Family Roles

We all play a role in our family. When addiction or dysfunctional characteristics come into the mix, roles change. Susan Hanson wrote a book called Tools for your Toolbox. In it, she discusses the four roles that are split up to cover different emotional responsibilities with dysfunctional families. She discusses The Hero, The Scapegoat, The Lost Child, and The Mascot. When I read this, my family members were jumping off of the page. Let me know what you think of the roles she discusses:

The Hero: The perfect person. The responsible member who makes the family look good. People often are surprised the family has any issues because if the family has someone like this in it, how bad could it be? They serve the family by trying to take care of everything.

The Scapegoat: The problem member. The person who brings down the image of the family. This serves the family though. This person takes the focus off of the family’s true problem and people tend to think “if this person would just get it together, we would all be fine”.

The Lost Child: The one who stays out of the way and separates themselves from the family. This person is quiet and keeps their struggles to themselves. They may not be a perfectionist but they definitely aren’t a stress causer in the family. This person usually avoids conflict and people think since they are not a trouble maker, the family must be okay.

The Mascot: The class clown. This person lightens the mood with humor and light-hearted comments. They look carefree but they cheer everyone up. They are often not taken seriously because they are constantly trying to bring everyone out of the sadness. They push away their own needs and addressing the problem, which also serves the family.

Does this resonate with your family? It SCREAMS my family.

I am a mix. I am a mix of the mascot and the hero. I have always been a perfectionist and I strive to please people. I always did well in school, I graduated college with honors, I have my master’s degree, and I really try to impress my family. I ALSO am a goof. I make things light. I joke about everything. If you have read any of the previous posts, you should know that already. I try to lighten the mood when things get dark and I love my sense of humor.

My brother is the mascot through and through. He jokes about everything. He can’t take things seriously. When he does get serious about anything, everyone usually laughs it off because it’s goofy him. He uses his humor to push people away (I know, pot calling the kettle black). He can come across as immature even though he knows addiction better than most.

My sister is the lost child. She tries to keep drama out of the family. She doesn’t bring a lot of attention to herself. She likes to spend time with the family but she separates herself to spend time with her own family when things get too stressful. She keeps her emotions inside and she cannot confront anyone about anything. She would rather not talk to you for a month instead of actually telling you she is upset with you.

My dad is the scapegoat. A lot of people think if he drank less, my mom would be sober. He brings some negativity to the family with his antics but he’s struggling so much with my mom’s drinking and he often lashes out if people point the finger at him. “She’s the problem, not me”.  People like to blame him because it’s easier to blame him than to hold my mom accountable for her addiction. Don’t get me wrong, my dad needs to work on himself but it also needs to be acknowledged that he’s hurting too.

So what does this all mean? We have these categories, now what? This doesn’t mean you are bad if you are filling these roles in the family. It’s just nice to be aware of it in case the mascot does want to be taken seriously, or the hero is tired of being perfect, or the lost child wants to feel like they don’t need to be alone all the time, or the scapegoat needs you to understand they are just hurting.

These roles can also be used to your advantage. My brother is the first person I call when I need to be cheered up. My sister is who I talk to about things that I have kept to myself for too long. My dad is the person I talk to when I acted out of hurt. They understand those things because of the roles they play.

Mary Egan, who worked for Rosecrance in Chicago and Rockford, expanded and also included another role: The Enabler.

The Enabler: Someone who allows the addiction to continue and tries to keep the addict safe and from harm.

I think everyone in my family plays this role at different times. My sister does everything to keep my mom safe when she’s been drinking and will try to prevent any consequences from taking place, my dad fixes the consequences, my brother tries to blame outside things for my mom’s addiction, and I have filtered throughout all of those behaviors as well. It’s the hardest role to break free from in my opinion.

Look over these roles and if you want to know how to break out of these roles, check out Tools for your Toolbox.

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-Grumpy Sunshine

Secrets, Addiction’s Best Friend

How many secrets can we keep when we love someone struggling with addiction? There’s no limit. We keep hundreds. We keep THOUSANDS. We don’t keep track because that would drive us insane but think about it. We don’t want people to know where our mom really is, rehab. We don’t want them to know that sure our dad is hilarious when he is at the club drinking but when he is puking at home it’s not as fun. We lie about why they can’t make it to events. We lie about where they are, how they are doing, things they did for us growing up. We lie all the time. We lie about their professions, we lie about reasons things happen, we lie about anything. We lie about everything.

We also lie to them. I remember not telling my parents about events at school that parents were invited to attend. I remember trying to keep Parent’s Night away from them my senior year. I remember telling them the reason I didn’t have people over was because they were afraid of our dog. I told so many lies growing up, I couldn’t keep track of where the truth was. The truth and the lie became intertwined. The reality was somewhere in there but I couldn’t see it and I didn’t want to see it.

I thought the lie was helping me. I thought it was for my benefit. I didn’t want to be embarrassed, I didn’t want people to feel bad for me, and I definitely didn’t want people to judge me. I thought my secret keeping was for my own sake. I also thought that it would help get them sober. I didn’t want them to feel bad. I didn’t want to add additional pain to their struggle. I realize now that it hurt me more. These secrets weighed me down and kept me from being able to function. I have shared before in previous posts that sharing these things with the wrong people was also harmful but not sharing anything at all was equally painful.

The lie wasn’t helping me. It certainly wasn’t helping them. It was feeding their addiction. Every time I covered for my mom, every time I protected my friends from being exposed to this, every time I pretended like things were fine I was nourishing the monster that is alcoholism. When my mom lost her job for drinking during work hours and passing out in her car, I told people she stopped working because she didn’t need to and we could afford for her to stay at home. When she missed family’s birthday parties, I would blame it on her being sick. When she would be missing for a few hours, I would tell her friends that she was sleeping. I was so good at lying and keeping these secrets to myself. We wouldn’t even need to talk about it because my mom knew I would take care of everything.

These secrets completely took away my mom’s motivation to get sober. Why should she? No one was going to find out, I was making sure of that. She didn’t have to apologize to anyone. She didn’t have to admit this embarrassing disease was controlling her life. She didn’t have to face any consequences. My secret keeping that I thought was for myself was doing more harm than good. Sure, I struggled with how people reacted when I shared with them. A lot of the time it was incredibly painful when people didn’t know how to respond or responded poorly. I don’t suggest opening up to every single person you meet but I also don’t recommend lying for the addict. It isn’t doing you or them any favors.

My family tried to make me feel really guilty when I stopped lying. I was embarrassing the family. My shaming her was going to trigger a relapse. The guilt she felt from others would make her want to drink more. BULL! My mom got so upset because she knew when I started being honest about what was going on, she would actually have some consequences. Honesty was her enemy and she still fights hard against me for being truthful. Luckily, with the strong support from my fellow ACOAs, my husband, and my friends, I know now though that lying for her and keeping all those secrets is for her the addiction’s gain.

Be honest with yourself and don’t lie for them. The only way we can break this stigma people have against addiction is to talk about it.

Thanks for reading! Subscribe if you would like to read more in the future. I have loved reading the feedback from all over the world and interacting with some of my readers. It is so nice to know we aren’t alone in this struggle.

-Grumpy Sunshine.

You’re Still You

When you love someone struggling with addiction, you can feel like you are losing yourself. Your life starts to revolve around their addiction. You feel like the special parts that make you…well you…are slipping away. You used to be the person that always saw Marvel movies the day they came out or you used to always be the last person to leave a party because you wanted to help the host clean up. Things are different now. Who knows when your loved one is going to need you? You can’t see that movie on a Friday, you have to take them to their meeting. You can’t even go to that party let alone be the last person there, the pressures from social anxiety will trigger a relapse. Are you even still in there?

YES YOU ARE! I see you. I feel you struggling. I hear your pain. I went through a phase where my whole life revolved around my mom’s addiction. I lost myself and I was hurting for a long time. I loved me but I changed me to try to be what she needed. I desperately wanted to contribute to her sobriety. I thought if I made choices that would benefit her, she would have to get sober. I know, naïve thinking. I blame it on my youth, my desperation for a sober mom, and the hope that my family could recover from all the hurt.

I chose the college I attended in order to help my dad more with my mom’s “episodes”, I got a job at the church my mom attended so I could stay in the loop, and I dated someone I knew would never leave our hometown so I wouldn’t have to risk the threat of “abandoning” my family. These are BIG life choices that weren’t even based off of my own wants and needs. The person I was dating was nothing like me. I became more like them and a stranger to myself. The college I attended, worked out for the best in the end, but it took a long time to get me out of my comfort zone. My part-time job kept me engrossed in my mom’s drinking. All I was doing was getting myself more involved in my mom’s alcoholism. Spoiler alert, that didn’t get her sober.

It took years of my adulthood to realize that I was just staying in the storm instead of trying to get to shore. I was in a perpetual state of drowning and I didn’t even care that people were constantly throwing me lifelines. I was content staying in that horrible state.

It took me moving an hour away from my family to realize how desperately I missed myself. Within the first few weeks living away from my family, I could tell I was getting healthier. I was sleeping better, I was doing things for myself, and I started taking care of my body again. My friends could tell I was happier. My supervisor could tell I was less stressed about work anxieties. My husband reminded me that I was getting less headaches. I was being silly again. I started reading for pleasure. I started caring about my friends more than my own problems. It was amazing. I hadn’t been this “me” in years.

Even though this is WONDERFUL it shows how weak I am. I had to MOVE away in order set my own boundaries. I completely lost myself in my mom’s addiction. How do people manage who still are living in the home? How do you be yourself? How do you take care of yourself? How do you not lose yourself in the disease? Addiction isn’t just suffered by the addict, the whole family is affected.

I was in a lucky position where I could move away. I don’t know if I would have found myself if I hadn’t gotten that distance. If you aren’t in that kind of position and maybe you don’t even want to, that’s fine. But take time to be you. Find a time or a day where your needs are the one on the forefront. Do something that only you would do. Go see that Marvel movie. Go to that party and be the helpful guest. Go to a magic show. Watch an old musical. Find a way to the parts of you that you have always loved. The parts of you that people say “That is so Jane/John.” You deserve that! We deserve to be selfish and to meet our own needs. If our own cup is empty, we can’t pour into other’s.

The best learning experience I have had is that when I left, nothing changed. My dad and sister made me feel guilty because they are still living in that storm but my mom didn’t get better or worse. She’s still an alcoholic. She’s still getting arrested from time to time. Our family is still embarrassed. And I now KNOW that me living there isn’t going to change that because it didn’t. I lived there for 20+ years and she didn’t get sober. I would hate if something happened to my mom but I cannot get her sober.

I am happy now. I have a life. It doesn’t revolve around her drinking. It revolves around me, my friends, my husband, my nieces and nephews, etc. It revolves around life. Fight to have your own life! It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

-Grumpy Sunshine

 

 

Pain Snobs

You know when you tell a story about a struggle you have been through and the person you are talking to has to top your misery? You share that you have a headache and they share that their cousin has a tumor. You say you stubbed your toe and they tell you that their father lost their foot in the war. You discuss your mom getting arrested and they talk about both of their parents being in jail. THANK YOU competitive pain snob. We get it. Your pain is worse. Ugh. I am not sure if they think they are comforting us by letting us know things could always be worse…but rarely is it actually comforting. I have found that as an adult child of an alcoholic, I have been the victim and the perpetrator of this annoying characteristic.

As the victim, I don’t care that you know someone that has it worse. I am not currently looking to get a guilt trip on how I should be grateful because my story isn’t the WORST story you have ever heard. That is not the point of me sharing. This is not a competition and if it is a competition, it’s the stupidest one out there. If I am sharing that my mom has been arrested, I want you to listen and simply say “That sucks”, “I’m sorry”, or “Is there anything I can do?”. Sure there is a time and a place for misery loving company but maybe say something like “If you want to talk to someone who has been through something similar, let me know” and then it will give me the option if I want to share that kind of company. I don’t need you to one up my story.

Why? Because it often minimizes my pain. I get it, I get it, I get it. I don’t need to cry for hours if my mom passes out at my nieces ballet recital but you don’t need to remind me that your uncle drunkenly ran a tractor through the family reunion so I should “count my blessings”. I cannot tell you how many times I have shared with someone that I was frustrated with my parents and they would start a story off going “Well if you think that’s bad….” stop right there! I see how you’d think that that’s showing empathy but it ISN’T. Just listen for a few minutes. I will run out of steam on the issue BUT I need to feel sorry for myself for a little while. If you don’t want to take part in the pity party, give a sympathetic nod and fake a phone call. It will be less degrading than you making me feel as if what is traumatic to me doesn’t meet your standards for trauma.

Unfortunately, since I did grow up in a home with alcoholism, I have also been the pain snob. Like those before me I am not doing it to hurt people and I am not doing it to try to be competitive with misery but let’s face it, if you grew up in a home with addiction, you are entitled to say you went through some shit. There is a time and a place for that though. I constantly am working on myself with this. I have found that because I have been through a few rough times, I have become less sensitive to others’ struggles. I hate this about myself.

For example, my friend’s family was going through a rough spot in college. Her mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her family didn’t tell her about it and when she found out months later, she was furious. Her mom was healthy by the time she learned but she still felt betrayed. She talked with me about it and I handled it just the way I would have hated it being handled had I been in her shoes. I tried to one up her with the stuff I was going through. I think in my own twisted way I was trying to remind her to be grateful? Maybe. I don’t know but it just came across awful. We were good enough friends that she called me on it.

At first, I was shocked and I was angry. How dare she accuse me of being a pain hog? She had no idea what I went through! She was lucky her mom was now healthy and not struggling with addiction her whole life. Sigh. God, I was annoying. After I calmed down, I realized she was completely right. Just because her parents weren’t alcoholics didn’t mean she couldn’t be upset about something. She was allowed to have her own pain. She was allowed to talk about it. It was expected of me to just listen. It was a really valuable lesson for me because I had always pointed the finger at those who competed for the “saddest sob story” and yet there I was, doing the exact same thing.

I think it’s hard for us who love those struggling with addiction because it is an incredibly painful role. No doubt about it. I think it’s important to remind ourselves though that we aren’t the only ones struggling. Sometimes it’s our turn to listen to our friends without reminding them of how our lives suck too/worse. Maybe our lives are harder. Maybe we are simply jealous because our friend’s problems are so much simpler than ours. Maybe we are even angry with them because they are complaining about something that we WISH was our problem. That’s not their fault though. Nobody likes a one-upper. Nobody likes a pain hog. Nobody wants to be friends with the pain snob.

Learn from my mistakes and be truly empathetic. We need to set the example. If we need the favor returned one day, hopefully they will show us the kindness we showed them and simply listen.

Thanks for reading! Subscribe if you are interested in reading more. I love hearing ideas from subscribers on topics to discuss! Email me anytime and thanks to those of you who have reached out and shared support. It means more than you know.

-Grumpy Sunshine

Writing a Prescription for a Relapse

As an adult child of an alcoholic, unexpected anger towards my parents is a nasty little side effect. Symptoms include bitchiness, irrational behavior, and throwing tantrum. Sounds a little dramatic. I am in my late twenties. Should I really be throwing temper tantrums? Yes. Yes I should. Thank you for asking. However, there is an appropriate way to show your anger and there is an immature way to show your anger. Being the big person that I am, I will admit that I have chosen the immature way far too many times.

My mom has been through spells where she was doing well. She would go a couple weeks sober and we would all be holding our breath that nothing would push her over the edge. It was almost worse than when she was actually drinking because at least then we knew what to expect. When she was sober, we all knew the monster was going to come back but we didn’t know how or when. We slowly start to get our hopes up and then BAM! relapse hits us and we feel worse than ever.

A frustrating part of this sober period for me would be when she started getting “overly motherly” towards me. She would start being more critical, give her opinion when I didn’t ask for it on my lifestyle choices, clothes, or choices in dates, and she would try to pick fights with me. So on top of my constant worry that she was about to relapse, she was also getting on my damn nerves. Right about the time she would start picking fights with me I would know that she was soon to relapse. She was using the fight as an excuse for her to drink. She would blame it on me “triggering” her with my mean attitude.

When I was younger, I would just swallow my anger and try to tiptoe around her. I didn’t want to give her any justification for drinking. I soon realized, I didn’t have power over when she decided to relapse and I drastically changed my approach.  I swung the complete opposite direction. I recognized the pattern of her picking fights right before she relapsed and I decided to go ahead and jump the gun. I would pick fights first. If she was going to drink, might as well pop her sobriety bubble and get it over with so we can all breathe again. Probably not the healthiest perspective but I was exhausted of getting my hopes up and them being dashed.

I started by being a brat. She would ask me simple questions and I would respond with alcoholism related sentences. For example, my mom would say “How was your day?” and I would say “Well I didn’t get arrested for a DUI” and that would be the end of the conversation. It was bitchy and irrational but I was (let’s be real-am) angry and I was (am) a moody female. It happens.

Then the outbursts would come. My mom would be a few weeks sober and I would be tired of her puppy dog face she was sporting. She does this the first few weeks after a big incident to try to gain sympathy. She might try to give us a gift or make us one of our favorite meals, anything to get back on our good side. She once bought me a lovely, expensive purse after a highly public and embarrassing relapse. She did it out of love (and probably manipulation). I responded with “Oh great, I can use this to carry all my shame”. Then I pretended the purse was too heavy to carry…I know. I’m amusing.

When you shame an alcoholic, you might as well be writing a prescription for a relapse. Don’t get me wrong. That sounds like it’s taking the responsibility off of them and that is not my intention with that statement. This doesn’t mean you can’t be angry. This doesn’t mean you can’t be disappointed. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them about their problem. But I would learn from my mistakes. My comments weren’t helpful. My outbursts weren’t educational. My bitchy comments were just that, bitchy comments. I didn’t feel better afterwards and neither did she. In fact, I felt even guiltier than normal.  I was a better person than that.

There will always be a time when I need to throw a tantrum because of my mother. The woman drives me insane. But when I give in and I am only responding to her out of hate, I should instead not be responding to her at all. I should separate myself and take some time readjust. I don’t think I should do this for my mom’s sake. Screw that. I should do this for my own sake. When I get filled with that much animosity, it isn’t good for any aspect of my life. Who likes to be filled with hateful feelings? Who wants to hurt their loved ones? Who wants to be ashamed of themselves? I don’t.

I will always get mad when my mom relapses but I can choose how to respond to it. I don’t have to enable it by fixing everything for her. I don’t have to tell her it’s okay. I also don’t have to be around. But yelling at her and screaming at her when I know hate can’t cure alcoholism is just stupid. I can be angry. No one can take that from me. But I will not let my mom take my kindness from me. I will not let her alcoholism fill my heart with hate. I deserve a heart full of love. So do you. Next time you see them taking that love you have from you, step away. This is their disease, not yours. It affects you. Absolutely. It affects all parts of you. When you can though, step back and remember who is the person fighting a terrible disease and who isn’t. Choose love. Even if it means not talking to them for months. That might be the best kind of love you can give.

Thanks for reading! Subscribe if you enjoy and want to read more.

-Grumpy Sunshine

 

 

Never too Late for Help

What is it about asking for help that makes it so hard? Fear of judgment? Perhaps. Worry about rejection? Sometimes. Laziness? Possibly. Feeling hopeless? It can be. Whatever the reason, many of us are held back by reaching out when we need it most. Personally, I am always afraid to reach out for help because of being burned in the past by that action. Anyone who has loved an addict knows how that is. When you reach out for help, all of those things I listed above can come into play. People may get uncomfortable around you, they may judge you, they may reject you, or they may try to avoid you. So why even bother? Well there’s a simple answer to that…because you’re worth it.

~One of my subscribers asked for a post about recovering from scars left by someone’s addiction years later at an older age. As a “youngster” myself, I wasn’t sure I would be able to rise to the occasion. After talking with a few relatives and older friends, I am going to give it a shot. I’d love to hear any feedback!~

If you were raised by an alcoholic or an addict, that’s not something you just “get over”. Sure trauma affects everyone differently but its usually something you don’t forget. Those scars are usually deeper than we may realize. Having addiction in the family affects how we grow up, it affects our outlook on life, it affects our adult relationships, and it’s something we will always carry with us. That can be an incredible burden…a heavy, stupid, ugly burden. BUT It can also be an incredible gift to use to relate to others who are suffering.

I have selfishly held onto my own pain from my parents’ drinking for years. After being burned so many times after reaching out for help, I stopped reaching. I was tired of therapy. I was tired of meetings. I was tired of judgment from others who didn’t understand. I was just tired. My mom and dad weren’t changing. Why should I? I could have just stayed as I was and let my anxiety continue to consume me. That might have even been the easier route. By easier, I mean more familiar. I could stay in my comfort zone, which ironically was discomfort. I reached a breaking point though.

I was standing in line at the grocery store with one item in my hand, my go-to for anxiety, Tums. Anytime I was on my way to my parents, I made sure I had enough to get me through the weekend/visit. As I sat there holding staring at my safety blanket, these colorful tablets that helped ease my anxious stomach, I felt really sad. What was going to happen when I needed 5-6 Tums to settle me down? I might as well buy stock from Tums because my parents were always going to have their problems and I was always going to be somewhat affected by it. I could keep eating my Tums. I decided against it though and put the Tums back and left the store. I went to my parents house that night and dealt with whatever shenanigans were happening at that time. The next morning I woke up and decided to take a more vulnerable route. I was drowning in the anxiety and I needed a way to reach out. I decided to start this blog.

I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to read it and I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to relate but I was sure that I needed to let go of my pain. I started sharing my story. I started talking to others who have been through similar upbringings. It was a slow start but with each comment, with each email, and with each share on Facebook, I learned the old phrase was true, misery does love company. My readers and my followers reached out and shared that they had been there. People said they knew my pain. They told me they appreciated my storytelling. People said they were feeling stuck too and it was nice to know someone else was like that as well. Strangers on the internet gave me more hope than I had felt in years. I wasn’t alone. I think the most amazing part about this is that I don’t get credit for it. My close friends and family are not aware of my writing. It is something I am happily and selfishly doing just for myself.

When you have been fighting for years and you are tired of fighting, it seems like the best option might be to give up. You have more days behind you than you do ahead of you so why not just wade it out? I will say it again….because you are worth it. You are worth fighting for every. single. day. You are worth getting out of bed and saying “I can freaking do this”. It can be exhausting. No, it will be exhausting. But fighting your way out of that “comfort zone of discomfort” is one of the most freeing feelings in the world.

Whether you are 25 or 75, you should fight for the days ahead of you to be good ones. It might not feel like it at first but people are watching you. You could inspire someone else to start fighting for themselves. Learning that will motivate you to keep fighting for yourself. I have received some negative feedback from my blog and those days can be hard. Other days, writing isn’t enough to ease my anxiety but I will continue writing and I will continue fighting. I am worth it. 

Find the type of coping that works for you. Maybe it’s writing, maybe its singing, maybe its volunteering, or maybe its cooking. It could be a number of things but don’t ever stop looking to help yourself. Fighting for yourself could help someone else, which I firmly believe will always help you feel better.

Thanks for the suggestion subscriber 🙂 I welcome any other ideas on what to write about. Subscribe if you would like to see my stories in the future and share on Facebook if you think this could help someone out.

-Grumpy Sunshine

 

Setting Boundaries

If you were raised by an alcoholic or if you love someone suffering from addiction, at some point you have struggled with boundaries. Why? Because an alcoholic or an addict crosses boundaries all the time to get their fix. They can be manipulative and even downright cruel if they are craving badly enough and they don’t mind hurting your feelings or the feelings of loved ones. You in return cross boundaries to try to save them, to try to protect them, and to try to protect others. It’s a boundary nightmare.

I have come to find that boundaries are one of the most important aspects in any relationship, even those without addiction. I learned this the hard way over and over again until it really sunk in that I needed to set boundaries not only for myself but for the people I love as well.

First, there are the boundaries we break with the alcoholic themselves. Mine has always been the fact that I tried to take care of my mother constantly. I started cleaning the home more so she wouldn’t be stressed about it. I would do things only she wanted to do so she would stay in a good mood. I would protect my dad by covering up when my mom did something embarrassing and we had guests over. I wanted to remove all triggers from my mom and I wanted my family to be happy. My heart was in the right place but I was still doing the wrong thing.

I could not become the mother to my own mother. You cannot mother the alcoholism out of a person. You cannot remove all triggers in life. You lose yourself in the process of not having those boundaries. It was unfair that the youngest person in the family stepped into the role of the matriarch to keep the peace. My mom took advantage of all of those situations though and I would let her. We had no boundaries with each other because she knew I would try to do what was best for the family and I prayed she would get sober if she saw me trying so hard. That’s how I learned if you are working harder than the addict on getting them sober, they will never be sober.

Second, there is the addict crossing boundaries. As I have wrote about before, my mom is a very appealing person. She is bubbly, pretty, and very outgoing. People are drawn to her naturally, which creates problems for her children. My mom started building a relationship with my then soon to be in-laws. This was bad news for me. For most people that sounds like a good thing. You should want the parents of each spouse to get along, right? Sure! When your mom is an alcoholic though and you are still working on building a relationship with your future in-laws yourself, there are more important things than the in-laws getting along for a meal.

My mom started to go to lunch with my then boyfriend’s mother and it drove me insane. I knew that if his mom got close enough, she was going to learn the truth and try to get involved. I didn’t want them in that part of my life yet and my mom had no sympathy towards me. She knew what she was doing. She was building a support team so that when she did something awful, they wouldn’t be mad at her. I begged my mom to step back and she didn’t. She did not care about the boundary she was crossing.

Of course eventually, his mom did find out the truth about my mom and things went haywire. His mom started talking to me about it and it infuriated me. She had very limited understanding of addiction and was already on my mom’s “side” because she had grown to like her so much. I would try to educate her but it would end in one of us having hurt feelings. My boyfriend and I decided that was a subject not to discuss with his family because they wouldn’t understand and they would give unsolicited advice (and if you have read my previous posts, you know how I feel about that). My mom refused to respect my boundaries and I am still dealing with it years later.

Third, there is you breaking the boundaries about addiction with others. I learned that there are friends you can and cannot open up to about your family problems. I have one friend in particular who I had known for years. She was good friends with my now husband and we had spent a lot of time together. At a time when I was going through a hard time with my mom, I shared some of my concerns with this friend. She immediately was uncomfortable and changed the subject quickly. I was hurt and I was angry. We had been friends for years. Why couldn’t she at least acknowledge my pain? It took me quite a few months to accept this because my mom’s drinking was such a big part of my life. I later learned that this is how she reacts when she is faced with sensitive, personal subjects. She is just not the kind of friend you have those discussions with and that is okay. It is important to know your boundaries with those kinds of friends. That doesn’t mean she can’t be your friend but she just is your friend you talk about more shallow things with. Shallow friends can still be friends and that was a hard lesson for me to learn.

Boundaries are important. Boundaries are needed. Boundaries are not cruel. They are self-preservation. If you never learn to say no, you’ll always say yes. That sounds kind of dumb doesn’t it? It’s true though. Until you say no, they will always think of you as a yes man and they will take advantage of it. So say no for your own family, say no to improve your friendships, and most importantly say no for yourself because you are worth it.

One of the best things I ever did for myself was move about an hour away from my parents. It wasn’t far but it was far enough. My dad couldn’t call me to come over to fix things up before we had company. My mom couldn’t ask for rides because she had lost her license. My sister couldn’t ask me to babysit while she took care of something mom had done. I set one big hour long boundary in between myself and my family and it was so refreshing. It was so needed. I started seeing a complete change in myself when I let go of my guilt for not being there for my family. I started eating better. I started sleeping better. I even became a better friend to others.

I received a lot of guilt tripping about this move. I received it from my family. I received it from my mother’s friends. I even received it from my in-laws. People couldn’t understand how I could “abandon” my family when they needed me. That’s when I learned to set boundaries with people on their thoughts about my parent’s drinking. When my sister would guilt me about she being the only one around to help mom, I would remind her that she didn’t have to clean up after mom. When my dad made me feel bad, I would remind him that I am not the caretaker. When my friends would act surprised, I would match their surprise in how they responded. I had to get comfortable with people thinking I was selfish and thinking I was cold hearted.

If breaking away from a family filled with addiction is selfish, then I am proudly an incredibly selfish person. If learning to love myself away from my family was cold hearted, then my heart is made of ice and I can just throw on an extra blanket. Boundaries are not selfish and they are not cold hearted. Boundaries prevent enabling and they protect you. If you got anything from this article, I hope that it is to respect boundaries that others set with you and to set boundaries with others. There are some people you can be completely vulnerable with, my husband is my person for example, but it is unfair to expect that kind of acceptance from everyone.

Thanks for reading! I have received some great suggestions about what to write on in the next few weeks! Thanks for sending them to me. Please let me know if you have any ideas. Subscribe if you want to read more in the future and please share on social media! I want to continue fighting the stigma of what addiction looks like and I hope people get that from reading my stories.

-Grumpy Sunshine