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 (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 to 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.
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