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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience:  Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
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My mother is an emotionally abusive alcoholic, her alcoholism

Resolved Question:

My mother is an emotionally abusive alcoholic, her alcoholism progressed markedly over the last decade. She has also seemed to become delusional, often sending my sister and I text messages or voicemails (we don't pick up the phone anymore) about how terrible we are and how much she hates us, but otherwise making little sense, often referencing god, though she has never really been religious before.

I refuse to go home for any holidays at this point, there have been too many drunken episodes at all hours of the night involving police or ambulances transporting her to psychiatric wards. Multiple rehab centers have kicked her out for refusing to comply with rules, trying to sneak pills into facilities, or showing up to outpatient clinics drunk. She has lost her job and begun hoarding, draining the family of all resources.

My step father has moved in with my sister temporarily, but continues to enable her. On one hand he gets frustrated with her, on the other hand when we complain about her, he insists she is mentally ill and we have no compassion. Even though he does not stay at the house, anytime she calls because she needs something or wants money he will go give her what she wants. I'm not sure if it's her years of alcohol abuse and meds that have made her more delusional or whether her sense of entitlement and increasing nastiness have stemmed from being "rewarded" my my step father for her bad behavior.

Although I do not want a relationship with her I do want her to get help, but I feel that will never happen as long as he caters to her. Is there any hope for her getting better as long as he continues this behavior? She is seeing a psychiatrist/psychologist, but because she doesn't put a real effort in, it isn't helping that much. The years that she was more involved in my life have also made it difficult for me to ever consider having a family since that kind of closeness now makes me feel squeamish. I have had counseling before, but still have this deeply ingrained in me (I'm almost 30 so marriage/family discussions are becoming more of a topic for discussion with my partner). Are there any methods I can use to get over these issues so that I can lead a more normal life, or is it likely even with counseling that it will be difficult to move on?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. L replied 1 year ago.

Dr. L :

Hello,

Dr. L :

I would like to help you with your question.

Dr. L :

I am sorry that you are having to deal with this parental "mess", for it really is messy. Let me look at the issues you brought up one by one..

Customer:

Great, thank you.

Dr. L :

I want to address your last concern first...

Dr. L :

"can I lead a more normal life"

Dr. L :

Yes you most certainly can...

Customer:

that's definitely a great place to start. I don't feel like i view having a family normally.

Dr. L :

Yes..you will have to deal with the realities of a dysfunctional family and the "icky" closeness your mother thrust on you...but absolutely you can work through these things and come to live the life you have always dreamt of ..and truly deserve.

Dr. L :

And absolutely I understand how the dysfunction has impacted your view of parenting and children and all of that...

Customer:

I worry about not being able to emotionally connect to a husband or children. Sometimes I feel that it would be easier for me just to go it alone because familial affection makes me quite uncomfortable.

Dr. L :

The botXXXXX XXXXXne is that your experience of mother and father and child was distorted by the alcohol addiction that became part and parcel of your daily living.

Dr. L :

But you are thinking..and perhaps even doing to your partner...is painting your world with the same brush as your childhood.

Dr. L :

That world view can and - in your case - must change.

Customer:

Yes, I can definitely see how I do that. I look at my partner and I think, "Well I'll have kids and be stuck with all the responsibilities and will end up alone anyway." I don't trust that anyone can be very reliable.

Dr. L :

Right...and where did you get that idea that: kids will be a burden, a spouse isn't responsible, the only reliable person in the world is me?????

Dr. L :

Okay...we both no the answer to that one...

Customer:

It seems quite daunting to change my views so much, and I worry about what would happen if I thought I was doing it, but then realize I failed, but it will be too late by the time those choices have been made and I hate feeling locked in.

Dr. L :

So here's the deal...you got handed a blue print about moms and dads and kids and the world.

Customer:

Yes I absolutely feel like I can only depend on myself.

Dr. L :

But that's a falsehood based on the blueprint that got handed to you from your parents...

Dr. L :

You are reading from that blueprint...and it's one heck of a terrible blueprint isn't it?

Dr. L :

But...if you are willing to open your mind and heart to other blueprints...you can create a new one.

Dr. L :

This is what therapy is all about...or a determination on one's part to chose health versus dysfunction.

Dr. L :

And NO...it's not so daunting a task that you can't do it or will fail.

Dr. L :

It's a choice...

Dr. L :

And...from what you have written so far...it seems to me that you are fed up with the emotional pain of your childhood and want to live a life of meaning.

Dr. L :

I can and will suggest some reading materials for you to help you clarify this...

Customer:

One of the issues I have with therapy, though it has to a degree helped me understand my fears, is that, again, I'm having to trust following someones advice. I want to change, but at the same time I'm not sure how I can get over the reluctance to rely on anyone other than myself. I like to have an escape route out of situations and if I take the "plunge", so to speak, to have a family perhaps, that escape route has been closed off.

Customer:

Great, thanks. I'm definitely open to reading materials.

Dr. L :

give me a second to catch up to you...

Dr. L :

Yes..I understand your concerns...and likely the first place you need to start in therapy is to trust the therapist...once that bond of trust can develop (and that might take several sessions) I would think that you would be able to apply that experience to other caring people in your life.

Dr. L :

And absolutely...if you decided to have children...there would be no backing out of that...So, I don't imagine that this is a decision that would come soon....

Dr. L :

But again...the basic issue - besides the trust - is that you are still living life out of the blueprint given to you by your parents...a blueprint that was terribly flawed. And now as an adult you absolutely must create your own blueprint - discarding the negative/bad parts, adjusting perhaps the good parts, but creating a blueprint that you can call your own.

Customer:

Oh no, definitely not. I just finished grad school and starting to embark on a professional career, but, my partner is discussing marriage with me and he wants children in the future. So I feel somewhat pressured to decide whether it will be something I am actually able to do at some point in my life.

Dr. L :

And is having children a make it or break it proposition for him?

Dr. L :

Can that come off the table?

Customer:

I like your analogy with the blueprint, I think it has been hard for me to consider making my own, because my own mother is still so unwell. I feel like how can I move on when I'm waiting for that chapter of my life to close. Children are kind of a make it or break it proposition with him, though he does not feel a need to rush into anything, he knows within the next 10 years he would like to start a family.

Dr. L :

Okay...so there is not an immediate urgency to make a decision about children...but it is something that must be addressed before a walk down the aisle.

Customer:

Exactly

Dr. L :

Okay...

Dr. L :

Glad you like my blueprint analogy...

Dr. L :

It is hugely important to be able to see this in a more rational, logical way...

Customer:

That has been difficult for me, because despite all the rational positive life decisions I have made, when it comes to this I feel like a little girl

Dr. L :

You need to be able to take the personal out of this and see it in a clear cut way.

Dr. L :

Yes...of course you feel like a little girl...

Dr. L :

That's the vulnerable YOU.

Customer:

Interesting, I hadn't thought of it that way

Dr. L :

At the very core of each of us...is the child that never got nurtured and supported and loved in the way they needed.

Customer:

The crazy thing is, after college I was a teacher for a few years. I loved my students, was nurturing with the little ones, and a mentor with the older. While I could see myself doing it well in that setting, for some reason I can't get it out of my head that I wouldn't be that way with my own children. I feel that if I could just make my own mother better, and stop my step father from enabling her, then perhaps. I know rationally she may never get better, but for some reason I can't accept that.

Customer:

How can I be a mother, when I feel like I'm still looking for a mother myself?

Dr. L :

Okay..let

Dr. L :

's talk about this mother issue.

Dr. L :

You raise a very important and critical question...

Dr. L :

How can I be a mother...

Dr. L :

when I have not been mothered in a healthy way.

Dr. L :

I am sorry that this is your reality...that you did not receive the mothering you deserved.

Dr. L :

But can I tell you something...

Dr. L :

There are very few people in the world who did receive the mothering they needed to survive and thrive.

Dr. L :

My office is full of them.

Dr. L :

I have been a clinical psychologist for 30 years...I meet them every day.

Customer:

haha, I have no doubt about that.

Dr. L :

So...you are not the first nor will you be the last. But that absolutely does not mean that you will perpetuate that scenario.

Dr. L :

In fact...it means something quite the opposite.

Dr. L :

You KNOW what poor mothering is! You have lived it for 27 years.

Dr. L :

You know what it feels like deep inside to the core of your being...what neglect, and sadness, and missing, and lonliness feels like.

Dr. L :

Therefore YOU and most of us who had poor mothering have done is to say IT STOPS HERE...WITH ME.

Dr. L :

I WILL parent in a healthy way. I will learn to be that loving, giving, compassionate, caring, honest, and respectful parent. I WILL DO THAT>

Dr. L :

I WILL vow to not repeat the mistakes of MY past.

Dr. L :

And then..you will arm yourself with all you need to carry out that vow.

Dr. L :

And in that process you will get the help you need to heal your own mother loss. That might be with the help of a therapist with expertise in this area, with books, with seminars and workshops...with whatever it takes for you to create a new blueprint.

Dr. L :

I am sorry that your mother could not mother you...and that today you have no real idea if she ever can.

Dr. L :

It is time for you to focus on YOU.

Customer:

Can I still manage that while she's still unwell. I know it sounds incredibly awful, but if she would just disappear or something I feel like that would be easier for me to say. Especially, with the guilt trips I get. How do I ignore those, without reverting back to the "I'm a horrible person, who can't do anything right," mentality.

Dr. L :

Certainly, her husband is co-dependent and is enabling her addiction. No question about that. But...you cannot control his behavior. You cannot control your mother's behavior. But you most certainly can control your own. This is the place for boundaries. Boundaries that say: I will NOT attend family functions while mother is drinking. I will NOT visit mother while she is using chemicals...and so forth.

Dr. L :

Having her disappear is not going to change anything...in fact, it might make some things worse.

Dr. L :

It's like a divorce...the person is out of sight but the pain of their existence still remains.

Customer:

Okay, I understand that.

Dr. L :

And then what happens is more guilt..piled on all that old guilt...

Dr. L :

What I suggest in similar solutions is setting clear and unbreakable boundaries. No being around mother while she is using chemicals. If she is not using chemicals and she becomes abusive - you leave. And so forth. You set the boundaries for what you can and cannot handle.

Customer:

Would it be counter-productive at this point to ask if she has any hope? Are the delusions part of alcoholism, would they go away? I know being nasty is not a symptom of mental illness, though I know she definitely is mentally ill. Or should I not even think about whether or not she can pull herself together?

Dr. L :

This is what you CAN control...your own actions and behaviors.

Dr. L :

There is always hope. But the issue is that SHE must want to change. SHE...and SHE alone.

Customer:

Also, what if boundaries lead to something like homelessness?

Dr. L :

While I am not an expert in chemical dependency, my experience says that the possibility is that she has co-occuring issues: depression and chemical dependency...or maybe even a personality disorder and chemical dependency. But it sounds like there are 2 distinct issues.

Dr. L :

Hmm...how would she be homeless?

Customer:

I worry that if we all set boundaries, but she continues on her path, she'll end up on the street, or harming herself. She was in a hospital last month for an OD on muscle relaxers. ICU for a week, I'm worried that boundaries will lead her to her death.

Dr. L :

Right now her husband is paying the bills right...and she is living in the marital home?

Dr. L :

And that is a real possibility that she could OD on something.

Dr. L :

Are social services involved at all?

Dr. L :

How old is she?

Customer:

Yes, but if he stops, even though I don't want to be around her right now, I know I would end up reconnecting with her so she wouldn't end up alone getting wasted on the street every night.

Dr. L :

When she has been hospitalized was she also seen by social workers?

Customer:

She is 46

Dr. L :

She is very, very young.

Customer:

Yes, and was taken to a psychiatric facility afterwards, but only stayed a few days. Although she was unstable and showing symptoms of paranoia and aggression they let her go.

Dr. L :

I know this would be hard...but you cannot "rescue" her...

Customer:

Yes, she had my sister and I very young, we were born in Eastern Europe, where it was a bit more common. The Eastern European mentality toward mental health doesn't help her either.

Dr. L :

Yikes to the psych situation...it's about overcrowded hospitals and the fact that they likely had no ability to hold her beyond so many hours.

Customer:

That has been very frustrating

Customer:

she has been hospitalized more times than I can count, but always released shortly after

Dr. L :

Here's what I suggest. Hire an attorney. Ask about commitment laws in the state where you live. Perhaps you would be able to have her committed on the grounds that she is a vulnerable adult without the ability to make decisions for herself. Her husband could be involved with this...if you feel he is amenable to helping her survive.

Dr. L :

Yes...we need much better mental health laws in our country..no doubt about that.

Customer:

I have to find a way to get him on board with that. He has even gotten the paperwork, but won't fill it out. I think max stay in Maryland is 14 days.

Dr. L :

I think you could benefit from legal advice. A commitment procedure could be a possibility.

Dr. L :

That would keep her safe.

Dr. L :

Perhaps you could plead with him that this is life and death...that her mental and physical state have continued to deteriorate to the point that she cannot survive many more of these incidents of OD>

Dr. L :

Maybe he will listen...

Customer:

Although I think upon Doctor recommendations the stay can be longer, we have yet to find someone that has really paid enough attention in a psychiatric facility. There seems to be a revolving door for doctors in the psych wards.

Dr. L :

So true.

Customer:

I will take your advice for a legal consult, perhaps I might be able to even do something without him.

Dr. L :

Does she have a psychiatrist that she sees routinely?

Dr. L :

Yes...you may.

Customer:

Yes, she was drunk last night, and nearly missed her appointment today, but my step dad went over to the house and took her.

Dr. L :

I'm glad you will take my advice on this aspect. You need to be free of your mother's history.

Customer:

This is a pretty new thing that she is seeing someone consistently, prior the only doctor she would see on a regular basis was one at those awful pain clinics.

Dr. L :

Has anybody talked to him/her?

Customer:

He knows about the OD last month, but I'm not sure if he has been in contact with the pain management physician, which is something else I feel I should get legal advice on.

Dr. L :

Confidentiality is always an issue...but perhaps you could get her to sign a release of information so that you and your sister could sit down and get some truth around her issues.

Customer:

I actually called the doctor myself and told him she was an addict and alcoholic and he continued to prescribe oxycontin

Dr. L :

Well...it seems you have some work to do...but I want to caution you that the most important person here is YOU. Please limit how much work you are willing to do to get your mother help. I would like you to consider this as your last effort to get her to a state of healthy living. You must let go of her so that you are free to have your own life.

Dr. L :

How crazy was that....you could report him to the medical board.

Customer:

She won't sign an agreement, we have tried that route, but maybe I can call and state I am not asking for information and just tell him the situation (the psychiatrist that is).

Customer:

I may do that, twice he was contacted, and yet continued with the pain scrips. This clinic also prescribed lorazipam which she also became addicted to.

Dr. L :

It is time for me to end our chat. I do hope you have found this helpful in deciding what steps to take and, more importantly, to open up your thinking so that you can begin to see the possibilities in your own life.

Customer:

I will take your advice on this being my last effort, as long as I'm too involved, I'm not going to be workingon myself.

Customer:

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX all of your advice

Dr. L :

And yes...the psychiatrist could be given a report or letter and then you would not be asking him to violate patient client privilege.

Dr. L :

I'm glad you see that you could be completely drained if you invest too much of you...

Dr. L :

I wish you peace.

Dr. L :

If you should ever want to chat in the future...just ask for me by name and your question will be directed to me.

Customer:

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX Take care.

Dr. L :

You are very, very welcome!

Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1166
Experience: Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
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