From denial to acceptance—a mother’s struggle with adult daughter’s drinking

Plenty of alarms had been going off in regard to my adult daughter’s drinking—but for years, I consistently hit the snooze button and denied her disease. After all, I’d been a therapist at a local women’s treatment center for 11 years; I knew a lot about addiction and alcoholism. I helped my clients work Step One to get them started in the program. But nothing could have prepared me for my own daughter’s alcoholic behavior and my reaction to it.

I realize now that I spent years in “full enabling mode” trying to love her, or finance her, out of her destructive patterns. I reminded her to monitor her drinking, gave all kinds of advice, opinions, and judgments—in my desperate attempts to control her drinking. I wanted to give her a treatment plan as I had for so many clients. However, she was not a client and I was attempting to run her life for her. After all, she wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

Fear drove me. My mind obsessed about what could happen to her when she was drunk. What if she lost her job? What if she became homeless? The list of fears was endless; I couldn’t stop myself. I was as out of control as she was, just in a different way. But all my helpfulness didn’t work and just served to distance her from me.

Finally, my daughter checked herself into the very treatment center where I had worked for so many years. Three days later, I was sitting with her at the Emergency Room where she’d been taken by ambulance due to having detox seizures. That’s the day I stopped hitting the snooze button and began working my own Step One.

My program in Al‑Anon is about changing myself and accepting that I am powerless to change others. I can love my daughter, but I do not have the right or responsibility to interfere with her life and her choices. I realize now that by enabling her over the years, I had prevented her from experiencing the consequences of her drinking and from learning what she needed to learn.

Now, I practice getting out of her way and focusing on myself. Today, I choose to manage my own life and I’m restored to sanity by my relationship with my Higher Power, working the Steps with a Sponsor, and attending meetings.

By Becky R., Missouri
The Forum, October 2011

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