Doctor Love: Heartbroken

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Readers, email your question to [email protected] Your letters are edited solely for grammar, spelling and length.

Dear Doctor Love
I am the mother of an adult alcoholic. I have tried to help her understand her behavior is damaging but she refuses all advice. Neither her father nor I are drinkers, her childhood was filled with love, encouragement and support but she is unable to cope with situations that are not perfect and ends up in violent confrontations with her boyfriend. She can rarely make her rent because she drinks her pay check every weekend. I regularly have to help her financially but my husband and I are getting older and we need to prepare for the time when we can retire. I feel guilty and depressed when I see her so lost. Where did I go wrong?
/s/Heartbroken

Dear Heartbroken;
All parents feel responsible for their children, but there comes a point when you must realize that she makes her own decisions, good or bad. Stop blaming yourself. It is her choices that put her in debt and destroy her relationships and she has to be accountable for those choices. You will always be her mother, but the role of parent and child changes over time. Parental responsibilities become fewer and over time the role may even become reversed as adult child cares for aging parent.
Loving her does not mean being financially responsible for her lifestyle and paying for her mistakes isn’t good parenting. If you help her out of every scrape she will never develop the coping skills she needs. It will allow her to make these bad choices over and over, knowing that she has you to bail her out of situations brought on by her own reckless actions.
While she needs to be held accountable for her actions, the upside is that she doesn’t have to be destitute and hit the bottom to see that she is in trouble. Offer to help her make those changes right now. Stop giving her money. If you feel guilty for refusing when she asks for money, then help her make a budget and teach her how to stick to that budget, even if it means she gives you her pay each week and gets an allowance to spend. Try to find support services in your community. If you are involved in a church, the youth pastor or a solid member of your community can become a mentor. You cannot rescue your adult child and think that you can save her by shouldering her responsibilities. It will make you miserable and reinforce the cycle of her drinking and you enabling her. Love is many things, martyrdom isn’t one of them.

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