Since women are the child bearers, one would think that being a mother would be natural and easy. And, yes, even though we tease about not having these children come with instructions, the average woman does exhibit strong maternal instincts at the appropriate time. I truly have witnessed that miracle with my own daughters when they became mothers. But what happens to us as mothers when our addiction(s) become more important than our children?
Some of you who are reading this are not yet mothers, are presently moms-to-be, or have children who have never known your addiction(s). If you are one of these, I pray that you will continue working your recovery so that you and your children will never have to experience and suffer the heartaches that are a result of addiction.
The purpose of this topic is not to make any mother out there feel guilt, shame, or remorse. It is to remind us to accept responsibility for our past behavior and to remember that no matter how we love our children today, and show that love, their suffering may have been greater than we could have imagined. In recovery we change but we can only change ourselves. The Promises in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tell us that “we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it”. I heard an old timer share that he did regret the past as it affected his family. That doesn’t mean he lived in self-pity or depression but as a recovering addict could never say he did not have regrets. Our children are, at times, reminders of the past and how can we not regret our words and/or actions that hurt them so deeply.
As addicts it is impossible not to have had our disease affect our children. Some of the mothers in recovery that I know were totally neglectful. Their children, even at a young age, were left to care for themselves. Many had their children taken from them. A few chose to leave their children not because they were not healthy mothers but because they chose not to be responsible. But not all of us were that neglectful. As a matter of fact, we were extremely attentive and involved in our children’s lives. We pretended to be good, loving mothers to cover up our defects. We gave too much and then couldn’t understand why our children didn’t give us the respect and love we thought we were due. It’s the whole victim/mom syndrome.
No matter what level of mothering we felt we offered, we could not possibly have given our children what they deserved. They may not remember or knew how we drove them while under the influence but they may remember the erratic behavior or maybe the arguing or the lies. Maybe they recognized our addiction(s) and asked us to stop. And, as real addicts do, we would make promises over and over again that we could never keep.
Today we know that we are not bad people and we are not bad mothers although this can be difficult to remember when that child we love so dearly cannot forgive us. The fact that many of our children are adults makes it even more difficult because they are so outside of our control (and I don’t mean “control” as a defect). My youngest daughter and I have a relationship today that I never thought we would have but there is still something missing. She does not speak of nor wish to talk about my addiction or how she felt or how she feels today. When she does get angry with me, her words cut me like a knife and, I believe, that is her purpose. After I get over my hurt and self-pity, I think of why she behaves toward me in this way. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. She is afraid and she is angry. If she opens up and completely forgives me, she becomes vulnerable. She wants to trust me but can’t because maybe, just maybe, the bottom will fall out and the hurt would be unbearable.
There are some of you who today have wonderful relationships with your children because your children have made those choices. My heart goes out to those of you who have not had a relationship with your child (children) for many years and probably will not until that child (or children) can find a way to open his/her heart. How does that happen? Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer, hope and trust in God. For my readers in Alanon who have addicted children, this is also the only advice I can give you.
My daughters are and always will be something I am not. They will always and forever be the children of an alcoholic. I have accepted my disease but still find it difficult to include them in it using those words. Today in recovery I continue to make living amends to them. What I have discovered is that making living amends to your children is not difficult at all. It is what I have wanted all of my life and that is only to be the best mom I can possibly be one day at a time.
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
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