If any of my readers have been with me from the beginning, they know my battles with own mother. They’ve gone on for as long as I can remember. It’s been quite sometime since I’ve posted but today I felt compelled to do so. Why? Not necessarily because of recent events, but I’m certainly not discounting them. Because I’ve hit a threshold in life. I have to care about ME enough not to let someone poison my life, cause drama or bring me down. Some people thrive on hurting others yet step back to look like a victim. I also believe there is a name for that too. It’s narcissistic behavior.
I am a co-dependent person by nature so it’s a constant battle that is inside me. Those traits are not always a bad thing but when they allow you to be hurt or you take on too much emotional damage and drama from others then it is a bad thing. When it has come to my mother, it’s been a long time coming for me to see this. But when the day came, it’s almost like I heard the flick of the switch and the light came on.
The morning of May 24th, 2016 was no different than the others. I got ready for work and at the same time every morning I got in my car and headed toward the interstate. Sitting at a RED light…not moving….I got rear-ended by a commercial truck. I was hit hard enough that my sunglasses came off and ended up in the floorboard. For a moment, I couldn’t even figure out where the brake pedal was. Certainly, that was some kind of concussion even if a mild one. I’ll jump to the part where I’m ok….had a neck sprain and sore back for a week and was out of work on Flexeril but I survived.
Here’s where the “collision” really happened with regard to my mother/daughter relationship. My mother and I had a disagreement the week before and hadn’t spoken. Not unusual. I thought nothing of it when I dialed her number with shaking hands to let her know I’d been in an accident and needed her to call me. It went to voice mail. I pictured her sitting back, smirking as she listened to my cries knowing she was punishing me by not answering. I hung up after I left the message. As the seconds and minutes ticked by I knew she wasn’t calling back and panic and disbelief started rolling around in my thoughts. It was SURE she would not abandon me at a time like this. But my Dad called. He said my Mother had called him and said I’d been in an accident and he needed to call me. Unbelievable! But was it really?
I’m sure those of you that are mothers probably are reading this in shock. Or maybe you have a mother of your own that would do this. I don’t know. Either way, when I got home I remember sitting down and crying uncontrollably for a mother I realized didn’t care. She didn’t know the extent of my injuries but she still didn’t care enough to find out. That was my threshold. The point that I knew something had to change. It had to change within me. And it did!
You see, I’ve spent my entire life seeking the approval of a narcissistic mother and feeling as I’ve failed each and every time. Always sending the Mother’s Day cards, the Birthday Cards, the Christmas Cards….because it was the right thing to do. AND because I didn’t want to regret doing the right thing or doing EVERYTHING I COULD DO without leaving any stone un-turned. But where was the threshold? When was enough enough? I thought I’d never run out of hope.
If there was ever a proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back….that was it. Those closest to me think it’s just another fight…I will send another card or make another phone call to apologize for….apologize for what? Getting into an accident and wanting my mother? Wasn’t sure what I’d be apologizing for now. Her birthday was August 1st….the first time in my life I didn’t stand in Hallmark looking for a card that fit my situation for how I felt about her. Cards like that don’t exist quite frankly. I guess I loved her because if it not for her I wouldn’t be here on this earth (although there are times I question that too) but I certainly don’t like who she is and I don’t have to be around it anymore. It’s MY decision. They are MY boundaries. And I won’t LET her hurt me anymore. Why would I purposely continue going to the same dry well looking for water when there is none. She is void of maternal love.
On August 1st I’m sure she waited on a call from me….or checked the mail hoping for a card because that’s her power and control over me. I call….she ignores. I send a card…she doesn’t acknowledge because the ink wasn’t in blue or black or whatever she could use to say I failed in some way. She’s in control and I’m made to feel belittled.
But now I realize at 41 years old I’m the one that’s in control. I shouldn’t have to beg my mother to love me or be there for me. I know have my boundaries and for the first time I do not feel guilty for not buying a card or calling.
What is insanity? Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome. It’s time to stop the insanity. It was my choice all along.
I have learned that I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve just put myself in situations that continually hurt ME. I’m not allowing it anymore. Do I wish it were different? Sure. But a very special woman said to me that day on my accident “any woman is capable of having a child….but it doesn’t mean they are capable of being a mother”. I will never forget that because it’s so true.
I know there are more like me in this world. Although I used to feel so alone. There should be support groups for adult children of narcissistic parents who are incapable of loving their own children. But at this juncture I have God and he’s my ultimate parent.
So that’s my threshold, my friends. Everyone has one and there isn’t anything wrong with loving YOU or taking care of YOU!
I stood at the end of the hallway with my oldest and smallest dog in one arm and holding my German Shepherd by the collar with the other as I watched my husband walk out the front door, suitcase in hand. “He will be back”, I thought. “He just needs a few days at his brother’s house to think.” The rational and logical part of me wasn’t thinking that it had never gone this far before during one of our disagreements. After 15 years of marriage, we’d never actually LEFT each other. Maybe one of us slept on the couch, but not this.
My husband had announced to me that he no longer wanted to be married and he wasn’t happy. I remember feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach. My husband was my life. I’d made him so much my life that I’d lost myself in the process and I didn’t know how to be alone.
Standing there in the hallway staring at the closed front door is exactly where I was….ALONE. The silence was deafening in the home that we shared together. I couldn’t sleep that night or many nights after. He wasn’t coming back. I remember feeling so many things at once that I couldn’t separate each emotion if I tried. They all blended together. Hurt, anger, denial, loneliness. It was a tornado effect within ever fiber of my being that I dreaded facing another day.
Six weeks after my separation had begun, I was introduced to one of the IT guys at my workplace. Everyone knew him and all the girls swooned over him. I had seen him in passing and took notice of his good looks but nothing more. Small talk ensued at my desk and I was shocked at how mesmerized I was by this guy. He was extremely charming and very handsome.
After that initial introduction, we didn’t go one day without talking or texting. The relationship moved very quickly and I was completely caught up in this new infatuation because I had felt so unworthy of love after my husband walked out. This new guy made me feel as if I was “the one” and he’d never “met anyone like me before”.
At first, I paid no attention to the unanswered phone calls and texts….nor did I make a huge deal of him having to work late. There was ALWAYS an explanation or a reason as to why these occurrences happened. I will say, there was always something in the pit of my stomach that I knew was “off” but I didn’t want to face it. Not until the first “other woman” walked in the door of his apartment with her own key! Yes…you read that right! He put on a good show for me, however. Called the police, threw her out, called her crazy along with other choice names and then changed his locks. I was beside myself with confusion because this had never happened to me before…EVER! He just explained it away by saying it was his ex girlfriend and he’d forgotten she had a key.
Months later, his mother moved in with him because of financial reasons. Not sure if it was his financial reasons or hers. He had already started asking me for money to pay his cell phone bill or his rent and I was so in love with him that I did it. No questions asked. Little did I know, that he was buying presents for other women with my money. He had several other women besides me and the lies were mounting by the day.
Eight months into our relationship I found out about three other women, all of them worked with me. One of them lived in another state but worked for the same company. He was planning a trip to Mexico with her. His mother knew about all of his girlfriends and she kept his secrets for him. His 15 year old son was also brought up to lie for him. The betrayal I felt was horrible. I turned to alcohol many a night to numb the pain I was feeling. All of this on top of my husband walking out was way too much for me to bear.
I broke up with this guy and after two weeks of being apart, he begged and pleaded for my forgiveness. He even asked if we could go to therapy together. It’s embarrassing for me to say that I did go back. Again, not wanting to be alone and he was the Novocaine for my loneliness.
I never fully trusted him again. That sick feeling in my stomach returned like an unwanted guest when I called and got voicemail or when he didn’t respond to texts. Two months later, I was contacted by a girl he was sleeping with and I found out he was still up to his old tricks even after he made idle promises never to hurt me again. How could I be so foolish!? I had to know he would do this! I ended it once again.
This guy couldn’t cope with the fact that a girl was walking away from him so he kept contacting me and telling me how much he’d changed until ONCE AGAIN, regrettably, I caved. Took him back. I shake my head as I write this because I know how pathetic this all sounds but bear with me….it’s part of who I am and how I got to be as strong as I am today.
It didn’t take long for me the last go ’round because I couldn’t live with who he was much less who I’d become. I drank more and more as each day went by. My parents and I were at odds with each other, my job was suffering and my divorce became final. The scales had tipped under the weight of a toxic relationship. There wasn’t one corner of my world that had a bright spot of happiness. I was in the darkest place of my life. At that point, I didn’t care if I lived. I felt completely HOPELESS! I remember, sadly, that I attempted to end my life with prescription pills and alcohol. I was already mixing Xanax with wine every evening up to that point. I’m lucky I didn’t meet the Lord a long time ago going down the path I was going.
A friend reached out to me that day and forced me to leave my house and sit with her. She let me cry all day. She was there for me. She reminded me of God’s love and saving grace. She reminded me that I was His child and He gave me life as a purpose on this earth. Something clicked that day and I drew closer to God to find peace and happiness again.
Not long thereafter, I broke up with my sociopathic rebound boyfriend for good. I can say only the good Lord above gave me that kind of strength. I was able to burn every picture, delete every text and block him from my cell as well as my email and never look back. Within that same year, he was fired so I didn’t even have to see him at work any longer.
I haven’t been in a relationship since then. Am I scared of a new one? No. I just think I’m extremely cautious now. Plus, now I know that I was never alone to begin with. God was right there with me the whole time. That day, He was holding me when my husband walked out. He was shedding tears when I was crying over my cheating, lying boyfriend. And He was beaming when I decided to rededicate my life to Him, find a church home and become very active in my spiritual journey.
I look back on that time in my life and it’s the darkest that I can ever remember. Probably the most difficult valley that I’ve been in. I know that I was meant to walk down that dark path and encounter a dead end with my marriage, a predatory wolf in sheep’s clothing and finally the fork in the road that allowed me to choose another direction for my life.
And for all of that I’m grateful because I wouldn’t trade who I am today for anything.
Thank you for reading!
It has finally come down to the post that I think I was dreading even though it’s the catalyst of why I believe I have been codependent most of my life. It’s ultimately my story of my challenging childhood being raised by an alcoholic mother and the absence of a father until I was ten. I’ve been dreading this because I don’t want my story to come across as bitter or bashing my parents. In no way, do I plan to use this blog for that purpose. Only to express my experiences and looking to touch others lives that need to feel they aren’t alone. I know I’ve felt that way. My parents did the best they knew how and loved me to the best of their ability. I want to write about where I came from, what I lived through and how I’ve learned to build healthy boundaries through it all.
I grew up with a mother that struggled with alcoholism. After her and my father got divorced, we lived with my Nana. I watched my mother turn to alcohol to cover up the pain she dealt with in her life. In her defense, she lost her younger brother at 17 to a drunk driver, her father to emphysema and the ending of her marriage to my father. I’m not going to point the blame to her and say it’s all on her, she clearly had her own hurts that were buried in a bottle. But either way, it wasn’t a picnic growing up around it.
Because we lived with my Nana, I became increasingly close to her. She was the stability that I held onto during the rough patches. She was a saint in my eyes. Unfortunately, I only had her in my life for 10 short years. 30 years ago this year, we buried her after suffering a stroke which took her life. To this day, I grieve the loss of a woman who had such an impact in my life.
My mother raised me as a single parent for ten years and then married my step father. I remember the drinking got increasingly worse as I got into my teenage years. Because of alcohol abuse, we did not have a close relationship. It has always been rocky and for that I’m sad. I’m not sure it will ever be the healthy mother/daughter relationship that I want to have but through that I’m able to realize that God is my ultimate Father and one that will never abandon or reject me as I’ve felt many times in the past.
My mother and I have gone years without speaking. Just recently we didn’t speak for 8 mos. over something that could have been worked out. My punishment is not only the silence….but silence on dates where everyone is celebrating. When families are gathering around the Christmas tree….I’m without my mother. My birthday has even come and gone without recognition of the day she gave birth to me. And finally Mother’s Day….the day that causes me the most pain because I feel such a void in my life. And the same question that rolls around in my head….what did I do that was so bad that warrants me being ignored. If no one has experienced it, let me please tell you from the bottom of my heart that it’s the most painful thing a child….even an adult child….can ever experience. No one can make that pain go away….no one can say the right words and unless they’ve been there….no one truly understands.
With that being said, my mother and I recently started speaking last week. It’s very strained and extremely awkward but I’m just trying to help rebuild the relationship and I never seem to run out of hope of it working…..because this time it might just work out. Maybe just maybe.
But if I’m not careful that rebuilding can be me doing all the heavy lifting and the hope can turn into walking on egg shells or saying just the right thing….not necessarily the truth….just so I can keep the relationship balancing on a tightrope that is high above a black hole. I’ve learned that it’s not my job to fix and rescue and people please. That, my friends, is a codependent way of thinking. And it’s unhealthy. So here’s what I’ve learned about boundaries. Let’s start with what unhealthy boundaries look like:
For myself, my healthy boundaries look more like this now:
I am putting these into place now and I’m hopeful that with the new tools I have with my Conquering Codependency course and the 12 Steps I worked hard on, that now I can use them in this next phase of trying to have a mother/daughter relationship.
I never stop hoping!
Whenever I heard the term “Codependent” I always had a misconstrued version of it in my mind. CO-DEPENDENT. What did that mean? Surely it must just mean depending on others. What’s so wrong with that? Well once I started taking the follow up class to “Making Peace With Your Past” and dove into “Conquering Codependency” I found out there was much more to it than my basic definition.
Codependency is a compulsion and addiction to control and rescue people by fixing their problems. This occurs when a person’s needs for love and security are not met. Codependents have an imbalanced sense of responsibility to rescue, fix, and/or help people who usually don’t want their help. People either consciously or unconsciously deprive the codependent of needed love and attention so the codependent rescues as a way to gain that love that he or she needs.
Wow! That actually sounded just like me. Finally, I could at least put a label on why I acted the way I did. I’d gone 40 years of my life with this type of mentality. Flashbacks on how I reacted to situations in my marriage and in my childhood with my alcoholic mother flooded my mind. I could finally start bringing the whole picture into focus that had been so distorted and work on managing the codependent part of me. It’s who I’d always been and what I’d always known but I knew it had to change. I don’t believe you are ever cured from this type of behavior but I think it can be managed. It’s something I have to keep reined in with each and every relationship that I have in my life.
In going through this 12 week course/12 Step Program, I was able to link my Codependent personality to my childhood and being raised by a mother that struggled with alcohol abuse for most of my life. Even today, although my mother has been sober for 22 years, there is a constant struggle to keep the relationship from derailing. It falls in and out of estrangement partially due to the fact that I’ve built boundaries and I refuse to agree to a distorted reality just so she is always right in her mind. Did I used to be that person? Yes. I was the one to pacify and agree just to keep the peace. Even if it put all blame on me. I wanted to keep my mother in my life but over time I was hurting myself. Feeling worse as a person the more I took on which was actually not my responsibility. Not speaking up. Not wanting to rock the boat. I just wanted to agree so she’d see me as worthy or loveable and keep the relationship in tact.
I’m so grateful for the 12 Step Program this course offered because it truly allowed me to sprout my wings and become a healthier person. Learning to identify and decide how to proceed with each situation that may threaten the boundaries I’d built. Healthy boundaries….not the ones where I’d completely withdraw and put myself high up in a castle with a moat complete with sharks around it so no one could reach me. I needed to create a boundary as in a quaint home with a white picket fence and a “Gone Fishing” sign out front where others would respect the sign and step back and not force me to go running up into a castle to get away from behaviors I protected myself from.
Also, learning to say “NO” was ok and not feel bad. Say what you mean…mean what you say! I was always the “Yes” girl. Agreeing to do things or commit to things that I really didn’t want to. I’ve done much better with being true to me!
The 12 week course was called:
Conquering Codependency – A Christ Centered 12 Step Process by Pat Springle
I share that with all of you because if you can relate to anything I’ve written about above you may want to look into this workbook. It was this course that I believe solidified finding out who I was, why my relationships were the way they were, and finally finding a good relationship with ME!
During the fall of last year, I was experiencing turmoil in the relationship with my Mom (again). It’s a constant off and on again struggle between her and I, unfortunately. I haven’t spoken much on my Faith but I am a devout Christian and very involved in my church and close to my church family. With that being said, as if on cue from God, one morning during service I looked over the church bulletin and noticed there was a class being taught called “Making Peace with your Past”. Sounded right up my alley so I decided to check it out. I had no idea the impact this class would have on me…it was the beginning of a huge growth spurt for me emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
When I arrived to class and picked up a copy of my workbook, I read the front of it and realized this was going to be both difficult and rewarding. The front cover read:
Making Peace with your Past: Help for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families by Tim Sledge
This was a full twelve week session. Every Tuesday night at 7pm. I made it a priority to attend and do my best not to miss any classes. Boy, did I make some breakthroughs. I learned to focus on my feelings and how to manage them and heal rather than focusing on others and how they treated me. I couldn’t change them but I could work on myself.
Here is a snippet of what I learned over the 12 week course:
Ultimately, I learned how to face the painful feelings of my childhood and experience healing. I would highly recommend this book for anyone that can relate to the bullet points above. It was a pivotal turning point for me.
I took a follow up class on Codependency which I will post about as a follow up to this one.
There is nothing easy about digging into your feelings and past hurts. But it’s all about being a better “YOU”.
They aren’t called growing pains for nothin’! 🙂
But now I’m divorced and no one died….huh? Unless “Till Death Do Us Part” is supposed to mean the death of what was once a beautiful love story. Maybe that’s what I’ve settled into believing so I can accept some sort of closure. All I know is that on June 19, 1999 I never imagined being divorced from the man I was saying my vows to. The man who not only was my new husband…he was my best friend. But how does a best friend walk away so easily? Yes, I still have a few questions that pop up from time to time. Just the one word questions….”Why”? Why did he fall out of love with me? Why didn’t he try to stay and work it out longer? Why did he just give up? Why, Why, Why? Answers we sometimes may never get and I’ve had to let that be well with my soul.
I went to school with my ex husband. We knew each other for many years before we decided to get married in our early twenties. I didn’t know the darker side of him until we began living together. An argument was not a normal argument. It turned into the silent treatment for days or the bad mood that you felt was your punishment. Never did he ever lay a hand on me but the emotional stress was something else. My ex husband suffered from severe depression. I didn’t realize the magnitude until well into our relationship. I loved him. I felt I could handle it…..no, better yet, I felt I could fix HIM.
Shortly after we were married, he lost his mother to cancer, his grandfather and grandmother shortly thereafter and both my aunt and uncle died within 9 months of each other. It was the roughest year to that point for us. His depression locked into his body, mind and soul and he was caged and I had no way to help him. But I gave it my best shot. The wife I once was, turned into the mother he’d lost. I didn’t even notice when I’d morphed into the controlling mother figure rather than just being his wife. Thinking I was being helpful, I realized later as I held my divorce papers, that I smothered him and emasculated him.
He did seek help and found a great doctor that provided essential medical treatment for him and his mental well-being. He was a different person. Underneath, he was still the introvert and I was still the extrovert….the social “butterfly” if you will. Even though he was feeling better emotionally we still found happiness in different things. I liked to be around people and go out and he preferred to be at home all day or in bed all day and watch TV. When we did go out together we went to the movies or out to dinner but nothing outside of our normal routine.
He decided 4 years ago that he wanted to work for the company I worked for and so I helped him get a job there. He was successful in his interview process and so he got the job. One year later he informed me that he no longer wanted to be married and wanted to be with other women. I’m being nice here because he was much colder than what I’m portraying and he left pretty abruptly. Shortly thereafter I found out he was dating a girl at work. Yes, the same company we both work for now. Awkward to say the least and I literally felt my heart shatter into a million pieces.
It’s been three years since my divorce and just last Friday was our anniversary date which I still struggle with. I realize my actions in our marriage was part of the reason I lost him. We did try to reconcile twice but it never fully got back on track. I will always love and care for him. I am happy that we are in an amicable place and we are able to talk when necessary (which isn’t often….I still hold on tight to the no contact rule for healing). I no longer feel the bitterness and anger that I once harbored. I don’t regret the years we shared and the life we built for 15 years. They were happy ones for me.
Did I expect it to end in divorce? No, I did not. But going through a divorce, in my opinion, was like grieving the death of someone you once loved very much. So, maybe our vows were fulfilled. I grieved the death of my marriage and now we are apart.
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