The mother-daughter bond is as wondrous as it is complex. You share more than just genetics; you both carry the torch of womanhood. And though gender roles and customs change with the times, you’ll never outgrow the fact that she made you into the person you are today. That’s why it becomes increasingly complicated when you want to make a major life change. If Mom helps you through the recovery process, how will this affect your relationship?
PUTTING GUILT ASIDE
When you decide to put an end to substance abuse, it often triggers an emotional process of epic proportions. Old regrets are dredged up, past arguments may resurface, and feelings bubble to the surface when you least expect them. While it’s healthy to explore this psychological landscape (preferably with the help of licensed therapeutic professionals), you must not let it drag down your burgeoning recovery.
Mothers are already prone to guilt. Did I make all the right decisions? Did I do enough to provide for my daughter? Was I the best Mom I possibly could have been? There’s no need to add to those doubts by insinuating that she is to blame for her child’s substance abuse issues. In fact, nobody is to blame.
Addiction is a disease, and as you educate yourself about it, take some time to educate your Mom, as well. Let her know that it’s not her fault; externalize the disease so that you don’t rehash the more dramatic moments of your past relationship. Instead of an interpersonal struggle, make this a battle of us vs. it (the “it” being the addiction).
ASK FOR HELP
Every step forward in life is a precious milestone. Your first word, your first romantic partner, graduation, leaving home – and Mom was there for all of them. You showed her how independent and strong you are, so you feel like asking for help is a step backward.
But the opposite is true.
Seeking help is the most empowering step you can take towards a better tomorrow. You are taking control, taking account, and taking your life in a new direction. Mom will be proud, and more importantly: she’ll still be there for you.
NO MORE EXCUSES
But don’t confuse asking for help with giving up. Nothing could be further from reality. Part of acknowledging that you need assistance is also acknowledging what hasn’t worked in the past. Don’t allow Mom to coddle you. Remember all the ways in which enabling exacerbated your substance abuse issues in the past? Own those memories and end that pattern now.
Mom isn’t there to cover for you. She wants to teach you the ultimate life lesson: that excuses only hurt you. Calling in sick when you were actually hung over, borrowing money to feed your addiction, lying to masque the painful truth – these activities prolonged your bad habits, but they end now.
REPLACE BAD HABITS WITH HEALTHY ONES
Part of breaking with the past is charting a new future. Instead of Wine Wednesdays, start celebrating Salsa Saturdays! Dance, hike, watch a movie, or practice yoga together. Mom was your best friend growing up, and she can be your BFF again. Let her in, let her know how you feel, and let your hair down!
BE TOUGH ON YOURSELF
Tough love is a two-way street. While your Mom will do her part to create boundaries, you need to meet her (more than) halfway. Be tougher on yourself than your Mom is. It takes all of her strength to withhold money and resources from you, but she must do so if she wants to help you get better.
You need to acknowledge Mom’s sacrifices and assure her that this toughness is paying off. Comply with her requests, show results along the way, and demonstrate that when it comes to being tough, you can take the weight off of her and put it on yourself. This will help re-establish trust and illustrate that you’re serious about recovery.
MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER
Moms are, by definition, social creatures. They created your family and worked to keep it cohesive for all these years. Mom also crafted relationships with your neighbors, teachers, coaches, and everyone else who helped to shape your life. And now she is your best advocate when it comes to seeking help and counseling for your recovery.
While it’s not healthy to gossip about your (or others’) problems, it is beneficial to voice your experiences. Allow Mom’s communication skills to create connections, allocate support, and find answers when you feel lost or confused. After all, she usually has an answer for everything.
“THANK YOU” NEVER GETS OLD
Every family is different. Some are effusive and expressive while others are more quietly reserved. But it’s a safe bet that your Mom instilled, or at least tried to instill, a set of manners in your speech patterns. Please, sorry, Mother may I, and the most important phrase of all: thank you – these are the hallmarks of politeness, and moms thrive on them.
Now is the most important time to say it. Thank her for everything she’s done and everything she’s willing to do as you test the limits of your bond. Times will get tough, but never as tough as your mother.
If you’re having trouble expressing your appreciation to Mom, we can help. Casa Capri provides a safe haven for recovering addicts and those who love them.