My mother. Those are the only two words in the English language that have the ability to paralyze me emotionally. I never know exactly what she is going to say, but I do know that we can’t get through a single conversation without her backing me into a proverbial corner and pushing every button I’ve got.
The verbal abuse started when I was about ten. She had a very specific image of who she wanted me to grow into, a mini-her of sorts, and when my personality went in another direction, she was constantly questioning my intentions and criticizing me. Fiercely independent by nature, I fought back, and we behaved more like squabbling siblings than mother and daughter.
Shortly after I turned 13, I discovered weed, and it’s ability to quell my anxiety. Soon, it was part of my daily routine, and I was high every day by the time she came home from work. Having never developed healthy coping skills, I smoked weed every day, and I always made sure I was high whenever I went to family gatherings.
When I was 20, the father of my unborn child left me, because I refused to quit smoking when I got pregnant. Thankfully, my daughter was born healthy, but once she was old enough to understand, she resented both the time and money my addiction demanded.
Fast-forward to the present. I have been sober for ten years, and my daughter and I are rebuilding our relationship. But the rest of my family? Forget about it.
Between mother’s button-pushing, my sister’s holier-than-thou attitude, and my step-dad’s stern judgement, I still seize up with dread whenever the family gets together. In fact, it seems to get worse every year. I had to figure something out other than gritting my teeth to bear it.
I had always taken a hard line approach with my sobriety. In my family, you sucked things up. That’s what was wrong with me in the first place; I was weak when I wanted to be strong, so I hadn’t really asked anyone for help or advice.
That had to change.
I didn’t really feel comfortable talking to anyone about my feelings, so I started by researching on the internet. Soon, I was reading success stories and learning all sorts of coping skills. Within a week, I attended my first NA meeting.
The time to prepare ourselves emotionally is before we attend the family event or dinner. This is what has worked for me:
- Learn How to Detach – As long as I cared way too much about my family’s opinion of me, I was putty in their hands. By reeling my heart back in, I was able to look at them more objectively and remember that they have their own imperfections to worry about. They’re not qualified to judge me, so what they say really doesn’t matter.
- Don’t Take the Bait – Once you have detached, it will be much easier to see the dangling carrots they put in front of you for what they are – invitations to conversations that are geared to trap you. The temptation to make them see the truth eases when you realize that they don’t want resolution.
- Have a Plan – Even well-meaning, unsolicited advice can be stressful. Prepare to smile and suggest you continue the conversation another time. Or, you can excuse yourself to take an important call and then proceed to contact a pre-designated support person.
Staying sober around your family is possible, and the rewards are well worth the effort.
Please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today. We are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Help is available now.