Confused and need advice

This is a long story so will try to keep it condensed as much as possible.

My mother is an addict (mostly narcotics). This has been an on again/off again thing for years. I am one of 3, now adult children who has been basically picking up the pieces of her life for the past 20+ years. It has been *hard*.....really *hard* on us.

We have never turned our backs on her, ever. We have supported her financially and emotionally through it all. She has treated us pretty poorly but we have always put her behavior into perspective.

She has never really made any solid ammends to us. We sort of feel cheated in a way but guilty at the same time for expecting her to give us what she clearly cant.

Last year she slipped into a very dark place with the use of a very strong narcotic. It was a pretty hard year for her. We actually thought we were going to lose her.

She came out of it and told us that she was clean and feeling great etc. We were relieved and as always, just accepted that and moved on like nothing ever happened.

My younger brother was planning a trip home to visit her, excited that she was on the road to recovery. He has 2 small children and isnt an easy trip traveling 15 + air miles but he thought it would be worth it for her to see her grandchildren and sort of celebrate her sobriety.

Over the past few weeks we have seen some red flags that she could be using again...sending emails and forgetting, talking about things that happened almost 2 years ago and thinking it was 3 weeks ago etc.

My brother had no choice but to call her and ask her about this as he was very concerned about going back with his kids and her not being sober. Was this OK for him to do that? He just asked her for a guarantee that she would be sober and she completely went off the deep end. Was it OK for him to do this? She would not give him a guarantee and he got angry. He felt that he deserved that much etc. Then he gets a blasting in an email.

We are both feeling pretty confused. She is sending emails saying that we are abusing her and we are way off base to question her about anything etc. Are we? I dont get it...I dont get this at all. She said that she wants nothing more to do with us if we cannot accept her unconditionally. We have...but does that mean that we have to be silent?

I am probably the most confused person on the face of the earth right now. I have no idea how to treat her. I am very affected by her disease. I feel like it is making me physically ill.

I hate this!!!!!

If she was really sober would this question be a big deal?

Thanks for writing in,
First of all, I'm very sorry for everything you are having to deal with. Trying to figure out how to help someone with an addiction can be incredibly difficult. I can certainly understand why you feel cheated and why you expect more from her, but just keep in mind that right now there's really no reason for her to give you more. If you and your brother continue to support her in every way possible, I don't see a reason for her to change or stay sober.

I used drugs and drank until the people in my life decided they weren't going to put up with it anymore. I didn't have much of a choice except to go to treatment. Sure, I could have refused to go and ended up on the streets with no money and etc, but that didn't really seem like an option for me. I am in no way telling you how to deal with your mom, but I think it's important for everyone in the family to look at their role in the situation.

That being
said - I absolutely do not think you are in the wrong for asking her about her sobriety. You can love your mother unconditionally, but that doesn't mean you have to walk on egg shells around her. You can love her and decide that you cannot continue to support her in every way she wants if she isn't remaining abstinent. Is it possible for her to give you and your brother a guarantee that she will be sober? Probably not. It's not always that simple. I can tell you that I hope to be clean and sober for the rest of my life, but the truth is, all I can guarantee is that I am not going to use right now.

When I was very early in my recovery, my husband and my parents often asked me if I was using. If I was tired or had a head ache, or if I was in a bad mood - sometimes they would think it was because I was using again. I had to realize that I had put them all through years of agony, so it wasn't that unreasonable for them to be worried and ask about my sobriety.

Was it a little bit annoying? Yes. I was clean and I wanted everyone to trust me within weeks and I just wanted my life to go on like nothing had ever happened - like I had never hurt them or lied to them and etc. But I absolutely understood where they were coming from and was willing to do anything to prove to them that I was clean.

For me, it just meant continuing to stay clean and doing the right thing, because that's really all I can do. Eventually, they started to trust me again. I also offered to do an at-home drug screen (you can get them in a pharmacy over the counter) pretty much any time my husband was concerned about my using. If I could do something to make him believe me and start to trust me again, I did it. That doesn't mean that I was always thrilled to be doing it - but I did it.

Everyone reacts differently though. Maybe she is clean and she is just offended that she is not trusted. But it takes time, and people need to earn trust, especially when it's been shattered so many times.

I think you and your brother have every right to be concerned and to voice your opinions. She also has the right, though, to feel how she is feeling. I don't think lashing out at you and your brother is the best way for her to handle it obviously, but if that's how she chooses to handle the situation, there isn't much you can do. All you can control is how you act and react, and you can decide how much you invest into the relationship with your mom.

So - of course I cannot tell you if she is sober or not. I can't say that she only reacted this way because she was using again. All I can really share with you are my experiences, and I know that would have done anything (and did do everything I could) to gain trust back. There were times when I was angry and I lashed out too - but I usually felt that in these moments, I was in the wrong.

Realistically, you will never know for sure if your mom is sober or not. You can't be with her every minute and you can't drug test her every day. At some point, you will have to take her word for it. That doesn't mean you have to take her word for it now, though. If you're concerned, you certainly have the right to address it with her and to try to get her help. Again, though, she has the right to make her own decisions as well, even if that means going against what you and your brother want for her.

I hope I could help. Feel free to write back in with any questions or comments! Good luck with everything.


Comments for Confused and need advice

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Feb 15, 2015
by: Anonymous

Get online addiction counseling and talk to a real interventionist.

Aug 21, 2012
by: sara

I have been sober/clean for a year and a half which really is no time at all when really all we ever have is today. My family still questions many of my actions and or thoughts along with decisions. I can't get upset at them in any way because I know I need that. Sounds strange right?

In so many ways I am childish and immature due to the amount of reality I have missed out on. Why wouldn't my loved ones question my actions when they have been compromised so much in the past?

In the end it almost always helps me to come to the right decision or at least think about what I'm doing. I do know my brain doesn't work the way it should at times. So question on my friend help comes in many different ways.

Jun 30, 2012
To Vic
by: Rae


Sorry for the delay -
I think Al-Anon online might be better than nothing. I don't particularly like online meetings, but if I'm struggling and that's all that I have, it can be useful.

As an alcoholic, you know how crazy it makes us. When we are actively using or drinking, nothing we say is rational. Everything we do or say basically is so we can justify our use to ourselves and make other people seem like the bad guys. (Obviously everyone has a slightly different story, but this is pretty common as I'm sure you know.)

Being an alcoholic or addict doesn't necessarily make it any easier to deal with other alcoholics and addicts, especially when they are part of your family. I'm really glad that what I said could help you and your brother. It's really easy to get caught up in the addict/alcoholic's life and forget what is right and forget to take care of yourself.

I really hope you are doing better and even if the situation isn't any different, I hope you have found a way to have some peace in your life. I wish you and your brother and your mom the best. Keep me updated! I am happy to read more or answer anything else!


Jun 18, 2012
by: Anonymous

Thanks again Rae

I think the bottom line is..I have to work on me. really have a lot of work to do on myself..I thought I was doing great but obviously not. It would be so nice to live at peace without being so affected by her addiction. I will work on it!

I have joined Al Anon online as I live in a foreign country and they do not have such groups here. Well, they do in the bigger cities...but not where I am. I also have literature which I must dig out again and look at.

By the way, I read your story. Honestly, I could have been reading about myself.

I am also an alcoholic (sober 11 years this summer). My drinking career started at the age of 12. Actually, the first time I got drunk I was 6 years old but really took off when I was 12.

I never got into drugs (thank God) but was pretty much possessed by alcohol. It completely ruled my life at one time.

You would think that being an addict, I would be a little more seasoned at dealing with mom and her addiction. I know addiction is addiction...but I find that drug addiction is different. My father is an alcoholic and has been his whole life. I cant ever remember him being so toxic, like mom is being.

By the way, your first response was such a blessing. It helped my brother so much. I copied it and sent it to him as well. He really needed the thank you!

Keep doing what you are doing Rae! It really is wonderful and I hope you have a long, happy sober life!! It really is wonderful.

Peace and Love

Jun 18, 2012
To Vic
by: Rae

You're welcome - I am happy to help!
The problem with addiction (one of the problems) is it never just affects the person who is addicted. It's a family disease, and most often, everyone seems to get sucked in in one way or another.

It's important that you realize that yes, you do need to worry about yourself as well! You deserve to be happy an to have some peace in your life. Being happy and detaching from your mother a little bit does not make you a bad person or a bad daughter. Sometimes that's what we have to do until someone is willing to get help - if they are ever willing to get help.

I really wish I had more of an answer for you, but your mom is going to act how she wants to act and there's not much that anyone can do about it except for her. She may think that you should just move on and forget about everything that has happened, but that's not really fair to you. She doesn't necessarily owe you anything - an apology or her sobriety - but you certainly don't have to take part in her insanity anymore if you choose not to. Don't get me wrong - it would be great if she would apologize and work on your relationship and stay sober, but that doesn't always happen.

Whatever you decide to do, just try to have some peace in your life. I'm certainly not telling you to cut off all communications with your mom - I don't know enough about the situation to say that, and I know that she is your mom so it's not always that easy. Sometimes detaching and cutting off all communication is best, sometimes it's not. I just hope you can live your life and stay away from the insanity a little bit.

Just as a side note, Al-Anon can be really helpful for people in situations like yours. Al-Anon is for family/friends of addicts, so everyone there would be able to able to empathize with you and relate to your story in one way or another. Some people find Al-Anon incredibly helpful, so maybe it's worth trying. If you listen to people in these meetings, it might help you figure out what is best for you and this situation. It's also just nice to have people who really understand what you are going through.

Good luck with everything! You are always welcome to write back in with anything.


Jun 17, 2012
Thank you Rae
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for responding Rae. It means a lot to get a little bit of validation.

I feel as if I am being drawn into the insanity because that is the way I feel most of the time--insane! One minute I am angry, the next sad, the next confused, guilty etc.

I cant even describe the feelings she stirred up in me today. She has done this in the past but today was so hard, I could actually see the features on my face change. I immediately noticed my eyes swelling and could see the stress lines on my forehead. I realized that if I do not do something for myself, her addiction will have severe consequences on me. I have been stuck in her web of insanity for soooooooo long. I just dont think I can take it anymore.

I could sit here and just vent the day away!! I will spare you of that :)

I am just relieved that you validated our feelings. I knew that we didnt do anything wrong. It is hard when your mother is constantly telling you how horrible you are for expressing any sort of real feeling. No matter how old you are...your mother is your mother and the kid in you comes out. If she were any other person, I am sure I would have told her to take a hike long ago.

Now, my brother is thinking about cancelling his trip home. How sad. This whole thing is just sad and the thing with Mom is...she will take this to the grave with her never admitting she did anything wrong.

This is her way of thinking.....

"Yes...I abused drugs. Yes, I hurt you and Yes, I did this and yes I did that but I am not going to feel guilty about it. It is a mistake and I have forgiven myself. I am moving on and so should you."

This has been the song and dance for years.

You are right. We never should have enabled her!!!!

I am going off on a rant again.

Thanks Rae! You are so nice to take the time for me.


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