Every girl needs her mum

Hello Tina,
I would love if you could please offer me direction/feedback on my small but ‘significant to me’ dilemma. I’ve suffered for over 20 years with challenges around addiction.  I’m a 41-year-old highly functional individual (at least by socially norms) with a well paying job, my own house (and all the jazz) and a loving family.

Over the 20 year, I’ve probably had 2 years free of addictive behaviours but sadly the remainder has been engulfed in emotional pain, sadness and long bouts of complete isolation. These bouts can last weeks on end and during those times I just go to pieces (but nobody can tell).  I can hide my addiction fairly well. I opened up about the depths of my addiction with my immediate family 4 years ago for the first time. Of course it came as no surprise and they knew very well how I was suffering (and to be honest I knew that they knew so that was fine). I booked myself into an in-patient recovery centre on a 12 week program.  I was ‘well’ for about 6 months and then, unfortunately, I relapsed badly and simply reverted back to the same patterns as below.  I’ve paid a very large price for it, losing partners, inability to have children, a loss of confidence, self-worth and most importantly joy.

Lately, I’ve reflected a lot on my mother’s lack of involvement in my struggle with addiction. I find myself getting angry, sad and disappointed as I have always tried to help her with any challenges that she has had. Plus – I am her child (irrespective of age … surely???) She is an amazing person, we chat almost every day and she is a genuinely pleasant typical Irish mammy. We love each other so much and this is what makes it more difficult to understand why she will never ask about my struggles. She asks me how I am and if I tell her that I am not in a good place and feeling a bit miserable her standard conveyor-belt reply is always “well no one can sort yourself out but you” – and that’s all I get.  There’s never ever a hug or a sincere chat about my wellbeing. I feel she has let me down a little. I don’t know whether to sit her down and tell her this as I know she cannot help me, and I do have to do this myself. I feel if she had given me help over the year, it could have really been a valuable part of my recovery. I understand that we are all adults and the onus is on me to help myself. Its just sometimes I would love to feel not so alone in this.
Do you think it is worth saying this to her even though I don’t feel she actually can give me what I need from her? Am I being unfair?


A You are not being unfair. You must have a very serious talk with your mother as this seems to be a great part of your sadness and I would suggest you have a family counsellor present to put your feelings into perspective so your mother can better understand them.

You say you have long bouts of complete isolation every so often, which can last weeks on end and during those time you just go to pieces (but nobody could tell).  How can people help if you hide it so well?  Mental health is so at the forefront of everyone’s mind the last couple of years, it does not carry the stigma it used to. Elaine and other very well known personalities speak openly about it.

I feel this is so bad for you because you are not sharing it properly, especially with your mother. She gives the remote response “well no one can sort yourself out but you” I wonder if she is reluctant to get too involved because she knows she’s not qualified to fix the problem, but in truth, the mere fact that she could sit, listen and give you a genuine hug could make all the difference – you wouldn’t feel so very alone.

You absolutely do need to go back to your doctor…it worked once before for 6 months but there doesn’t seem to be the backup that was so desperately needed when you had to face life on your own again.  Everyone needs help at some time in their lives and if you can’t go to your family and particularly your mother who looked after you as a little girl, and who you should be able to trust with your life, then who can you go to?

You say you understand that we are all adults and the onus is on us to help ourselves and that you would love to feel not so alone in this. The onus is NOT on you to help yourself because it’s impossible to help yourself when you feel so totally isolated, sad and suffering from depression, that’s when you REALLY need professional help and a loving family around you and I feel in your case, as with an alcoholic, it’s a condition you can’t just walk away from when you think you’re feeling better like when you came out of the recovery centre…it needs constant attention to keep it in check. I know many people who are on mild medication simply to get through life and it does really seem to work for them so again, check with your doctor.

You are an amazing person who, under extreme pressure, is holding down a good job, looking after your home and constantly trying to keep on top of a terrible burden. Try to remember what worked so well for you when you were in the recovery centre that it gave you six months of peace and try to kick start that cycle again if possible.

See your doctor to try to sort out the feelings of isolation. Make an appointment with a family counsellor and drag the Mammy with you because that seems to be weighing most heavily on your mind at the moment and tell your mother how much it would mean to you to have her come with you and help you through this difficult time.

You are an amazing person who, under extreme pressure, is holding down a good job, looking after your home and constantly trying to keep on top of a terrible burden.Tina Koumarianos

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