Struggling with mum’s addiction

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    I’ve found these forums very helpful in the past, and hoped I may seek advice from you again, or at least someone to talk to.

    My mum has been addicted to alcohol and oxycontin for 10+ years with it slowly getting worse.  The last 2 years her health has been rapidly deteriorating, with her having heart and breathing problems now, as well as suffering a mild stroke last year. She gets different skin infections which are a big concern but medication doesn’t help (I assume because of the alcohol content in her body).

    Mentally, it feels like she is quite delusional. She doesn’t seem to realise how bad she is and keeps saying she is fine. It doesn’t always feel safe to leave her at home as she will fall over, or injure herself and not realise, or leave the oven on, among other things.

    This has caused great stress to my family. I managed to move out and start my own life a few years ago, whereas before I felt like her carer. Since I left I have felt solace in my brother and dad still being at home with her, but sadly they’ve been the carers for her and it’s made their lives painful. She could be very nasty to them, and they could be nasty to her.

    Sadly my dad passed away a week ago. I do not know what to do now. My brother is feeling hopeless as he cannot afford to move away but is deeply unhappy living with her. He doesn’t want to spend his life caring for her but feels responsible. I feel the same way. I feel awful for feeling this way.

    I just don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to support her. The loss of my dad was very unexpected and we’re all in grief. It’s hard to grieve when all I can worry about is how to look after mum.

    I just don’t know what to do and would love anyone’s thoughts on it.

    Thank you for reading


    Hi Norit,

    I’m very sorry about your dad and your situation. I’m no expert on addiction but I think that until your mom acknowledges she has a problem, she won’t be open to receiving help. You might try finding a local detox center and get their advice on how to get your mom admitted, but Im guessing that until she hits rock bottom she won’t budge. So in the meantime you and your brother need to take good care of yourselves. This means finding a 12-step program for family members of addicts. They will give you tools on how to cope daily with your situation, and you will meet others who are going through similar challenges, a possible support group for you and your brother.

    Norit, before you get out of bed each morning, ask God, the Universe, Buddha or whatever you believe in to give you strength and guide you throughout that day. Then periodically as the day unfolds keep the conversation open, keep asking for help, and be open to receiving some answers. And keep building a life for yourself.



    Hi  Norit

    I am sorry for your loss and that for years you have had to watch your mum deteriorate. Like Brandy said until she really wants and asks for help there is very little you or anyone else can do, only 36% recover from alcoholism.  You yourself know how hard it is to look after your mum especially if it is a thankless task . If your brother stays he is going to need loads of support, make sure that guilt & blame do not rear their ugly heads as they only make a bad situation worse. I hope that you find a support group  and that you and your brother get the chance to grieve properly.

    kind regards



    Hi Norit

    I’m deeply sorry for your father’s passing, as well as for the situation you and your brother are in with your mother. It is very tricky indeed.

    Realistically, what can you both do but try and help support each other through this? Your mother will not live forever. What alternative is there? She will have no quality of life left to her own devices.

    It’s going to be important for you both to schedule time for yourselves outside of any caring responsibilities.

    It’s unfortunately that planning how to deal with all of these changes in responsibilities is interfering with your grieving process.

    It’s understandable not to want to be thrown back into this deeply unpleasant situation but sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to do simply because it is the right thing to do.


    Dear norit:

    I wasn’t able to reply to you sooner. I am sorry to read about your father’s death and about your mother’s worsening addictions. And I am sorry to read about how her behavior hurts your brother and yourself.

    Back on July 31, 2016, you wrote (at 25): “It’s like I’m looking at life through new eyes. I am actually an individual, and not just here for my family’s sake… I.. actually want to live a life for myself, but it seems hopeless”.

    Later on that year, you wrote: “Putting myself down constantly comes naturally.. I feel like I’m being selfish if I am nice to myself. Things seem very hopeless in the long run.. being stuck at home is very uncomfortable because my mum’s an alcoholic…  A life away from this discomfort and anxiousness sounds like a dream!”

    “When I was younger, I never thought about my own hopes for the future… I thought I was just existing for my mum’s benefit… I do not know how to make myself important in my own mind… Mum.. doesn’t seem to recognise my own feelings or listen to me really… I feel like I should be punished.. I just want to shout and rage at myself all the time… in the long run I feel  hopeless”.

    In March 2018, you wrote: “I feel like I’m a horrible person to be around… I feel I am being a horrific abusive person”.

    March 2019: “Last week I was offered an opportunity to move out.. It is only a few miles away from where I live now with my family, but it would be some space from the arguments, and my poor mum… I feel bad leaving my mum, as she is a victim of abuse and struggling with addiction.. I believe she will get worse if I leave.. I hate to think how alone she will be without me”.

    Summer of 2020: “(I) have been living in my own place for a little over a year now. Enjoying the peace and quiet… Mum is still an alcoholic, yes. My father and brother both get angry with her now… it’s nice to live away. I find it quite difficult to visit as I don’t know what state mum will be in, and it concerns me to leave her alone.. I keep getting images of her in my head where she’s drunk and hurt and .. what if she overdoses and no-one is there??”

    Norit, we communicated over a long time, haven’t we.. I don’t remember if I told you (did I?) about my similar experience with my mother.. not that she was an alcoholic or a drug addict, but she was addicted (so to speak) to getting angry at me. Like you, I felt SO MUCH empathy for her.

    Growing up with her, even though I was the child and she was the adult, in my mind, she was the child and I was the adult. I saw her as a hurting, sad, scared child and I saw myself as the evil adult who was hurting this poor child. wanted so much to help her. It was My Dream to make her happy, to change her frown into a big smile. I would have done anything and everything to make that happen.

    I wanted to help her so I kept punishing the evil adult (me, child and onward) who was hurting that good little girl (my mother) because an evil doer deserves to be punished, and if I am punished enough, the thought goes, I will become a good person and be good to and for my mother.

    But I never made her happy:  her frown never changed into a smile.. thing is, a big frown became etched into my face, a deep, sad frown. All the while I was focused on her lack of happiness (and how unfair life was to her), but I didn’t think that my unhappiness was unfair, because like you, I felt that I deserved to be unhappy because she was not yet happy.

    My mother sent me a very clear and loud message: that I was responsible for her misery, that it was my fault, and it was my job to make it up to her for all my alleged sins against her. So, I figured I have to fix my sins against her before I have the moral right to take care of myself and live my own life: I must live her life until I make her happy, and after that, I will have the right to live my own life.

    My life was put on hold.. most of my life was lived on hold, waiting, hoping, dreaming that she will send me a different message, one she never sent: that I am a good little girl, deserving to live my own life.

    In the quotes with which I started this post, you repeated the thought and feeling that living a life for yourself feels hopeless, that it is a hopeless dream that in the long-run will never come true. I felt hopeless too, in a similar way.. but fast forward, I no longer live my mother’s life. I am no longer trapped in that guilt.

    I felt some of that trap in the last 10 days or so (you can read about my experience if you wish in the thread I started this morning), and it was very difficult, but I survived it and I feel strangely free this morning. I am not guilty of my mother’s misery, it was not my doing!

    A lot of the pain goes away when you no longer feel responsible, when you know in your mind and heart that it was not- is not- your fault.. and therefore, all these years you believed that you were a bad person.. it was not true. You were a good, loving little girl all along.

    I suppose the good, loving little girl is hiding, just like mine has been hiding, hiding from my critical, punishing awareness. She will come out of hiding, norit, when she feels safe, when she feels that you live your life- not for your mother, not for your brother- but for yourself. She will come out of hiding when she knows that you know.. that she is a good little girl.



    Dear norit,

    I am very sorry about your father passing and you finding yourself in a very difficult situation.

    It doesn’t always feel safe to leave her at home as she will fall over, or injure herself and not realise, or leave the oven on, among other things.

    If your mother is dangerous to herself, is there a possibility to place her in an elderly home? Because it is a lot to ask from yourself and your brother to sacrifice your lives for your mother – when she doesn’t want to do anything to help herself, and is in fact denying that she has a problem.

    I know it’s hard to do that with a loved one, because we naturally care and feel guilty for not helping them. But in this case, you’re not really helping her – because what she would really need is help with becoming sober. But she doesn’t want that, she wants to keep destroying her life.

    What you’ve been doing so far is trying to soften the blows and minimize the consequences that she is inflicting upon herself. But unfortunately, you’re ruining yourself in the process too, and the result is a lose-lose situation for everyone involved, specially for you and your brother.

    That’s why I don’t think it’s sustainable to keep caring about her, in a way that she dictates the rules and you’re just trying to do damage control. It’s exhausting.

    Please do to seek help, perhaps first in a support group for families of addicts, like Brandy suggested. They may give you useful information about how to cope better and find a more sustainable solution for you and your brother.

    Wishing you strength!

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