Liquor Consequences

13 Jan

Dear LetterBalm: My mother is an alcoholic. She started drinking around 20 years ago when I was nine years old. She went to rehab, but it didn’t work. When she’s not drinking, she’s a wonderful mom, and we get along great. But when she drinks, it affects everything. She’s close to losing her job and my father (who basically won’t confront her about her drinking) doesn’t make that much money. She goes to Alcoholics Anonymous infrequently and refuses to seek treatment and counseling. I’ve just had a baby, so I have family responsibilities and can’t give my parents money and drop everything to help them like I’ve always done. I’m feeling really bad because it feels like I’m cutting them out of my life.

–Guilty Daughter

Please don’t be too hard on yourself. When someone we care about has a drinking problem, we feel angry and frustrated and guilty that we, somehow, can’t make things better. Those who aren’t close to an alcoholic don’t understand the massive shame and hurt involved and the manipulation and negative interference in their daily lives. It can be insurmountable for the person to tell the alcoholic that there will be no more help. Ms. L.B. hopes that you are in therapy and availing yourself of the resources of Al-Anon. You must learn how to be detached while still loving your mom because this is the best way to help your parents now. You must come to understand how to remove yourself from her dysfunction – and, you need to tell her this in clear terms. Pick your moment when you’re strong and she’s sober and tell her this:

Mom, you’ve been an alcoholic for 20 years, and it’s as though you started yesterday for all the good I’ve be able to do for you. Rehab hasn’t worked, you won’t go to AA regularly, you won’t take steps to figure out why you drink and how to overcome it. When you’re sober, you’re the best mom in the world. And, now you have an even bigger reason not to drink – your new granddaughter. Mom, I have a husband and a child now. I have obligations, and I can no longer help you. I can’t be responsible for you anymore. You told me you’re on warning at work – if you lose your job, it’ll be a disaster for you and Dad. You know how much I love you, but I can’t give you money and drop everything to help when you get into trouble. Your drinking is devastating for so many people. Starting now, you’re on your own, taking responsibility for your own actions. What will you do?

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