As I write this letter I am overcome with emotions. Relief, fear, trepidation, elation…the feelings are all jumbled up inside of me.
Please allow me to back track.
My daughter, who recently turned 20, just left to rehab. After four years of denial, lies, manipulation, anger and chaos she finally admitted she has a problem with alcohol.
Her drinking started at a school Shabbaton. Some of her so called friends brought liquor and they drank that Shabbos away. Since then she has been continuously sneaking drinks.
It took my husband and me a considerably long while to fully grasp the severity of the problem. Eventually, we finally emptied our house of all alcoholic drinks, informed the local liquor store that she should not be permitted to purchase any alcohol (evidently, there are various frum liquor store owners who will permit under age children to purchase alcohol if they say it’s for their parents, without any verification) and limited her access to money.
At that point, out of desperation, she figured out how to replace straight alcohol with mouthwash. What a nightmare! The mouthwash abuse was impossible to control! Additionally, it seems that it was much more damaging to her liver than regular alcohol. Recently, with Hashem’s help and the involvement of both a rav and an interventionist, she was able to admit that she had a real problem and to enter rehab.
While I am hopeful and happy that she is in a rehab, I need to know if you can advise me on how to deal with the phone calls. My daughter keeps calling and telling me how awful the food is, how she doesn’t like the other clients, feels restricted and various other complaints. Almost every time I see her phone number on the caller ID I start to cringe wondering what the issue is going to be.
By nature I am a very giving person. When she complains about the food, I try to send her home cooked meals. When she gets into arguments with her roommates I try speaking to her counselors about switching her room. The list goes on and on.
I am unsure if I am helping or hurting when I try interceding on her behalf. I am hearing terms like co-dependent and enabler and am very confused. At what point does helping become unhealthy?
This has become a major point of contention between my husband and me. He is more of a disciplinarian and feels that I need to take a tougher stance with our daughter.
A Giving Mom
Dear A Giving Mom,
You should be very happy that your daughter is finally on the road to her recovery! She still has a long and difficult road ahead of her. She will need to learn more about herself and retrain her self-perception. She needs to learn how to be real with her emotions and to be in control of them and not vice-versa. She needs to learn how to live, laugh and appreciate life again.
Most people enter the rooms of recovery kicking and screaming. They are usually upset that they “were caught” or “trapped” and now have to learn how to live sober.
It is hard work. Very hard work!
There is shame, guilt and various other forms of emotional pain they now have to learn to deal with as opposed to numbing themselves.
On the other hand, you should be using the time your daughter is in rehab to learn more about yourself.
For the past few years your daughter’s issues have been the sole focus of everything. If there are other children at home you should be spending considerably more time with them.
Additionally, you mentioned the terms co-dependent and enabler. The truth is that many loved ones who live with addicts inadvertently assume that role.
The addict becomes the drug.
Our “high” comes when there are no incidents and they appear to be doing well. Then, when they fall, we fall with them.
Your job is to learn how to live in peace and serenity, independent of the addict. You should be looking for Al-Anon meetings in your area. Your entire immediate family needs to find recovery.
It is perfectly normal for your daughter to call complaining from rehab. Rehabilitation requires hard work. Hard work that will be rewarding, but difficult nonetheless.
Also, your daughter is used to manipulating you and consistently having you fix things for her. You shouldn’t worry Mom. She is in good hands. They are taking good care of her, feeding her, teaching her how to interact with others, as well as social and conflict resolution skills.
When she calls, hear her out, show her empathy and then ask, “So, what do you think you can do to resolve this issue?”
In the beginning, she will try to defer to you and your maternal advice. However, for right now the best advice is to re-direct her to work through the issues on her own. This will be a long and arduous process for you both, but one with worthwhile results.
In the meantime, take full advantage of the tranquility, and start taking care of yourself. You deserve it!
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