It’s the Friday before Mother’s Day and I still haven’t bought my mom a card. Why? Because there’s never a card that says, “Well, at least we survived.”

My relationship with my mom is difficult and strained. Everyone knows that, but her. She still thinks we’re best friends. I’m too afraid to tell her the truth. We don’t see eye to eye on how she treated me as a kid. I think she abused me. She thinks she was the best mom ever. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

I am a co-dependent raised by a co-dependent. My mom trained me to be the best at controlling, martyrdom, manipulating, and triangulating (this is when she would talk to me about my brother). She needed these tools to survive when my dad was drinking. Unfortunately, our co-dependent relationship has evolved into a contest. Who can be the Alpha Co-dependent? Who can control the most? Who can do the most for others and live to tell? Who’s suffered the most?

Recovery Heals

My recovery journey is ever changing my relationship with my mom. At first, recovery led me far away from her. I had to extract myself from our unhealthy enmeshment. I quit answering every phone call, and sometimes I didn’t call her right back. Several months and several meetings later, I learned to set small boundaries. I told her certain subjects were off limits. At first she respected my boundaries. Then she tested me. I held my ground. The progress was small and slow.

After a year in recovery, I was still so angry at her. I blamed her for everything, but especially my brother Ricky’s alcohol use disorder. After much tough love from recovered friends, I accepted that Ricky made his own choices. My mom might have enabled, but she didn’t cause Ricky’s addition. Still, I was mad.

I completed my Step 4 inventory, which is a “fearless and moral inventory.” In this part of my 12-Step recovery, I examined my characteristics, hurts, failures and successes. What part did I play in my life? I looked back at past abuse. For months, I dreaded talking to my mom. I felt so far away from her. I didn’t think the relationship was repairable.

A few months ago, I shared my story at a meeting. I was completely honest about my mom’s abuse. Somehow, the writing and sharing of something so hurtful brought healing. In the weeks that followed, I started seeing my mom as a person with a disease because she is. Alcohol Use Disorder is a family disease that affects generations.

The Biggest Miracle Of All

I’ve uncovered some happy memories of my mom. I never thought that would be possible.

I remembered she would take me to the movies without my brothers every so often. My road to recovery hasn’t brought me back to her front door and it probably never will. That wouldn’t be healthy for me. Good boundaries are the best hope of having an honest relationship with her. I’m surprised and blessed by this unexpected gift.

I’m still not ready to get a card for my mom, but I am less anxious about it than last year. That’s what recovery is all about, “Progress, not perfection.”


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Grace Silverstone
Grace Silverstone is an adult child of an alcoholic, wife and mother. She's also recovering from co-dependency. Her path to recovery has included many 12-step meetings and mochas.

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