My Mom and Guilt

Old 12-08-2006, 07:20 AM
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My Mom and Guilt

Okay, here's the whole scoop. And I have wanted to vent for awhile but since my mom has moved farther away, the need has escalated. My mom had me when she was 16. Nothing was ever great as we lived with my grandma and grandpa, who were also both alcoholics. I don't know who my real father is. My mom married my step-dad when she was about 22-23. They divorced about 5 years later, after finding out he cheated on her. My little brother was born from their marriage. She didn't drink when they were married and when they divorced, the drinking picked up.

My mom had a great job, she made alot of money, however, she was lonely and drinking. She met this total loser who was also an alcoholic. This just contributed to her dirnking more heavily. Switching to vodka and calling them cocktails. As you know, as the drinking continued, everything went downhill. Eventually, she quit her job and began accepting her retirement money from her company which isn't very much. She has been hospitalized because her liver is very unhealthy 2-3 times. She has quit for months at a time just to start back up. She is only 54 years old. She never goes anywhere and recently moved about an hour and 1/2 away to live closer to her husband's family. I haven't seen her in more than a year now. I recently bought a new house and she hasn't even seen it. My brother had twins, she hasn't even seen them yet and they are almost a year old. Her dad passed away in September and she didn't even come down for the funeral.

We talk on the phone. Nothing ever comes up, everything is just fine on the surface. I am doing wonderful considering all the circumstances. I have a great job, married and a lovely 19 year old daughter who is attending college and doing great. I broke away. My problem is guilt. Guilt for not going and seeing her. I want to but I really dislike her husband and I am afraid of seeing how unhealthy she may look. She always asks me to come and see her but why can't she come and see me? I mean, I know why, but it isn't right. It makes me feel guilty. And what if she was to pass away and I haven't seen her in that long. I would feel terrible. It just really makes me angry that she hasn't been to my house or even travel to visit me in over, I can't even remember. The only times we saw her when she lived in town, was when we went to her house. This is getting too long and I just wanted to know how others deal with this kind of thing. Thank you.
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Old 12-08-2006, 12:08 PM
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Hi Lolobug,

Thanks for posting. Guilt sucks ( the energy and brain wattage out of ya).
There is a sticky on Guilt, which is really good, what I've read of it.

One thing I do that helps me with guilt is simply acknowledging to myself that she (my mother) is a grown-up, and although she had a bad upbringing too, there comes a time when people are obligated to take responsibility for their life and choices. I've taken responsibility for mine. I can't make her take responsibility for hers.

You ask "why can't she come and see me?" Do you really want her in your home? Will she cause chaos (and thus more guilt)? Will she overstay her welcome (so that you can "reject" her and she can thus justify her resentment towards you)?
Would you rather go and visit her, being sure to make plans a few hours into your visit, so that you have an honest, viable reason for taking leave before you start feeling like that trapped little girl again?
Is meeting up in a "neutral" place an option? Halfway, so that you both have to get going before too long?
I make certain to spend as little time, on the phone, email and in person in my mother's presence as possible. I remind myself that the only reason I let my children participate in family get-togethers is for the sake of them getting to see their cousins.

I still haven't found the courage to tell her how angry it makes me to see her and Dad playing out there drama in front of my children...maybe someday....

God (or, HP) Bless,
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Old 12-08-2006, 12:12 PM
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There are many other more knowledgeable here than me, but I know that one thing we ALCOA's always seem to struggle with is guilt. I cut off ties to my family 5 months ago and have struggled with it.

When I look back, I was always a guilty child. I felt guilt because I required food, shelter, clothing, love. Anytime I needed to ask for something I felt guilt for even being alive. That treatment had continued into my thirties and I FINALLY decided enough is enough. I can't bear the guilt for everything, because there is no way that everything can be my fault. I was not a perfect daughter, but I was also not a terrible one. I have tried to love my parents despite their constant emotional abuse, with nothing in return and just can't do it anymore.

If you have made all the effort to have a relationship with your mother and she has made none, then you absolutely do not deserve to bear all the guilt for it not working out.

I worry about some of the same things you mentioned. That my mother will pass away one day and she and I will not have talked in years. That is a frightening prospect, but it is more frightening to think of trying to make up with her only for her to start another round of emotional abuse and once again make me feel bad about myself. Even at this age, a few coarse words from my mother bring me to tears. I am just starting to feel free and somewhat sane again. I don't want that anymore.

You are obviously a healthy, happy and loving mother and should be very proud that you haven't repeated the same patterns as your mother. Maybe if you have a HP, you should turn your guilt over to it and hopefully can find some ways to feel better about the situation.

Sorry, I feel like my post is long too and probably didn't help much!

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Old 12-08-2006, 08:02 PM
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Hello there Lolobug, that's a rough subject for us "kids".

What helps me with my guilt is to compare _my_ version of guilt with the version that is described in a dictionary.

What guilt is _supposed_ to be is a feeling of failure as a result of not having taken appropriate action to prevent a bad outcome. Once I have that defintion I work it backwards to see how it applies to me.

"A bad outcome" means that something didn't work out the way it's supposed to have worked out. What tangles _me_ up is that I give my alcoholics permission to be the ones who determine what is _supposed_ to happen. What I have learned in recovery is that it's my HP that gets to determine what is supposed to happen, not my alcoholics. My shortcoming is that I make my alcoholics the HP in my life, and I allow them to determine what is a "bad" outcome instead of a good one. When I refuse to let my alcoholics be my HP, and develop a healthy understanding of my HP, then the outcomes in life are very different.

"Appropriate action" means that the right people took the right actions. As a child in my "toxic family" I was the only adult around. The grown up were certainly not adults. If I had not taken action as a child all kinds of terrible things would have happened to my family. A lot of terrible things happened anyway, but at least I prevented some. What I learned as a child was that _I_ was the "right person" to take _all_ actions. I never learned that sometimes _I_ am not the right person to take action. What I am learning in recovery is to have the wisdom to know when I am the right person, and when I am not.

"Failure" means that the right person did _not_ take the action to prevent the bad outcome. As a child none of the grown ups ever accepted responsibility for their failures. It was always the fault of us kids. My parents would have been much happier if they hadn't stayed together thru an awful marriage, but they sacrificed themselves for the sake of the kids. Thru recovery I have learned that those kinds of "blame games" are just baloney. They did _not_ stay together for the sake of the kids, that was just the excuse. I was not to blame for their unhapiness, it was _their_ failure and they just blamed it on me. I was not the _right_ person to take action to save their marriage, _they_ were.

As an adult I still have those childhood reflexes. When something goes "wrong" in somebody's life I automatically feel that it's _my_ failure. What recovery has taught me is that the only life I am responsible for is _mine_. The only "right" outcomes are the ones the HP has decided, and the only failure I can make is the failure to work my own recovery.

p.s. here's the link to the sticky on guilt
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Old 12-09-2006, 06:43 AM
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Wonderful post (as usual) Mike.

As to guilt, ACoAs have it in spades. If guilt-carrying were an Olympic event it would always be won by ACoAs.

I felt guilt because I required food, shelter, clothing, love.
I am 40 years old. My husband and I have an investment portfolio which we occassionaly need to withdraw money from to pay off big expenses (new roof, ow.) I feel guilty asking our investment manager to cut us a check for our own money. Yup, ACoAs are great with guilt.

I deal with the guilt by acknowledging that it is what I'm feeling, but that the feeling is misplaced. I go through something like what Mike outlined, only I start with me and work outwards.

The guilt often comes from a feeling of "should". I 'should' go see my mother. Take that word out of your vocabulary, replace it with "want", "wish" or "would be in my best interest".

Do you want to see your mother? Doesn't sound like it from where I sit.
Do you wish you could see her? hrm, maybe you wish you could see her without all the baggage - I wish I had thin thighs and a pony - I bet the pony has better odds of happening.
Is it in your best interest to see your mother? Doesn't sound like it, except as a way of removing guilt.

Sometimes I talk to my guilt. Seriously. I tell it that I know it's there, I tell it that it's just confused and this isn't really a scenario appropriate to it, I tell it that I don't need it as much anymore.

Guilt is a great way to create the illusion that you are in control. After all, if you are responsible, that means you can change things. If you feel guilty, there is an implicit assumption that you had some control over the situation to begin with.

While you have control over whether you go see your mom or not, you now also are an adult. You get to decide what's best for you. And you get to have nice conversations with your guilt about whether or not you're willing to let it control your life or whether you're going to control your life and it can come along for the ride if it wants or not.

Maybe the talking to your guilt will work for you. Everyone takes their own path to recovery.
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Old 12-11-2006, 11:39 AM
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Wow. Every single one of your posts helped me immensly. I am going to re-read them all as well as going to read the "guilt" sticky. Getting rid of the guilt of it "should" be me that goes and sees my mom has got to go away. It really gets the best of me. Something I am goinig to work on. I also feel so sorry for her that sometimes that gets to me too. Like, if she just would have done this or that.......I look at some of the pretty decorated houses that families go and visit and wonder how warm and wonderful it would be to have a mom to go visit like that at Christmas. OH well. I am usually okay with this stuff. I think the fact that she has moved farther away and I never see her anymore has alot to do with it. THANKS.
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Old 12-11-2006, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by GingerM View Post
Is it in your best interest to see your mother? Doesn't sound like it, except as a way of removing guilt.
I read this statement over and over. It applies to my "need" to see my father. Trouble is it never works. Every visit is just another opportunity for him to abuse and ridicule.
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Old 12-14-2006, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Lolobug View Post
...I look at some of the pretty decorated houses that families go and visit and wonder how warm and wonderful it would be to have a mom to go visit like that at Christmas.
Just wanted to add something that a friend in ACOA told me: Try to avoid comparing your insides with someone else's outsides...just because their house (or their body/face/car, etc...) is decorated and looks good, doesn't mean they are necessarily happier than you.

It helped me...
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