"Help, I don’t know what to do about Mother’s Day. My mum and I had planned to have a special lunch (we’re each other’s support bubble) but I can’t face it. I love her, don’t get me wrong, but she is a big drinker and often uses me as the butt of her jokes when she’s drunk, then still expects me to look after her when she is falling all over the place. In the past, I would get drunk with her because it was somewhat easier to bear, but I gave up alcohol in January and with it, I lost my ability to drink my problems away. I feel amazing and have decided to stay off the booze and work on the things that are causing me pain. The biggest thing that keeps coming up for me is my relationship with my mum. I feel really hurt by the way she has treated me. I know she’s the reason that I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, so do I really have to pretend it’s all okay this weekend?"
Wow, this resonates with me so much. Darling, I feel you. When I was younger, I never really wanted to drink because I didn’t like the way alcohol changed my parents, particularly my mum. She used to mock me when intoxicated and make snide remarks particularly around my weight, which unsurprisingly lead to me having some serious body confidence issues, even to this day. One of the reasons I started drinking in my late teens was a ‘can’t beat them, join them’ attitude. And so began my unhealthy relationships with alcohol and then drugs. To be clear, I am not blaming my past addictions on my mother, but I do blame them on my lack of knowing how to handle situations that upset me.
I don’t know what your own relationship with alcohol was, but as someone who has been there and done that, it’s rare to find ‘sober curious’ people who aren’t teetering on the edge of addiction or are starting down that path already.
I want to say a massive congratulations for taking the first step towards a more balanced life. You should be proud of this.
I also understand, as a sober person myself, just how tempting it is to avoid situations and people that might trigger us, but trust me, it is not a good idea to hide entirely. Granted, you may need to remove yourself from certain situations or friendship circles, but when it comes to your family, if you want to keep those bonds, you need to open up the lines of communication.
One thing to bear in mind is that we can only ever change ourselves. We have no power over others, only over our own choices, actions and words. So, as incredible as it is that you are trying to heal and change yourself for the better, you cannot rely on others to change as well. This can be hugely frustrating and a trigger in itself. But consider this; the reasons why your mother mocked you might not be as malicious as you suspect. For example, my mum always thought I could take the ‘joke’ because I tried not to show that it hurt me. When I dug a little deeper, she told me that she thought that she was giving me a friendly, humourous nudge in the ‘healthy eating direction’, not bullying me. Our mothers’ goal in life is to love, support and protect us and when we let them know their actions make us feel anything but, it often comes as a shock. In her mind, her actions may not hold the same malice as they do in your mind and if she’s drinking, she may have lost her filter.
Sobriety brings clarity of mind – now you know you have options, let’s explore them
Baby Steps – suck it up
Nothing quite beats an honest conversation between a mother and daughter. Be sure to have it at the right time, though. So, for Mother’s Day, suck it up one last time. Have the lunch, stay strong, make mental notes about how her behaviour makes you feel and observe if there are any factors that make her behaviour better or worse (she runs out of wine, for instance). Then, directly after the weekend call her and tell her you want to chat. Use the evidence that you collect on Sunday to form your ‘argument’ (legally speaking) and then present it to her, in a calm and rational way. If she sees how you feel, great, if not, take it up a step….
Head-On – moving forward
Carve out a plan to meet in person and go prepared. Create a list of things you want to talk about and what you want to say, remembering only to ever speak from your own perspective, how things appear to you and how they make you feel. Her perception of events might be different, so be open to that.
Use phrases such as 'I feel like *this* when you do *that*' instead of 'you make me feel *this*'. This is not about blame, this is about clearing the emotional pain around some unhealthy habitual behaviours and paving a way for you both to move forward. When you speak about how you feel, no one can dispute that, because it’s how you feel. Give your mum the opportunity to speak about how she feels too. Make sure to do this when you both have plenty of time because often this kind of conversations can lead to the opening up of years of repressed feelings. Don’t forget the Kleenex.
Full Nuclear – Tapping Out
Having finally stepped-up and embraced the fact that you feel you need to make some changes, it’s time to own that. Set your boundaries loud and proud, 'I will not enter situations where I feel ‘less than’'. And because this is a personal journey, the choice you have made is what’s best for you, no one else! Cut out time spent with anyone you feel might bring you down, fly your flag high and move on with your life. It might be painful cutting ties with your family, but wasn’t being mocked mercilessly by your mum painful too? This is your chance to be free of that. However, be warned, you will end up being free of your mum, a fair amount of family members and even some close friends as well and is that really the ideal scenario? Or something you’re prepared for?
Whatever you choose, I wish you the very best. I can say wholeheartedly, that my relationship with my mum has never been better now that I can talk to her about how I really feel, by speaking my truth and opening up the conversation so she feels comfortable to speak her truth too. She has even cut down on her drinking since I quit and there is nothing nicer than feeling like I have my mummy back.
Got some shame you want to change? Message Hattie at firstname.lastname@example.org . Hattie is a confidence and emotional intelligence coach, Master NLP Practitioner and True-Self Advocate. She is so grateful for your emails and reads all of them but cannot reply individually. Names will be withheld if requested and letters may be edited for the wider audience. For a private chat or in-depth consultation find her at www.hattiesloggett.com
Names have been changed.