My mother is spending all her money on cigarettes. How do I get rid of the guilt when my mother refuses to take care of herself?

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My mother lives in a nice income based senior living apartment. She was LUCKY to get this place (long waiting list). She lived with me and my husband rent free, meals provided for 2 1/2 years so she could save all her money after my step father died. When she moved in the apartment she had quite a savings account. Fast forward 2 years and all of a sudden she is running out of money halfway through the month. Reason is she spends a minimum of 75 dollars a week to smoke (yes that's the price of a carton of cigarettes in MI). She's not supposed to be smoking she has COPD among other health issues and she lives in a no smoking apartment (they all are in MI). She shouldn't be running out of money, the Social Sec she receives each month is probably more money than her and my stepdad had most months while he was alive and she should be able to live on it. She only qualifies for 15 dollars a month food stamps. She just repeatedly says it (the smoking ) is all I have to live for, she refuses to try and stop. She has 5 living daughters and 28 grandchildren so its sad to hear her say that's all she has to live for. It makes me so angry. I made up my mind I am no longer going to help her financially. I cant afford to give her the 250-300 dollars she is spending each month on cigarettes . Now I fear she's not paying bills so she can buy cigarettes. If you take her food or pay her bills that's in my eyes enabling her to spend her money on Cigarettes. I feel if she wants to continue to waste that money on cigarettes then she needs to figure out where her bill money and food is going to come from. Am I wrong for feeling like this ? The guilt is overwhelming but none of my sisters or me has the money to pay for her nasty habit. And like I said when you bring it up she just repeatedly says its all I have to live for, so I am not going to discuss it with her any more. How can I get rid of the guilt I feel and why on earth do I feel guilty that my mother refuses to do what she has to do take care of herself.

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don't give her money - I had to cut off my mom and amazingly - she found a way to pay for food and rent - your mom might have some stress if she doesn't have money for rent - but she'll figure it out. She is an adult.
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Reply to Kimber166
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If she has COPD, make sure her doctor knows how much she is smoking. Also, her apartment manager should know. She is placing other residents at risk with her second hand smoke or danger of fire risk should she accidentally cause a fire. If she is of sound mind and doesn’t pay her bills let her suffer the consequences. She doesn’t care much for herself if she is continuing to smoke with COPD.
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Reply to anonymous439773
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Well I understand why you’re angry. She has taken advantage of you and your family. She is demanding that you continue to be taken advantage of by giving her money. Did she smoke when she lived with you? What did she live for then? What was her attitude towards your family while she stayed with you?

OK. You’ve made a decision NOT to give her anymore money. She’s blown her savings you surmise, mostly on cigarettes. How much money did she have? It sounds like she has been spending it on other things. The math doesn’t add up to me.

BUT has she been checked out for dementia or compromised mental functioning. Has she always been irresponsible with money? Because not being able to handle money is one of the first signs of dementia.
My former business woman mom couldn’t write a check (she couldn’t remember how). THAT told me it was time for her to get tested properly in a geri psych unit in a hospital. Medicaire paid for it.

If the results for your mom are what I think they’ll be, she’s going to have to go to assisted living at least. She can’t care for herself obviously.

The last thing I’d do is report her. It might cause her to get kicked off the waiting list. Hopefully she’s in the system now and can be moved to a different level of care.

But I agree, don’t give her money because you and your sisters have to pay your own bills! Tell your mom she has compromised her living situation and it’s against the rules to smoke (she probably signed a document saying she wouldn’t!). Ask her what would she live for then, because she’s not coming back to your house to live. Then stick to your guns! You’ve already gone beyond the call of duty with her!!!

Get control of her bank account, if she has dementia that will be easier. Show mom that she’s got consequences to pay.

1. Stop smoking

But guilt? No. Is mom a narcissist?
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Reply to HolidayEnd
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Humm...definitely do not let your mother become homeless. The first post is judgmental and compassionless. Stop feeling guilty, you’ve nothing to feel guilty about!
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Reply to HolidayEnd
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Okay, look at this from the MOM's point of view. She is lost, lonely and knows there is something massively wrong with her. She knows when her mind is affected and it sounds as though it is and a dementia diagnosis is not far off. She is afraid, has no idea what is wrong. She gets comfort from smoking. It may be illusionary but it seems to calm and steady her. She needs that. And it is there, right in her pocket. Does it matter that it is against the rules? It is all she has. How do I think this is the mindset of the Mom? I am a caretaker, I have COPD, I am 84, and I smoke. I know better. I also have very limited funds. And I know it is an addiction.

Okay, now there are ways of trying to help her. And she needs help, not anger and retaliation. Is there one person she trusts absolutely? Her doctor, a clergy person? They can talk with her. If she needs to be in a facility she will be unable to buy the cigarettes and perforce will stop. She won't stop missing the comfort factor though. There are fake cigarettes (remember the candy cigarettes we had as kids?) that feel real in the mouth. There is chewing gum. And the doctor can prescribe a patch that does help. There are meds specifically for this but they can give dire side effects that I could not deal with. IT IS NOT A MATTER OF WILL POWER. A smoker can know, can understand the consequences, and still continue to light up. WE, for whatever our needs, need that tiny bit of comfort that is unexplainable to a non-smoker more than anything else. And think about it -- this is one of the few acts still within our control. We choose it. Wrongly, of course, but we do.

She does not continue because of spite, or to make you angry, or to waste money. She cannot give up the few moments of comfort because it really is all she has. Even if you do not express it, she feels your anger and disapproval. She could well feel completely alone and unloved. I don't mean to justify or approve of this, by the way. I don't. I'd quit in an eye blink if I could. I just want to show that it might be possible to come at this from another perspective.
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Reply to GenKazdin
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Never "enable" an addict - be that person you mother or a stranger. If she choose to spend her money on cigarettes, that is her choice. She is taking advantage of you. Why should you feel "guilty" about an addict mother, when it is her choice?
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Reply to dragonflower
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Hi Everyone,
Sorry everyone, this is probably going to be a long post so I want to apologize ahead of time. Well I hope I don't get myself barred from posting, but I guess you could say I can give some insight from the other side of the fence. 1golflady, you do not say how old your Mom is. I am 66 and will be 67 in September.

Yes smoking is a serious concern. I am a smoker and have been for 57 years. When I started smoking it was considered fashionable and everybody was doing it. Kids would go out behind the barn or the garage and smoke or as they got older smoke when they were not at home. There wasn't the stigma, or the knowledge of the dangers of smoking that there are now days. Both my parents smoked and as I and my brother got older we both smoked. My Mom, being that she was a smoker did not know that I smoked until I was 16 when she asked me and I told her yes. The only thing she said? If you are going to smoke please don't hide it and don't smoke when you are not at home. We promptly went in fixed a cup of coffee and smoked a cigarette with our coffee. My Mom smoked until the day she passed away.

Sorry, just wanted to give some history. Even as a smoker I am not condoning it and have been trying to quit. I once heard a doctor say that quitting smoking is harder for people that getting off of heroin. It gets you physically and mentally. And trust me the mental is 10 times worse than the physical. I know for me it is a stress reliever, keeps me from stress eating and is relaxing. Twenty-seven years ago my honey and I walked away from drinking and never looked back, but cigarettes are something we have not been able to quit. We have tried Chantix..my honey had weird dreams and took walks while still asleep. Me...I was allergic to it and broke out from head to foot with what looked like measles. (I promptly quit the Chantix). My brother was able to quit using Chantix. We smoke only in certain areas of our home and never in bed or in the bedroom.

Cigarettes are expensive (I can remember when they were 25 cents a pack). Now we roll our own. We have a roller, buy bulk tobacco and tubes, and they turn out just like store bought but it only costs us around 80.00 a month total instead of 75-150.00 a week per person that it would cost if we bought the cigarettes at the store. This is the way that we have overcome the high cost. Plus we smoke less as I roll a set amount of cigarettes and when that is gone that is it for the day. And there are some days when I don't want to roll so I smoke even less. I don't have the physical dependence anymore and have proven that to myself. It is overcoming the mental side of it. I have gone from over 2 packs a day down less than 1. It is the only vice that I have left, but am still working to quit. I can understand in ways where your Mom is coming from 1golflady. This is her "security blanket"..her comfort through all that is happening in her life. I can't speak for all smokers but I guess you could say it is an old friend. COPD is a horrible thing. I was diagnosed with it 35 years ago. I am one of the lucky ones as per my doctor my lungs are in good shape. I get allergy related asthma, have had strokes (they think were caused by the number of head injuries I had when I was younger) and heart problems (doctor feels from the stress I have been under for the last 40 years). I know that I need to quit smoking, but I just have not been able to and continue to work toward that goal. I have a wonderful daughter, son in law and 4 beautiful granddaughters. Luckily my daughter never smoked. She tried it one time and did not like it.

For those who don't smoke it is hard to understand those who do. I am of sound mind, and it is a choice I made just as I have decided that it is time to quit. I don't like the smell that it leaves on my person and in my home, but it is what it is until I can quit. The only good thing, with rolling my own cigarettes the tobacco does not have all the chemicals that store bought has, the tubes have cotton filters instead of synthetic and it is much cheaper. If your Mom is determined to smoke, don't alienate her or get her kicked out of where she is at. Chances are if they have been in her apartment..they know. If she is of sound mind, you won't be able to change her mind on it. It is hard but stand by her, love her and hope for the best. If you report her to the apartments it could mean her becoming homeless and from your post I know you love her though it sounds as if you are hurt and frustrated. She has to want to quit. If she is determined to smoke my only suggestion would be to have her roll her own to save her money and possibly slow down the amount she smokes. It takes practice, but once a person has learned the in and outs it does not take long to roll a pack. We order our tubes and tobacco (as well as roller) from a company on line and have ordered from this company for about 6 or 7 years as it just got too expensive to buy over the counter. Now we cannot smoke the over the counter cigs as we can taste all the chemicals in them.

1golflady (or anyone) if you have any questions please private message me. Thanks for letting me add my "3 cents worth" (in this case instead of 2). As I said I am not condoning it only trying to give insight as to what it is like to be a smoker.

Y'all have a great weekend!
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Reply to Dusti22
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My mom lives with us and blows her money on things she does not need. Has 15 credit cards and buys anything she sees, then cries she might not have her money for me. She pays electric and water bill for our house so it’s way less than any rent she could ever find. I won’t give her any money or cover her expenses for her. I just say that I’m strapped and she better come up with her bill money. She always does. I think if you don’t help her; she will figure it out to avoid losing her home. And all this shopping is what my mom cares about over people. It’s more of a mental problem than anything. Definitely get her checked mentally, but don’t burn any bridges with her or for her.
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Reply to Tluther
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I see Gens point but I lived with a chain smoker growing up. I find smokers are self-centered. In my case anyway. Dad burned more holes in stuff and it was always "oh well". Not sure why you would feel guilty, concerned, yes. You had nothing to do with Moms smoking. Its not your fault she has COPD. Guilt because you know you will have to cut her off, that I understand. I don't think Mom is going to stop smoking. So, work on getting her weaned down. Maybe a sit down with Mom and siblings. Explain that this apt is it. First, she is breaking the law smoking in a public building. If its HUD subsidized than its a government building. Total up her bills, include food and personal items. Tell her what is left over is her "smokes" money. She can't spend more than that. Then explain that you and siblings refuse to support her smoking habit. So, if she is short on paying her bills because she chooses to smoke that will be her problem. If she feels the need to smoke she must go off grounds. (See if the place has a designated area) Make it clear, you will not be taking her in because this is something she needs to deal with. If she can't guit, then cut back.

I don't think you will need to tell the landlord she is smoking in her apt. A resident will probably do that for you. I find that I am very sensitive to smoke. So if I lived in an apt, I could probably smell smoke if it was right next door.

Do you go to the doctor with Mom? If you do or don't, it wouldn't hurt to give him a note telling him Mom continues to smoke and how much. You can't help those who don't help themselves.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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You should not feel guilty that you will not buy her cigarettes, you are absolutely right about paying for other items does contribute to the cigarettes.

I am a former smoker and quitting was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It is an addiction that stimulates serotonin and that makes it a monster to give up, everything feels bigger and harder because your chemicals are all screwed up from it. I know that if you have never battled this demon, it is really impossible to understand how a lung full of stinking smoke can feel like a hug, it's the chemical reaction.

I have a feeling that your mom doesn't know how to say what is real, so she says it all she has to live for, come on, everyone knows it's a killer. Why do you think smokers say they are going to have a cancer stick.

As for people that go straight for the jugular about this situation, they should pray they never have any problems that require understanding and compassion. To have an old woman made homeless, shame.

Your mom, unless she has proven otherwise, is not smoking to hurt her family, she is old, widowed most likely scared and probably a little lonely and lost without her spouse.

Do not contribute to the addiction but please don't let it define your love for her. If she really wants to smoke she will need to figure out how to financially pull it off. Lovingly tell her that, she will probably get mad, seems that generation doesn't want to take responsibility for their choices. Let her be mad, tell her you love her, even though she thinks she's a chimney ;), hey, we all have our stuff.

Best of luck with her taking responsibility for her, its amazing how people can step up when they have to.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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