time thinking there might be the perfect thing you could do or say that would make a difference. It's not up to you. But be present for your kids. That is something you can do. Their wellbeing is in your hands.
    My mom died as a result of her alcoholism 2 years ago. It's sad that my 2 daughters only get to know her through me. I tell them quirky and sweet stories about her. I tell them a little bit of the painful stuff here and there as well.
    It was 12 years of hell trying to find a balance between the little family life I created with my husband and girls and the one I was born into. In the beginning I felt more guilt about not saving my mom. But as time went on I got a solid understanding that my girls did not need to sacrifice or be compromised in anyway by the choices my mom made. Every time I found myself preoccupied with my mom, I knew I had to detach just a little more.

    My thoughts are with you and your kids. It's a shame they don't get to have their grandma. But they get you! That's pretty great.

  9. Here is what is really the worst thing: To have a relative that is sober and that is still an asshole. The thing about this is that unless this person changes, they might as well drink because no one likes them anyway. Quitting drinking is the tip of the iceberg. I see this person and what they write and it's all lies. This person discredits honest, hardworking people, tries to get by on their hair and cars and houses, and is snobby. This person doesn't work, alienates innocent people that can't be manipulated and they associate with people that support their behavior.

    Quitting drinking is wonderful but picture this....A psychopath that is drunk, probably isn't going to drive to your house to kill you. It's when they are sober that it really is scary.

    A word to you sweetheart.....I'm on to you. I see you.