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Is this unreasonable?

Old 11-14-2013, 05:50 AM
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Is this unreasonable?

Hi folks, after some constructive advice here. I think most know our story, but the bare basics of it are that my 14 year old stepdaughter has lived with us for 2.5 years because her mother is alcoholic. SD self harms, has low self esteem and remains angry that her childhood was ruined by her mother's drinking. My husband and I always knew that she would suffer because of it, but despite our best efforts over the years, no-one took it seriously.

Anyway, fast forward. SD's mum went into rehab yesterday. She spent a week in hospital on medical detox (as she did in April but began drinking when she came out). She is very ill with alcoholic liver disease and has been told that she will die if she carries on drinking. She has also been told that this is her one and only chance at rehab, at the cost of the taxpayer!! She's meant to stay in rehab until January 1st 2014.

Now, we all know that as this is her first attempt at rehab, second attempt at detox, statistically it's unlikely to work. SD is also fully aware of this. SD's mum has only contacted her daughter 4 times in the last 7 months, and hasn't seen her since April. Her last text to SD was that she is going to prove to her that she can do it. Great, we really hope she does, but will be very surprised if she does. SD has really had a tough time with it all, and her relationship with her mother is practically non-existent. SD's mum says she wants to rebond with her daughter, which is fair enough, but SD tells us that will only happen if her mother is proven sober for at least six months following rehab.

SD's mum has a 'friend' and my husband's parents behind her (don't ask), and they are contacting SD and telling her her mum is going to do it, that she won't fail and that they can resume contact in January. My husband and I are not going to allow physical contact in January, far from it. Reason being - no-one, including my husband's parents, listened to us over all those years when we were telling them that SD would be harmed mentally if she stayed with her mother. We warned all of them, time and time again, including Social Services, that SD would be harmed, and we were right. We also know that if SD resumed physical contact with her mother in January, and her mother relapsed into drinking again, the consequences of that for SD would be catastrophic. We are not prepared to allow that to happen again, and because SD now lives with us, we see the ball as being in our Court. SD has said that she wants 'scientific/medical evidence' of her mother's sobriety, ie blood tests before she will speak to her mother again, but she has her grandmother (my husband's mother) on her back telling her she must see her mum once she's out of rehab because her mother 'signed a document' stating she would complete rehab. Yeah, like that means she's gonna do it!!!!! Sadly, my mother in law is easily manipulated by SD's mum, always has been.

I work in medicine, and used to work at the Rehab Centre where mum is, so I do know a little about addiction, and relapse. I have seen our own patients at the Practice where I work go into rehab and relapse, over and over again, so we are just not prepared to take any chances with this. Of course, we will be the ones in the wrong when we tell mum she cannot have physical contact, and I expect our lives will be made hell by her (nothing new there then!). Mum doesn't like me, nor does she like the fact that I have parental rights (Court ordered) over her daughter, and this has been made worse by SD telling her that I have been more of a mother to her in the 2.5 years she's lived with us than she has over her whole life. Mum does have a very 'woe is me' attitude, and of course none of this is her fault. We are of course hopeful that if she gets anything out of rehab, it will be realisation that she is to blame for her daughter's mental health difficulties.

Do folks think it is reasonable for us to tell her that physical contact will only resume once she's been proven dry for at least six months, or is this unreasonable?

Thoughts appreciated
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Old 11-14-2013, 06:02 AM
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I can't speak on laws in the UK, but in the U.S., a guardian wouldn't really have the right to keep the biological mother from seeing her daughter, unless it was specifically stated by the court (very, very rare)...at the least, the mother would be entitled to supervised visits.

Make sure you wouldn't get in trouble legally by withholding access to her daughter.
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Old 11-14-2013, 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by ResignedToWait View Post
I can't speak on laws in the UK, but in the U.S., a guardian wouldn't really have the right to keep the biological mother from seeing her daughter, unless it was specifically stated by the court (very, very rare)...at the least, the mother would be entitled to supervised visits.

Make sure you wouldn't get in trouble legally by withholding access to her daughter.
In the UK, the law states that contact is the right of the child, not the parent. So if SD wanted to see her, she could, but SD doesn't want to see her until there is scientific/medical proof of sobriety, and as SD is 14 she can make that decision. Unfortunately, mum doesn't grasp this, never has, and when SD told her back in April, after she failed detox, that she didn't want anything to do with her, her mother blamed us and we got the backlash. We told her over and over that it was SD's decision that we would support her decision, but she never got it. The reasons we will be supporting SD in not having physical contact with her mother are many - if mum is still drinking it would affect SD detrimentally, there is no relationship between them to speak of and if mum maintains sobriety then small steps need to be taken to rebuild it, SD has struggled so much with all of this and is very very sceptical of her mother and doesn't believe a word she says. I should have made it clear that this decision is a 'family' decision, rather than my husband and I simply not allowing it, but we are the ones who will need to enforce it.
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Old 11-14-2013, 06:09 AM
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SD's mum has only contacted her daughter 4 times in the last 7 months, and hasn't seen her since April.
JMO but wouldn't it serve everyone best if you all just kept on with your lives and make decisions for what happens in January when you get to January.

Has your SD been to Alateen? Maybe it's time for her to start getting this kind of support. How wonderful it is that you and your H are there for her. Alateen could give her some additional support to deal with whatever happens.

(((HUGS))) to all.
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Old 11-14-2013, 06:11 AM
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Hi NN. First of all it makes my heart sing that your SD has you in her life, thank god! I can't imagine where she would be without you. If I may let me give you my perspective as a young girl who grew up with an alcoholic mother, my mother got sober when I was 13, but it did a lot of damage.

Feel free to show this to the powers that be who are trying to coerce you to have your SD see her mother so soon. The damage that is already done is hard to even quantify. I don't think adults who have not grown up with this can understand how scary it is to never know what is behind closed doors. I am 48 and still deal with PTSD. I don't trust people, I assume the worst, because those life lessons are what saved me when I was growing up. I was the oldest and only girl. I grew up checking, checking, checking, smelling my mother's drinks, tending to her black eyes, sitting next to her on the porch while the other kids played. There is NO WAY that forcing this young girl to see her mother so soon after rehab is good for her is good for her, no way. Her mother is selfish and everyone seems to be worried about her and not her poor daughter. Enough. Thank goodness you and it sounds like your husband and your SD have a head on your shoulders. This poor girl needs to be taken care of and every interaction with her mother needs to be approached from a perspective as to whether or not it will be beneficial to the child, NOT the mother.
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Old 11-14-2013, 06:39 AM
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Jaynie, thank you so so much. Unfortunately the damage has been done, as we foresaw all those years ago. I can't remember the number of times we tried to tell mum that SD would suffer. Her response was always 'keep out of my business, she will be fine'. We saw the signs from when she was around 6, as at that time she was the main carer for her mum and her 2 year old half-brother. We would (if mum allowed it) see her on weekends, and the things she came out with were toe-curlingly awful. We would contact Social Services, they would visit mum (never unannounced, they always told her they would visit and when), and SD would cover up for her mum, which of course is completely normal for a child in that situation. My mother in law would also back SD's mum, and saw acts of cruelty towards her own granddaughter with her own eyes. She would report them to us, we would tell her she had to contact Social Services but she never would, and always said 'she loves her mother, she's best off staying with her'. It drove us crazy, and made us both ill. All we wanted, and all we still want is what's best for this girl.

So, 2.5 years ago, a completely screwed up 12 year old came to us and never left. She has had counselling, extensively, in school and also a specialist counsellor. Sadly there is no Alateen in our area, otherwise she would attend. We listen, we love, we hug and we cry. We try to understand the self-harm. When her mother was told her daughter is self-harming, her response was 'oh I used to do that, so I know how to make her stop'. Really? She still didn't get that it was down to her!!!! SD herself sent her mother a 'rant' text a few weeks ago, telling her she despises her, hates the drinking and called her an 'ex heroin junkie alcoholic *****'. She had to send the text to mum's friend's phone because mum won't give her, or us, her number, and we didn't think he would show it to her because he's her enabler and he protects her from anything 'nasty' (truth is he's in love with her). However, it would appear that he did, because my mother in law visited SD's mum in Hospital last night, then phoned SD to tell her her mother has promised she will get clean and that the text 'helped' her. As I said before, my mother in law is easily manipulated by this woman, and fortunately even SD sees that now, but she will make it hard come January (if mum stays in there that long) for SD to refuse to see her mother, and will make it hard for us to enforce it.

It's interesting to hear that you still suffer the effects of growing up with an alcoholic mother, even after she recovered. I hadn't actually considered that, well I had kind of, because SD always says that she will never forgive her mother for taking away her childhood, but we were more concerned about the effect on SD if her mother relapsed, as she too would be smelling her breath etc. I've seen this happen, and one case where I work involved an alcoholic mother whose child had been removed from her to live with the father. She went to the very same rehab centre, dried out, went to Court for more contact and because she'd dried out they allowed contact at her home for an hour a week. The child went to the mothers, she went upstairs and was gone a while, the child went to see where she was and found her knelt down beside her bed downing a bottle of wine. The child called the father, who came and collected the child immediately, took the child home and the child tried to commit suicide by hanging and then spent six months in a Paediatric Mental Hospital, at the age of 13!!! This may be an extreme, I don't know, but we just aren't prepared to take any chances, and from what you've said, you're still troubled by your childhood experiences.

As we all know, rehab is only the start of recovery, and some would say the easiest part of it. But, does it ever really end for the children?
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Old 11-14-2013, 07:30 AM
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Maybe let's drop the Drunk Mummy Drama stuff for a minute and focus on that which matters . . ..

Originally Posted by NikNox View Post

It's interesting to hear that you still suffer the effects of growing up with an alcoholic mother, even after she recovered. I hadn't actually considered that, well I had kind of . . .
mho. I follow you have to work through the crap, but Forget the Endless (it really is endless) Drunk Mummy Drama. You have your hands (very) full with the kid. The profile of the kid you are building. Especially with the Abandonment Issues and Self-Injury combo. Have you looked much into that?


But, does it ever really end for the children?
Generally a few outcomes, only one of which is good.

Let's start with the good one. They get real help.
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Old 11-14-2013, 07:44 AM
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We have been mainly concentrating on the abandonment and self harm, with extensive counselling. We work on her confidence issues and encourage her to participate in confidence building activities such as acting, which she's very good at! Her peers at school are aware of her issues and are very supportive, as is the school. We don't dwell on her mother, far from it, and we are all much happier when there is no contact from her!! Interestingly, last October (2012) we heard that mum had been given a year to live if she carried on drinking, and at that point SD hadn't spoken to her or seen her for months. So, we decided that we should try and encourage contact in case mum died and SD found herself in a situation of deep regret. We supported supervised contact between them (we supervised contact), but SD never really responded to her mother and treated her with coldness and contempt. It was shortly after this contact commenced that she started self-harming, so clearly we made the wrong decision. All of our efforts and decisions are centred around what is hopefully best for SD.
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Old 11-14-2013, 08:00 AM
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All good that.

You follow then the SI is usually driven by sort of a Pain Relief relationship (sort of a self-medication), for Emotional Hurts in the brain? Dealing with Severe Emotional Pain -- in ways OTHER than . . . . SI, Alcohol, Drugs, Eating Disorders, etc., could be a life long process and struggle for her.

Since her Biological Mother (meaning the genetics are not favorable) has such a severe Drug / Alcohol, etc., bent, it is very possible Biological Mother has these same traits, and is trapped in the destructive methods of sedating herself.

Daughter will need to learn all the coping skills in advance to stay off the destructive methods, herself.
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Old 11-14-2013, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by jaynie04 View Post
The damage that is already done is hard to even quantify. I don't think adults who have not grown up with this can understand how scary it is to never know what is behind closed doors.
Absolutely agree, 1000%. I see this with my niece because in the early days of my sister's divorce she still allowed visitation with her XAH & it was awful for DN. By the time he left town & my sister finally went no contact, DN was a wreck of a kid, starting to self harm, suffering internally in ways we couldn't reach.

Now he has popped back up, 5+ yrs later & my niece is violently adament about NOT seeing him. He's trying to use the courts to force visitation in order to stop his child support debt from accruing so once again, she's his pawn. Except now she's 14 and has spent years working with counselors, teachers, etc. building her confidence, stopping her destructive ways, excelling in school & all of her activities. It took YEARS for her to get to this point and if she were forced to have visitation I can't even imagine how damaging it would be, nevermind how much more permanent the damage might be based on her age & what she's already been through.

If you have the law on your side & your SD has the awareness of mind to CHOOSE to avoid her AM, I say support her at all costs. (But maybe I'm a little emotional on this issue because DN is going through this right now.)
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Old 11-14-2013, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Hammer View Post
All good that.

You follow then the SI is usually driven by sort of a Pain Relief relationship (sort of a self-medication), for Emotional Hurts in the brain? Dealing with Severe Emotional Pain -- in ways OTHER than . . . . SI, Alcohol, Drugs, Eating Disorders, etc., could be a life long process and struggle for her.

Since her Biological Mother (meaning the genetics are not favorable) has such a severe Drug / Alcohol, etc., bent, it is very possible Biological Mother has these same traits, and is trapped in the destructive methods of sedating herself.

Daughter will need to learn all the coping skills in advance to stay off the destructive methods, herself.
Absolutely. We completely understand this and so does SD. We have always been concerned that SD would follow in her mother's footsteps, and alcoholism is also rife in SD's mother's family - her father died from it, two of her brothers are alcoholics and her paternal grandfather was also an alcoholic. The genetic link is strong. SD understands that alcoholism is a form of self harm and has worked through this in particular with her counsellors and us. There isn't much we can do about the damage that has already been caused, except try to ensure that her future is much better and support her through her own journey. At present she is so against drinking, and gets irate when she hears of peers drinking. She had a massive outburst in class not so long ago when a group of girls were giggling about how they'd got drunk at a party. She stood up, in the middle of class, and said 'you wouldn't think it was so f'ing funny if your own mother was an alcoholic' and stormed out. Neither my husband or I drink much at all (me about 2 units a year!), but even when my husband does have a beer, she hates it and has a go at him so he now rarely drinks at all, and if he does it's when she's not around or in bed.
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Old 11-14-2013, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by FireSprite View Post
Absolutely agree, 1000%. I see this with my niece because in the early days of my sister's divorce she still allowed visitation with her XAH & it was awful for DN. By the time he left town & my sister finally went no contact, DN was a wreck of a kid, starting to self harm, suffering internally in ways we couldn't reach.

Now he has popped back up, 5+ yrs later & my niece is violently adament about NOT seeing him. He's trying to use the courts to force visitation in order to stop his child support debt from accruing so once again, she's his pawn. Except now she's 14 and has spent years working with counselors, teachers, etc. building her confidence, stopping her destructive ways, excelling in school & all of her activities. It took YEARS for her to get to this point and if she were forced to have visitation I can't even imagine how damaging it would be, nevermind how much more permanent the damage might be based on her age & what she's already been through.

If you have the law on your side & your SD has the awareness of mind to CHOOSE to avoid her AM, I say support her at all costs. (But maybe I'm a little emotional on this issue because DN is going through this right now.)
I am so sorry that your niece is suffering this way, and can wholeheartedly sympathise and understand. And, I agree. SD is more than capable of making decisions herself now, and she doesn't believe her mother will complete rehab, and even if she does she believes she will relapse. She's just told me that her grandmother told her last night on the phone that her mum is expecting to be rebuilding their relationship as soon as she leaves rehab, and she told her grandmother that won't be the case and that for her to even begin to consider seeing her mother again she wants medical proof that she's dry. We will support that. It's awful isn't it, how these poor kids suffer. We will never allow her to suffer any more.
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Old 11-14-2013, 09:07 AM
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NikNox....good for you to support her and protect her. That is what it is all about, protecting the children. Because of you and your support she will be able to draw healthy boundaries in her own life. It is so sad what these children go through but thank goodness she has backup and support in her corner.

Blessings to you and hats off to you for being a great person!
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Old 11-14-2013, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by NikNox View Post
Absolutely. We completely understand this and so does SD. We have always been concerned that SD would follow in her mother's footsteps, and alcoholism is also rife in SD's mother's family - her father died from it, two of her brothers are alcoholics and her paternal grandfather was also an alcoholic. The genetic link is strong. SD understands that alcoholism is a form of self harm and has worked through this in particular with her counsellors and us. There isn't much we can do about the damage that has already been caused, except try to ensure that her future is much better and support her through her own journey.
There are some fMRI type scanning that can help give the look-ahead at this point, but that work is considered more research than treatment. At least for now.

BIG thing you can do for now is to help her FEEL safe, and also KEEP her safe.

Sounds like the Grandparents are clueless meddlers and enablers and you should likely keep them completely out of the process. The meddlers and enablers only pretend to help others. Really they behave the way they do for themselves.

If you can, I would go to some extreme efforts as far as the Alateen stuff goes. Even if just Alanon is available locally, go to them -- Alateen is sponsored by Alanon, and Alanon conducts the training for Alateen workers. Start barking up the tree through the local Alanon hierarchy to get you help.

[YOU WILL HELP MANY, MANY, OTHERS BY DOING THAT]

My kids have absolutely loved Alateen. I think it feels wonderful to them that they are not alone. Same as SR and Alanon does for us. Go Figure, huh?

At present she is so against drinking, and gets irate when she hears of peers drinking. She had a massive outburst in class not so long ago when a group of girls were giggling about how they'd got drunk at a party. She stood up, in the middle of class, and said 'you wouldn't think it was so f'ing funny if your own mother was an alcoholic' and stormed out. Neither my husband or I drink much at all (me about 2 units a year!), but even when my husband does have a beer, she hates it and has a go at him so he now rarely drinks at all, and if he does it's when she's not around or in bed.
You follow that a strong reaction is still an indication of a Major underlying problem, right?

This behavior will also isolate her.

When she is "All Clear," it will not have much meaning.
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Old 11-14-2013, 09:29 AM
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Hi NikNox...I don't have children nor am I an ACoA, so please take what I think with a grain of salt.

Your SD is 14yo. She is at an age, and it sounds like has had the support, to make appropriate decisions for herself and who she interacts with. You, as her parents, can certainly help guide and/or support her in those decisions. If she is saying she does not want contact with AM, then it should not be forced. It sounds like so much damage has already been done to her & she is aware of it so she is smart to keep her distance. I believe your support & defense of this decision will help her confidence grow. Should AM come out of rehab and remain sober for a few months, SD may decide to change the plans she has made now, and that is okay too, but it's great to have a plan going in.

I would say it sounds like you all need some boundaries for MIL. Maybe if she brings up physical contact with AM, the conversation stops. It sounds like you have made SD's desires on this topic very clear to MIL but she is continuing to disrespect them, so time to put an end to the acceptance of this unacceptable behavior.

Sounds like you and DH are doing really well with SD...so keep doing what you know is best for her. My thoughts & prayers are with you all.
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Old 11-14-2013, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Hammer View Post
There are some fMRI type scanning that can help give the look-ahead at this point, but that work is considered more research than treatment. At least for now.

BIG thing you can do for now is to help her FEEL safe, and also KEEP her safe.

Sounds like the Grandparents are clueless meddlers and enablers and you should likely keep them completely out of the process. The meddlers and enablers only pretend to help others. Really they behave the way they do for themselves.

If you can, I would go to some extreme efforts as far as the Alateen stuff goes. Even if just Alanon is available locally, go to them -- Alateen is sponsored by Alanon, and Alanon conducts the training for Alateen workers. Start barking up the tree through the local Alanon hierarchy to get you help.

[YOU WILL HELP MANY, MANY, OTHERS BY DOING THAT]

My kids have absolutely loved Alateen. I think it feels wonderful to them that they are not alone. Same as SR and Alanon does for us. Go Figure, huh?



You follow that a strong reaction is still an indication of a Major underlying problem, right?

This behavior will also isolate her.

When she is "All Clear," it will not have much meaning.
We did take her to an Alanon meeting, but the average age was about 60. It was helpful, in that they were very kind to her and allowed her to speak, and they gave her leaflets etc., but she wasn't overly keen to go back. The nearest Alateen is about 70 miles away, and is on weeknights, which would be impossible for us given her schooling and our work commitments. She has joined a website called COAP (Children of Addicted Parents), and we have had some very useful literature from The National Association of Children of Alcoholics. Her specialist counsellor is called a Hidden Harm Worker, and she's been especially helpful, so we think we're doing the best we can to help her. As regards her overreaction to others drinking, well we have talked to her about this and explained that having a social drink is okay, that many people do and aren't alcoholics, but it seems to me that at 14, pretty much everything is over-dramatised, especially with girls! My own bio children are both boys, grown up now at 20 and 25, and they were completely different as teens.

It's interesting to hear about the MRI scanning, I've not heard of that before. But, as you say, it's just research at the moment, and in the US. We do worry so much about how she could turn out, all too aware that she could go down the same road. So, we try to provide her with as normal life as possible, and aren't too strict on her because we don't want to give her anything to 'rebel' against. It's like walking a tightrope sometimes!!
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Old 11-14-2013, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by CarryOn View Post
Hi NikNox...I don't have children nor am I an ACoA, so please take what I think with a grain of salt.

Your SD is 14yo. She is at an age, and it sounds like has had the support, to make appropriate decisions for herself and who she interacts with. You, as her parents, can certainly help guide and/or support her in those decisions. If she is saying she does not want contact with AM, then it should not be forced. It sounds like so much damage has already been done to her & she is aware of it so she is smart to keep her distance. I believe your support & defense of this decision will help her confidence grow. Should AM come out of rehab and remain sober for a few months, SD may decide to change the plans she has made now, and that is okay too, but it's great to have a plan going in.

I would say it sounds like you all need some boundaries for MIL. Maybe if she brings up physical contact with AM, the conversation stops. It sounds like you have made SD's desires on this topic very clear to MIL but she is continuing to disrespect them, so time to put an end to the acceptance of this unacceptable behavior.

Sounds like you and DH are doing really well with SD...so keep doing what you know is best for her. My thoughts & prayers are with you all.
Carryon, I think you make a lot of sense, and think along the same lines as I do, which I consider to be just completely normal! My MIL is indeed a meddler, always has been, and is, in part to blame for how SD suffers now. SD acknowledges this too, and does try to keep her grandmother at arm's length, as do we. My husband and I stopped talking to her for 2 years such was her involvement with SD's mum. We just couldn't cope with constantly hearing about how awful life was for SD when she was living there, and her not doing anything about it! It was just so wrong. My MIL isn't the brightest person to be honest, and is very gullible. If you told her a fake watch you'd bought at a market was a Rolex, she would believe you, seriously! She is a con-man's dream!! Luckily, SD is intelligent enough to see this too, and cannot understand why MIL went to see her mother last night in Hospital. She said 'why would nan go and see her? She's nothing to do with her?'. We plan to tell MIL what is and isn't going to happen soon, because like you said, we need a plan going in. SD can decide to see her mum whenever she wants to, and we will support that too.

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