Relationships with abusive parents and the full circle. How to cope?

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Only recently have I started to notice too well how the relationship with a parent changes from good parent to alcoholic parent to abusive parent...then you grow up and the parent apologizes for the wrongdoing, you mend fences, become friends, even. Then the manipulation begins. Once they realize you have forgiven them, they have a clean slate and full permission to begin abusing you in a whole new set of ways. Years of therapy going down the drain. I'm headed back, but it'll likely be months before I can get in the groove with a good counselor. How do I maintain my boundaries in the meantime. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement, it helps a lot, but I need something I can keep in my when she's railing about all the arguing going on at home (which is mostly due to her and her negativity)....deep breaths....

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Al-anon for you. If the parent has been actively treating the alcoholism with AA or another program, there shouldn't be this manipulation. If the person just stopped drinking but isn't treating the underlying problem, the disease isn't treated. Either way, I'd suggest that you attend Al-anon. Stay on the counselor's list, too, but Al-anon will help you set boundaries and detach so that you don't let yourself fall for the manipulation.

Take care of yourself first!
Hi amicable,

Boundaries require concrete consequences not as instruments of change or punishment, but means of self-protection. Forgiveness to me does not mean giving them a clean slate to abuse you once again. One consequence might be significantly reduced contact. Some have found it necessary to reach a point of no contact.

When she goes into one of her irrational rages, you can calmly reply that you are leaving until she is able to talk calmly. Or if this happens on the phone, tell her that you must end the conversation for the same reason. Yes, she is and will be upset, but she needs to learn to calm herself. Not setting boundaries and following through with concrete consequences only serves to enable and embolden them.

It sounds to me like she has some personality disorder. It's not as important to know the exact diagnosis as to realize that you did not make her that way. You can't control her personality. And despite all hope which I realize often lives eternal, you will not be able to change them. The only person that you can change is yourself. You can chose to step out of the mire and put yourself on a healthier path regardless of what she chooses to do. She's not going to stop her dance of fear, obligation and guilt. However, you don't have to dance this emotional black mail dance with her. She's groomed you for this dance, but you can get out.

It does not sound like she is the type of person from whom we would expect change via various motivations and in particular, sacrificial love.

Like some abused spouses who return in hopes that if they just love their spouse more, then they want get abused again. This is the same dynamic, but instead of the abuser being a spouse, it is a parent.

This is very hard to deal with because parents and particularly mothers are not supposed to be this way.

Sometimes there is a religious aspect to all of this that misuses a healthy biblical principle and statement in a very toxic manner which is an example of when religion gets sick because the person is sick and not because of faith itself.

None of this is easy as you've read me say this often today and yesterday. The F.O.G.y parent will get mad as hell, attempt to make you feel that you are the problem as their means to get you back in line. Remember, they can't succeed if you don't offer a codependent response back to them. Actually you have more power than they do because you can quit the dance.

Stop dancing her dance and dance your own. Have a great anniversary trip!
I think that growing up with an abusive/neglectful parent is the "norm" for us. too often it takes many, many years to "see" the abuse as such. My own mother was/is probably bipolar, but never dxed as such. She picked and chose her "favorites" from amongst her 6 kids. I was never the favorite, nor even close. I look back (with the aid of therapy) and realize how many ways and how many times she failed me, completely, in such basic ways as just providing me with health care and decent, appropriate clothing. She paid for college for the boys--not the girls. She fawned over my eldest brother to the point it was embarrassing. He was exempt from all household chores because he was a "genius". She often used the threat of suicide to keep us in line. Told us often how her dr said she'd die from the stress of raising us before she was 50. (She's now 85, soooo) Some of us were a lot more sensitive to this mood dynamic than others. 4 of the 6 of us have been in therapy and/or on antidepressants most of our adult lives.
Can I blame my mother for all this? Yes and no. I now acknowledge that she is sick...but I still suffer from the aftereffects of her words and actions. I do distance myself from her as much as I feel I can. I tried to be the most "opposite parent" I could be--and I did the best I could, but often felt hobbled by the voice in my head telling me I was a mess and not able to do anything well.
Mother has never apologized for anything, ever. I don't expect it, although it would be nice.
Why do we stay in these relationships? Guilt, probably, duty, I don't know. My mother lives with my brother. If were up to me, entirely, she'd be in an AL facility. And I would see her once a month. Not because I am mean, but because I simply have to self protect.
Thank you for posting, amicable - so many of us are coping with maintaining our personal boundaries in addition to the rigors of caregiving. As fate would have it, I am the only relative available to provide are for my mom (my brother and his wife have moved to Arizona, and never offer help of any kind.)
During my adolescent years, I suffered with depression and an eating disorder (which continued through my young adulthood).
As I spend so much time caring for mom now, I'm beginning to realize a lot of my early emotional struggles stemmed from her. Long story short, I've managed to overcome whatever bad feelings and behaviors of my early years, through counselling and just plain hard knocks.
What works for me is to be able to bring down a mental curtain between us if I feel manipulated or used. I mentally back away, maybe walk out of the room. Of course, she doesn't realize what I'm doing, and she interprets it as my being difficult. But I know in my mind - I'm nurturing myself when faced with toxicity.
I've tried talking with her, and before long, we're talking in circles. When she feels confronted, she brings out her arsenal of defense to distract from the issue. It's scary to see her do this, my own mother. The fact that I am her daughter seems to be meaningless to her. She has always been this way, so it's not that this is a new behavior due to being elderly.
I've learned to become a juggler of sorts- throwing multiple balls of responsibility in the air (my sanity being one of them) - and not letting any one of them drop. I've worked too hard to become an emotionally healthy human being to let my elderly mother (who has lived her life her way) bring me down.

My sympathy. CMagnum is right ( hi cmagnum!).

You wrote:

I need something I can keep in my when she's railing about all the arguing going on at home

The answer is: have an escape route!!! Do not be in the home!!!

This is the strategy that a lot of recovering alcoholics use to protect themselves. They just remove them selves from people, places, and things. Conversely, you must do the same.

My mom is not an alcoholic but my dad was and I have used this strategy for many years: keep visits frequent and very short, an hour or 90 minutes. Done and done. Get out of there. Even now, my mom is in AL and she is very nice but her behaviors (incessant interrogation) wear me out. So, lots of really short visits.

You can do this. Plan the day and the visits. Have a life. Go get'em!

One thing that I also realize is that dealing with this kind mental dysfunction of mother/parent/sibling really hampers your ability to think straight... It muddles up your head... not good when trying to work, drive, have a life... or anything else. Not a quality life that anyone would choose by any means.
I really like the answers above. Great advice. I might suggest also the book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Or another daily meditation book by her, The Language of Letting Go. Great insights on how to draw our boundaries and take care of ourselves.
Just returned from a visit with my abusive, crazy, manipulative, lying elderly mother, so I really empathize! The advice here about preserving your boundaries is good, and don't rule out cutting off contact completely. Only when I was permanently away from the toxicity (for 19 years) and in consistent therapy was I able to reconstruct a semblance of normal living. Imagine this: if you were dead, that elderly manipulator would have to deal with life, arranging care, getting into AL, on her own. She would manage, or social services would come in and make her manage. There is no need for you to plunge yourself back into the poison pool. In a very bad moment of abusive madness last week, I calmly (on the outside--I was upset on the inside) got up to remove myself from the poison, did not engage or respond to her manipulative attack, and said "I know you'll make good decisions about what you want to do." And left the room. In my case, as I imagine in a lot of such cases, no good can come of my being around, because she won't let me help, struggles against any suggestion or improvement I try to make, lies to me and about me to anyone who will listen, lies about what options are available to as to get more attention, and generally poisons everything in reach. My first duty is to make my own life constructive, healthy, good. Her presence makes that impossible. I got all the info about a really nice AL place that she can afford (nicer than my own apt, certainly), gave it to her, went for a visit with her, introduced her to the management, and then left town. ("This place is safer and nicer than your own home; I've done what I can do for you. Good luck." and left. I might or might not return for the funeral, but I feel real closure and liberation.)
I think some needs to write a new version of Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" with the title "50 Ways to Leave Your Abusive Mother" basically "get yourself free" via setting a boundary! for a boundary is the key that will set you free.!
You're right everyone... What makes it so difficult is the fact that it's your mother that you're dealing with (we only have one)... All these emotional times play havoc, does not heal the wounded heart and brings me to tears, especially when they're gone (because it will be forever etched in your memory). Difficult to deal with the damage...

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