Punished by canceling Christmas.

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Hi Folks,

A couple of months ago I complained to my 85 year old mother that she was drinking too much, and making it very hard to enjoy being with her when I visit. She does not remember these occasions well, does not believe it, and claims that the whole idea is a fabrication.

She became very negative towards me in response. Now she has decided that "we're not having Christmas" this year. We have traditionally gathered at her house. She's punishing my sister, and her grandchildren as well. My sister still speaks with her, which is how I know about it. Mom asked me not to call her anymore. She sounds depressed and angry when she chooses to answer the phone.

My mother has always been addicted to alcohol, and so was my father until he passed away. She has had better control over her drinking, but it appears to be affecting her more strongly as she ages. She is still very active, drives her car, and takes care of her own home and property.

On a couple of occasions in the past, my sister and I have spoken to her about the drinking. She never seems to realize when her behavior is being strongly affected, even if she can barely walk around. She remembers the next day that we gave her a hard time, but has no idea why. The last time we complained 4-5 years ago, she started saying "No more interventions!" That's her label, not ours.

The last year has included a few very embarassing scenes in restaurants, and some behavior and language in front of my sister's children that was particularly regrettable. My wife's parents did not drink, making it that much worse to deal with her mother in law.

So I brought up the topic when my mother asked to go to dinner in a restaurant two months ago. The previous time we had been there, she was drinking even before we left the house. She said some disturbing things that our waiter, a member of a minority, should never have heard. She said she has no memory of it, and threatened to buy a tape recorder to disprove my false claims.

I can't think of a fix for this. I don't think that "going back to normal" is an option at this point. Normal was getting bad, or I wouldn't have mentioned the drinking to her again. I know that the ideal solution would be to get her to seek help, but there is phenomenal stubbornness involved.

I feel bad because of how this has affected our holidays. If there's a bright side, it's that the difficulties we had dealing with her drinking last Christmas won't be an issue. But at the same time, I am concerned about my mother sitting alone with nothing but the booze this year, while we do the best we can to celebrate.

1 Comment

Scott, I had a brother who was an alcoholic. He was married to his Jack Daniels and everything else came in a far second. In his addiction, he chose the bottle over his wife and son and the rest of his family. Your mother may be in that same situation, where she would prefer to spend time with the liquor over family. I don't know if this is the case for you, but it often is with serious alcoholics.

The sad thing is that unless she wants to change, she won't be able to do it. Stopping is something that only she can choose for herself. Many times something catastrophic brings about a desire to change. If you see any windows of opportunity, try to get her into rehab.

Does she spend a lot of time alone? People with addictions tend to use more when they are alone. Having people around makes them more accountable for their behavior, so they tend to drink less. If she doesn't want you or the rest of the family around, I don't know what you could do there.

I wish I had a good answer. Alcoholism is a difficult problem to work through with a loved one. I hope that you will still contact her on Christmas and let her know how much you care. Maybe it will plant a seed in her that will make her realize she doesn't want to lose the ones she loves so that she can drink in peace.

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

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