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Old 06-26-2018, 05:42 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Need advice from the pros


Hello!

I'm new here. As my name indicates, I am a normie from a family of normies. I learned what a normie is from these forums, along with all kinds of key and useful stories about what my ACoA husband lived through with his AM, bio SAF, and a long string of stepfathers.

I need some advice from ACoAs on how to get on the same page as my ACoA husband regarding setting boundaries for alcoholic grandparents together. Here's the incident that made me realize that we're not on the same page:

We live in a different state than my AMIL, and she is too poor to pay for plane tickets. We paid for her to come visit us when our now 3-year-old was about 18 months or so, and discussed what boundaries to set with her with the baby, and agreed on that if she had had anything to drink that she could not hold the baby. When MIL kept asking for wine, my husband wanted to buy her wine to prevent a dangerous situation for her, because he had seen her do dangerous things to get alcohol when denied in the past and was worried she might just leave our house and live on the streets until her flight home.

Well, we set that boundary and stuck to it after she got her wine, but AMIL reacted badly. Even thought my ACoA husband told me very matter-of-fact when we were getting together that his mother was an alcoholic and his dad a drug abuser, it turned out during a previous, pre-baby visit that my MIL is not aware that she is an alcoholic, or won't admit it publicly. When told that she could not hold the baby, she took a sedative and zonked out for the next day in the master bedroom where my husband had kindly offered for her to sleep while we slept on a mattress on the floor, leaving us to take care of both our baby and my husband's tween nephew that she had custody of (long story). Instead of dealing with the situation like an adult, she mentally and physically checked out of an unpleasant, threatening situation!

The rest of the visit was a complete nightmare (at least to my normie standards, much worse stories can be found in just about every post here, I think). The poor nephew announced in a shockingly blasé tone that AMIL has taken a Xanax and wouldn't wake up until in 8 hours or whatever it was. This clearly wasn't the first time. (I had to google what a Xanax was and in the process discovered that it's incredibly likely that she abuses sedatives together with the alcohol.) AMIL asked for a fancy dinner which we cooked but then declined to eat it, saying she wasn't hungry. The tween clung to us like we were their last drop of water, but since their social skills were somewhat undeveloped it was very demanding. (And, of course, so was the baby.) I could see that my husband was thrown for a loop too - I saw some of the same deer-in-the-headlights look in his face that was all over mine - and he was saying things like that he thought she had mellowed but she hadn't, that this was his childhood all over again, and that he couldn't do this anymore. I couldn't shower for three days because she locked us out of our own bathroom. When we got back in after she left, I could see she went through our things and left white powder on a table. I felt like a criminal for it even being in our house.

With a lot less anger than surprise, I knew before she had even left that she can never come back again, or to be precise that we can only see her if we can leave the situation. I knew it so deep in my bones that I didn't even need to announce it, because it is not up for negotiation, and "your mother can never visit again while she's in active addiction" translates to "your mother can't visit for years, or possibly ever" since we live so far away that we would need to see a years-long shift in behavior as reported by relatives living in town, and saying that could lead to a number of not-core-to-the-issue fights. I thought that he would realize the same thing on his own and obviate the need to officially ban my MIL.

But right after she had left, my husband started saying that the visit hadn't been that bad. So I guess his "not that bad" is my "flaming bag of s***". I was still shell-shocked and needed to talk through my shock at what had just happened - it was like the stories on these forums come alive in my house! The ungratefulness, the complete inability to care about anything but the addiction, the drama whirlwind... And when he said "not that bad" for the third time I snapped and said "if this is not that bad, what is bad??? The cops showing up, someone going to the ER??" He thought about it and said "yes". I told him that the more he keeps saying that it wasn't that bad, the more scared I was getting, and he promptly stopped. I pointed out that she could have died in our bed and we would have had to explain to our child later that their grandma died in our bed of respiratory suppression due to her addiction! "I didn't think about that", was the reply.

After my parents visited last time (they visit several times a year for a week or two each time), he mentioned how unfair it was that my parents come visit often and his don't. The, he started talking to his mom about visiting. How can I most effectively address the problem with this with my husband?
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Eauchiche (06-26-2018)
Old 06-26-2018, 05:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Dear Norma
So sorry for what brings you here. My attempts to offer advice will be flawed here, so please take what you need and leave the rest.

1. The children come first. They deserve better than some crazy person in their home, blood relative or not.
2. I, like your husband, came to view some very sick family dynamics as "normal." It is all we knew growing up. That doesn't make it "normal."
3. Your husband was extremely fortunate to marry someone like you. This is a good place for him to heal from his childhood.
4. If he wants to see his Mom, encourage him to buy a ticket and GO SEE HER. Keep this woman out of your house and AWAY from your kids.
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Old 06-26-2018, 07:53 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Eauchiche View Post
Dear Norma
So sorry for what brings you here. My attempts to offer advice will be flawed here, so please take what you need and leave the rest.

1. The children come first. They deserve better than some crazy person in their home, blood relative or not.
2. I, like your husband, came to view some very sick family dynamics as "normal." It is all we knew growing up. That doesn't make it "normal."
3. Your husband was extremely fortunate to marry someone like you. This is a good place for him to heal from his childhood.
4. If he wants to see his Mom, encourage him to buy a ticket and GO SEE HER. Keep this woman out of your house and AWAY from your kids.
Thank you, Eauchiche, for your kind reply!

It felt good to hear it confirmed that keeping the crazy away from the child - who now is old enough to ask questions on the spot - is the priority. That is what made me see that we always have to be able to leave. I can still protect my child against the heartbreak my husband is still going through and that is my duty. Reading stories here from husbands, wives, and ACoAs has been so very helpful in understanding the futility of applying normal expectations to addicts, and I want to use others' hard-won experience as best as I can, since I can see my own is completely unhelpful.

My husband explicitly wants our child to meet his mother, so that they can start building a relationship. I suggested that we spend a few days longer in town for Christmas to spend with her instead (we don't stay with either bio in-law, we stay with my de facto inlaws who are his bio aunt and uncle), but he wasn't interested.

I don't think he realizes that it's incredibly likely that our limit-setting will trigger crazy behavior every time we see her, because it brings up deeply personal, hurtful baggage for her (being a bad mom/grandmother) that she only knows how to handle with some kind of mind deadener. I also don't think he realizes how quickly she will burn bridges with our child with the crazy, because unlike him, our child expects functioning. He just doesn't seem to realize she isn't capable of building a relationship with our child while she's in active addiction regardless of what we do or don't do, and that leaving all bridges unburned by not even trying to cross is the best shot at them having a relationship one day.

Is there any hope of having that discussion at this point? Or do I just have to take the heat and drama for banning her without a common understanding of the situation?
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AnvilheadII (06-26-2018)
Old 06-26-2018, 02:46 PM   #4 (permalink)
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here's the one thing you can't change.....that woman is HIS mother. right, wrong, good or bad, that's MOM. so there is going to be a weird loyalty there, that can defy common sense. remember, internally for him there is no CONTEST between his mom, you or the baby.....you each have roles in his life.

but what a freaking nightmare THAT was huh??? you totally have the right to say "not back in MY house!!" - and your husband has the right to say "i can invite my own mother to my own house if i want to!". which leads to a stale mate and somebody would have to make other arrangements.

since she seems underfunded, it's not likely she's going to be flying back any time soon, not on her own dime. so i think you have TIME on your side. you don't have to have the rules written on the stone tablets by 3pm TODAY. LOL

ACOA stuff is a sneaky, tangled beast. i'm 57, my A mother passed away when i was in my early 30s, stuff STILL comes up. good and bad. shows up in my dreams A LOT. my mom can be like reruns of Law & Order, no matter what channel you choose, there it is, again! i had this impulse to call her the other day.........sometimes i want to say i'm sorry i was so distant and cold those last few years. i am a mother myself now, and it's not that i try to NOT be my mother, i just try to parent DIFFERENTLY.

if you can, ease up on your husband just a bit. he didn't ask for this. and unlike alcoholism, there isn't anything you can STOP doing that makes you STOP being an ACOA. family of origin stuff is in our DNA.
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Old 06-27-2018, 06:56 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by AnvilheadII View Post
here's the one thing you can't change.....that woman is HIS mother. right, wrong, good or bad, that's MOM. so there is going to be a weird loyalty there, that can defy common sense. remember, internally for him there is no CONTEST between his mom, you or the baby.....you each have roles in his life.

but what a freaking nightmare THAT was huh??? you totally have the right to say "not back in MY house!!" - and your husband has the right to say "i can invite my own mother to my own house if i want to!". which leads to a stale mate and somebody would have to make other arrangements.

since she seems underfunded, it's not likely she's going to be flying back any time soon, not on her own dime. so i think you have TIME on your side. you don't have to have the rules written on the stone tablets by 3pm TODAY. LOL

ACOA stuff is a sneaky, tangled beast. i'm 57, my A mother passed away when i was in my early 30s, stuff STILL comes up. good and bad. shows up in my dreams A LOT. my mom can be like reruns of Law & Order, no matter what channel you choose, there it is, again! i had this impulse to call her the other day.........sometimes i want to say i'm sorry i was so distant and cold those last few years. i am a mother myself now, and it's not that i try to NOT be my mother, i just try to parent DIFFERENTLY.

if you can, ease up on your husband just a bit. he didn't ask for this. and unlike alcoholism, there isn't anything you can STOP doing that makes you STOP being an ACOA. family of origin stuff is in our DNA.
I'm not sure what you mean by ease up... I haven't told him that I will never ever allow our child to be "locked in" with her (or anyone else who is in active addiction by extension) precisely because it is such a stressful conversation to have, even if it goes "well". I was hoping to never have to have it at all because just needing to have it is depressing. But it's also true that my husband is now an adult who can take care of himself - or to the extent that he cannot, can be expected to learn - and our child is, well, a child. I cannot throw my child under the bus for the sake of my husband. I see his as well as his mother's deep suffering, but I can't fix either. They are both adults in charge of themselves. I am in charge of my child and have to do what is best for them, which is to not expose them to an environment where the destructiveness of active addition is on display. Especially because they will see their dad hurting badly along with whatever my MIL does. I am trying to do this as compassionately as possible with respect to my husband, though, and what that should look like is what I need some perspective on.

And while it's true that we don't need this resolved ASAP, they have set tentative dates and are actively discussing her visiting (on our dime again). The "we need to be able to leave" discussion will just become even more emotionally loaded if we have it after plane tickets have already been bought, or even closer to the visit than that. That's why I'm asking for advice on what reasonable expectations from that conversation are. We are already locked in to an offer to visit having been extended. I need to decide how to handle this before plane ticket shopping starts. I have some time, but my hope of never having to have the conversation is dashed.
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Old 06-27-2018, 09:36 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I should add - my husband recognizes what Eauchiche mentioned above, that he is very lucky to have married into a normie family, and often mentions that he is glad that our child will have a completely different childhood than he did. So, while my husband is working through all kinds of baggage of his own, he is clear on the value of sparing our child exposure to the toxic environment he grew up in.

He has chosen very limited contact for himself also. He would not consider moving to the same city again and rarely takes his mother's calls. When he does, there's often a fight, so now I understand why he doesn't take the calls. We have tried to schedule Skyping with my MIL, but she never shows up. My husband never tells our child that we're planning to Skype with her other grandma so that she can't be disappointed like he so often was. We have promised once and only once that they would getting to meet their other grandma - other than the chaotic visit described, MIL has refused to see us when we've been in town based on various drama, as there always is. After that no-show, my husband adopted a no-mention policy regarding getting to meet MIL.

That's why I don't think he sees what I see in terms of inevitable chaos erupting and us needing to leave it to play out somewhere where our child is not. I suspect he has, after close to ten years of normie family life, started to take normalcy for granted and is harboring hope of more normal family relationships with his FOO. If he did see what I see, I don't think he would even consider inviting her here again.
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Old 06-27-2018, 02:13 PM   #7 (permalink)
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so even "normies" have trouble with boundaries, huh? refreshing.

considering how NOT well the visit went and the fact he is already thinking of another visit, i think you're just gonna have to state your truth.

but let me ask you....let's say you didn't have a child. but everything else about the visit was the same.....the dinner demands then not eating, the drinking, the pill taking, etc. would you want her back to your home as a guest? would you want ANYONE who behaved like that back to your home. cuz that was disrespectful on HER part in just about every way possible, short of setting your dining room table on fire.

so is it truly that you don't want her around your child - which is completely understandable? OR that you just don't want HER around period if she's going to be a pill popping boozehound? you are entitled to feel how you feel - i'm not saying one is a "better" choice.

then i think you just gotta speak your piece. straight up, no skirting the issue. use "I" statements when possible....
When your mother was here in our home and inebriated/drugged up, I felt very disrespected and uncomfortable with her around our daughter, therefore i am asking that we have no further in-home visits for the next X amount of time.
or something like that.
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Old 06-27-2018, 05:11 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Even if it had happened more or less the same, of course I wouldn't want her back in our house regardless. Without a child in the picture, I would probably allow my husband to have her over with preconditions (no alcohol/drugs, if caught violating that rule she must stay in a hotel room, and all special prep has to be done by him (with a plan to leave them in the house together if things got really bad), or something like that) to allow him the chance to see for himself that inviting her is the core mistake (because I wouldn't really think she would abstain), expecting to be able to say "look, the last N times have all been disasters, the only rational decision here is to only see her in her home town". It is the child that made me no-negotiation-possible decide unilaterally that she can never stay here again, probably ever, immediately. There is no room for him to make his own mistakes in this situation.

If no one has insight into what mental mistake he is making in even considering inviting her over again so that I'd have a better shot to get him to see the problem with just talking, then there is indeed only telling him that I can only accept seeing her in such circumstances that we can leave if things go south.

Writing these posts has actually helped me narrow what I really want to say down to 3-4 sentences, so that's been helpful in and of itself!
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Old 06-28-2018, 12:04 PM   #9 (permalink)
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So, we had the conversation. Now I'm even more sure he thinks he can make things go well when he can't, but he is insisting on having her over. So, I told him that if things go south as judged by me alone, I am taking our child to a resort to play in their lazy river and that I then expect him to protect our house and deal with any authorities as needed. He said he understood, but I can see he is so sure crazy won't break out that it is I who am overreacting, so this is probably not real understanding. That's ok, I was clear ahead of time both about the wisdom of this, his inability to control the outcome, the potential for this to do the exact opposite of what he wants, and what I will do when I think the situation is no longer acceptable. When it all does go south and we go to a resort, he can be angry but he can't say I didn't warn him. He chose not to listen.
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Old 06-30-2018, 05:14 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by NormieNorma View Post
So, we had the conversation. Now I'm even more sure he thinks he can make things go well when he can't, but he is insisting on having her over. So, I told him that if things go south as judged by me alone, I am taking our child to a resort to play in their lazy river and that I then expect him to protect our house and deal with any authorities as needed.
You've gotten some excellent advice here. If your husband can somehow be persuaded to try an ACOA meeting or two, that would be great -- but I know very well that you can't make someone go to a meeting if they're not interested! Awhile back, I sent my sister (World's Biggest Codependent™) an ACOA red book, and rumor has it that she actually cracks it open once in awhile! Might be worth a try....



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Old 07-10-2018, 04:17 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Is that book the top hit when you search "ACOA red book" on Amazon?

I gave him the ACOA Sourcebook for Christmas, because he seemed amazed at discovering the concept (I found and sent him some things linked to here about ACOAs), but he got upset instead.

I think he confuses having done very well for himself given his circumstances with objectively being well-adjusted, for natural reasons. (We all take our own perspective based on the specific life that we've lead.) He got this far and he thinks he can figure it all out by himself. And that may be true, but it's certainly inefficient and he could run out of time to get it done in.

If I try giving him some resources to work with again, I might try that book if I identified it correctly. Thank you for the tip.

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Old 07-10-2018, 05:56 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Hi NormieNorma,

I'm a bit confused by this to be honest. You mention: "I think he confuses having done very well for himself given his circumstances with objectively being well-adjusted, for natural reasons" and that he was lucky to marry in to a "normie" family.

No one is less-than and he is no less than anyone else, regardless of his upbringing. I think it's nice that you have a great family together, it's not luck, I assume you fell in love with him and him with you, I guess it's lucky you met?

As for your Mother in law, as Anvil mentioned, whatever she is she is still his Mother. The only way to control this is to not have her in your house, otherwise it's just asking for trouble.

You may have to insist she stay at a hotel and you can then control the visiting times?
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Old 07-11-2018, 04:01 AM   #13 (permalink)
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This is the ACA red book:

https://www.amazon.com/Adult-Childre...lcoholics+book

Just to make it confusing, there's another book called "Adult Children of Alcoholics," by Janet Woititz. It's also an excellent book on the subject -- but it's not the one from the ACA organization.

But as with anything else, you can lead a horse to water, etc. If your husband thinks he doesn't need it, you're not going to force him. That's the bad news. The good news is, changes you make yourself -- to how you act and react -- have a positive effect on those around you. After I had been going to Al-Anon for awhile, things got a lot better at home, even though my "qualifier" was several months away from getting with the program, so to speak....

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Old 07-13-2018, 03:55 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Nice name Norma...

On this side of the recovery board I guess the term normal may apply to a trait listed in the Janet Woititz book (which differs to the aca red book & the aca list of traits known as the laundry list - try showing that to Mr Norma)...

anyway.. Janet's trait goes something like this; ACAs guess what normal is.

I recognised this trait in myself. My partner, also from an alcoholic family also recognises this trait. We have both done much towards recovery, me through 12 step fellowships - mostly ACA, her in her own way.

We both struggled with our respective drunken parents and their relationships with our children and alcohol. We found a way, eventually, it took a while. A bit of trial and error.

Eventually we found boundaries that were acceptable to both of us, but we never quite managed to find a way to deal with visits except to agree to allow the other to ensure visits were suitably short and respect that it was ultimately better to have a relationship with our alcoholic parents than not and that it could be managed.

Note: Being in the UK, it's slightly easier for shorter visits than in your case. Flights were/are unnecessary.

I'd recommend the big red book, but I'd watch out for that phrase normal it's worth noting that dysfunction can occur in families without the presence of addiction.

So on the subject of normal: An old friend once said to me "it's just a setting on a washing machine" I tend to agree with that now, or at least I've stopped guessing at what normal is.... is that normal?

Last edited by makomago; 07-13-2018 at 03:56 PM. Reason: grammar
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