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This year as I was choosing Mother’s Day cards for the moms closest to me I realized how many of my best friends in recovery do not have children (even step children) and in all likelihood, never will. They might never be a mom to anyone but they will always be a mother’s daughter. I guess that is what prompted me to think about the mother/daughter relationship. When I attend meetings, especially women’s meetings, it is not unusual for someone to share about their mother but it is usually in the context of “she did the best she could”. This is recovery-speak for “she tried hard but she still screwed up”.
I think many women have issues with their mothers and that many women ignore problems because they feel guilty thinking negative things about their moms. This thinking is not limited to women in recovery. None of us came into the world with an instruction manual that would ensure us the perfect mom. Women who see counselors or therapists many times may have to dig deep to find out that the reason they feel or act the way they do has much to do with dear old mom! Actually, moms take a heavy rap for whatever ails us and those of us in recovery probably have used her as one of our best excuses to remain addicted.
What woman in recovery doesn’t have mom at the top of the resentment list? If mom is at the top of the resentment list, then she probably tops the amends list. One of the most positive aspects of being in a 12 Step recovery program is that we learn to uncover and face the truth about ourselves. In facing ourselves we begin to see our own faults and we can no longer play the victim/daughter role. This is an easy role to play, too. “I’m this way because my mom was an addict”; or “it is my mom’s fault that I’m controlling”, or “I’m unhappy because my mom never acted like she loved me” are all only excuses to remain a victim and blame someone else.
The mother/daughter bond is strong. Strong enough that no matter what kind of mom we had or what she did or didn’t do, there is a love that is difficult to understand. I have worked with women in recovery who no matter what can’t be angry with their mothers. I’m talking about “good” anger; the kind you sometimes must feel first in order to forgive. It makes no difference if the mom is alive or not. The feeling of hurting her even in their minds is incredible!
My favorite TV mom was Donna Reed. She was a perfect mom. I wanted a mom like that. Donna Reed had a perfect daughter. I bet my mom wanted a daughter like that! My mom was never in a 12 Step program because she didn’t need to be. I am. It is now up to me to be the best daughter I can be. I am grateful that my mom is living so that I can love her and honor her without reservation or resentment.
The 12 Steps have given me the tools to understand and live life on life’s terms and that includes every feeling past and present I have ever had about my mom. I have a new respect and appreciation of my mom because I understand myself and wonder how I would have mothered me!
This Mother’s Day honor not just the mothers you know but all of the daughters you know whether they have children or not. Personally (well, it is actually long distance) I am going to make sure my mom and my two daughters know how I love and appreciate them for the women they are. My eldest daughter sent me a beautiful necklace for this special day. It was a circle and inscribed were the words, “Embrace Life”. What a wonderful reminder to all of us!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
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