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Difficult Life Choice This Weekend...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

BEWARE... this is a diary blog. I’m just writing to write out my feelings.


My family has never been a big believer in ‘family comes first’. I do not have a lot of family left, as by the age of 18 I had already been to over 8 funerals. As my Mom and Dad had me later in life (+35), many of my cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles were well into their lives by the time I was old enough to get to know them. Many of my living relatives can go years without seeing each other, as family isn’t as big a deal to the remainder– the joke has always been that ‘funerals and weddings are the reuninons of our family’, and the sad thing is that is mostly true.

My one exception is my direct family. I have always made time for my Mother, Uncle and Brother – usually visiting at least once a week. When I first moved out of my Mother’s house, into a small apartment with Chris – I called my Mom once a day, every day for almost a year. I have had many people ask me why, at the age of 19 (at the time) I felt it necessary to let her know I was okay and how my day went.

The simple (and honestly brutal) answer was always guilt. My Mom is the absolute QUEEN of a guilt trip, and I say that with no small amount of awe. If I didn’t call that day, the next time I did call – “Were you out of town? I was worried you were sick!”. If I mentioned something she didn’t agree with – “Well, you know I only want you to be happy with your choices in the end.”, or “What does Chris think about it?”. I swear, it is an art that has been perfected over the years.

But I slowly broke away on my independence, and managed to ignore the guilt and feelings that would be associated with each call. The catalyst that brought this change?

When I turned 20, I found out my Mom is a Gambling Addict.

Over a series of 5 years she managed to be fired from nearly 20 jobs (for not showing up, attitude issues, etc.), lost her house due to debt issues (yet, if you ask her she still will tell you she has marvellous Credit History – yeah, she kind of lives in her own little head sometimes.), and managed to guilt her own brother (my Uncle) into buying the house from her before the bank got it, and he lives in the basement. The worst part of this arrangement (at least in my feelings) is that he pays for everything, does all the cleaning/care taking, and...

She is still Gambling.

And it isn’t even her own money that she is Gambling with – obviously she ran out of that years ago (and hasn’t held a job down in over a year, and has no interest in a job currently). As I have no interest in ratting my Mother out to the authorities (at least right now - I have considered it, to be honest), let us just say the money comes from a government organization, due to the fact that she is on a type of Medical disability.

The medical illness is mentally involved – which also leads me to how difficult it can be to handle a relationship with her.

While my Uncle seems able to handle this way of life (until she goes out Gambling again – then he comes to me for a shoulder to cry/freak out on. And I have no problem with this –he needs to talk to SOMEONE), a few weeks ago when she went out on a 2 day ‘Bender at the slots’, I realized that this relationship wasn’t working for me.

So I didn’t call her. And she didn’t call me – probably because she knew I was PISSED.

Then on Sunday afternoon, something wonderful (and another Catalyst, although I didn’t know it at the time) happened. My first (by blood – I have 2 by my ‘sister’) nephew was born – Michael Alexander Gutierrez. I was ecstatic, and immediately put it on Facebook that I was now Auntie Jenn! 7lbs, 4 ozs, 20 inches long, with a head full of hair (the joke is that he has more hair than his Uncle, Chris. LOL).

My Mom saw this as an opportunity to call and congratulate me, and I’m assuming – figured I would be in a good mood and would not want to fight. Unfortunately, she did not know that a few days before I had come to the conclusion that this wasn’t what I wanted with my life.

I told her that I wasn’t able or willing to handle this in my life anymore – and that I would not deal with a Gambler being in my life anymore, and causing me pain. This was the first time she didn’t say that she was going to change – in fact, she stated that I needed to accept her for her faults. In short, it was the first time I felt that she was actually HONEST with me, in a LONG time.

And I immediately decided (and told her) that I DO have a choice – my choice was to remove it from my life. She told me I was putting conditions on her love by asking her for this. I told her she was putting conditions on my love by asking that I be okay with this. (She didn't like that part at all)

When my Mom gets backed into a corner, she always has the same sentence to state - "Don't you know I'm an addict and can't help my behavior?". I have heard this sentence (or a derivative of...) so many times in the last year - but this time, it was the last thing I wanted to hear.

So I hung up.

It was very difficult, but I think I made the best choice for me that I can right now. The last thing I ever thought I would do is cut my Mom out of my life, and I do feel horrible for it – but it is time to focus on me now.

My brother escaped my Mom years ago, and now enjoys a healthy relationship with her – as long as he isn’t in town. If he comes back to Calgary and tries to spend any time with her, they end up fighting within 10 minutes, and Kyle always ends up staying with me instead.

I can’t imagine how she must be feeling in all this, but the sad thing is that I can no longer afford to be worried about how she is feeling. It is time that I move on and move forward with my life.

After all, I deserve to be happy, right?
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NEWNAC304 7/18/2012 6:43AM

    You do deserve to be happy. I'm sure this was a hard decision for you,but it will be better for you.

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2BEEFIT 7/11/2012 11:43AM

    I got someone like that in my life. I call her out on her nonsense and she knows not to ask for money. I won't give it to her.

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IGSBETH 7/5/2012 9:21PM

    You do deserve to be happy. I am sorry that you had to make that decision, but it sounds like the right decision. Hang in there.

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GAYEMC 7/5/2012 3:45PM

    Oh Jenn, What would we do without Patty to keep us grounded? We can choose our friends, but we can't choose our parents, brothers and sisters. No one said we had to like them. Don't let guilt eat away at you.

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PEACEJENN 7/5/2012 10:46AM

    You deserve to be happy for sure! Hopefully later in life when your Mom realizes what she's lost that you can find a common balance somewhere. HUGS honey!

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THETURTLEBEAR 7/5/2012 9:33AM

    Being in a relationship with an addict is tough. The manipulation skills are so finely honed. I heard an addict speak recently and they said, "My family life was filled with love. I took that love, turned it against them, and used it like a weapon. And then I beat them into submission with it." Wow. So I believe your mom knows exactly what she is doing too and I believe that you are free to set boundaries that allow you to live your life and your program because (as you know) - You didn't cause it, you can't control it, you can't cure it. She can change but she has to want to, and she doesn't want to change. The strongest and most loving thing you can do is to set out those boundaries to her and be tough, because in the end it will help her possibly hit her bottom instead of enabling her by putting up with her (like your uncle does) and just letting her dig her bottom lower. emoticon

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DEE797 7/5/2012 8:12AM

    I can totally relate to what you are going through. I had to stop contact with my mother as well. I could not allow her to affect my family as she had my sister, brother, and I. It's not easy but at times we need to put ourselves first in order to stay sane. emoticon emoticon

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PATTYOMALLEY 7/5/2012 12:30AM

    Jenn- congratulations on your new nephew. There is nothing like a brand new life that touches yours to bring about additional reflection and a fresh perspective. Families are difficult- no question. They are our closest and earliest relationships, which give them a powerful position. Family shapes us in ways that are good and bad; family strengthens us in some aspects yet weakens us in others.

There is no denying family, however we do have a choice as to how close we keep them, and what boundaries we set with them. As has already been pointed out, it is possible to love, with distance in a relationship. It is possible to make a shift (as you have) and a rule change (as you have). You can certainly set ground rules for the relationship as you need to- and it will be up to mom for the rest:
1. is she willing to abide by the new rules, and be respectful of you
2. is she willing to own her addiction, and from that point either move forward to change, or acknowledge that she does not have the motivation to do so
3. is she able/willing to acknowledge that her addiction has caused a hardship for the entire family? Including her brother, her children..... herself?
4. is she aware that her actions have put others in a precarious situation? Does this phase her, or does she simply accept this as her ''right'' or ''position'' as the mother? (as in '''after everything I have ever done for you...'' or ''I gave up so much for you...''

In any event, this is another ''onion'' situation. The outside layer is just that. Once you get beyond that, there are more layers, and more and more. Complicated for sure.

Fair to say that all of this is tied up in your own behavior patterns somewhere- only you can know how it manifests, but it's there..... on the plus side, you are a reflective person, and you like to understand the inner workings of things. You've come to a point in your life where you have taken command of your own destiny, and proclaimed your right to do so. This is good, it is natural, and it is part of the process of ''growing up'' when we realize our parents are human, not flawless. We realize that they are flawed, and we have our own feelings about what that means to us, to our lives, and to our ''inner child''.

It is a good thing that you are at this point in your relationship with your mom. It is time. You have to figure out where your own life is going, and you can not focus on that if your attention is split because your mom is such a manipulator.

You and Chris just finished dealing with his mother's guilt trips (last Halloween was D day, if memory serves?).... you are dealing with your own compulsive behaviors, getting your body healthy, strengthening your marriage, and figuring out if you want to be parents, right???

Well, how much is too much? I'd say you have much on your plate right now, and the sensible thing for you to do is what you are doing. Look around, decide what is working, what is not - what is good, what is not- what needs more focus and what needs less. Do what you want to do and what you need to do as individuals and as a couple to make yourselves stronger.

As stronger people you will be better positioned to deal with all of the other issues that are swirling around you in your life.

It won't be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. It's going to be rough, so lash yourselves to the mast, and stick to your core values. Move forward from there and you can never go wrong.

Hugs,
Patty

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MORTICIAADDAMS 7/4/2012 10:05PM

    I think we all understand how you feel. It is difficult to have a relative who is addicted to anything. My husband and I had similar problems in our life with family members with emotional problems and found we were happier to be away from them and all of their drama. I hope things work out for you.

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RUNNINGWILD 7/4/2012 6:21PM

    You absolutely deserve to be happy. Don't you ever doubt that!
~p~ emoticon

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EGR2BEME 7/4/2012 6:20PM

    It took courage...you so deserve to be happy! Addiction can be devastating to families...many of us have witnessed it first hand. All the best taking care of you!

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EMFRAPPIER 7/4/2012 3:42PM

    emoticon What a terrible decision you had to make. Just always remember that you deserve to be happy.

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REBECCAMA 7/4/2012 2:27PM

  You are an Adult Child of an Addict. Setting boundaries is a good first step, but don't fault yourself if you give up those boundaries later on. They are difficult to keep and addicts are expert manipulators. I don't know what is out there for Adult Children of Gambling Addicts, but the coping skills you need are the same as those that the Adult Children of Alcoholics use. Addicts come in many different forms, and a lot of the games are the same. You might want to consider going to Al-Anon meetings, reading some books about coping and co-dependence, and maybe checking out some blogs on the subjects. There is a book by Susan Forward called "Emotional Blackmail" that talks about F.O.G.- Fear, obligation, guilt. It's not 12-step material, but it's pretty good. You can find related material on the internet as well. Highly recommendable to you, and anyone else dealing with a family member who is the "Queen of Guilt". It helped me a lot.

I am an Adult Child of an Addict, and former blogger on the subject. Be happy to refer you other resources if you want them.

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SWEDIEPIE 7/4/2012 2:17PM

    A very hard decision, indeed. But you made the right one for your health and happiness.

I cut my father out of my life this past Spring. Very tough- but I can't have him around my immediate family unit. I want my children to know what a healthy, loving family is- I believe I am starting a new cycle that they can carry on with their families when they are older.

Unfortunately I am in a not-so-perfect relationship with my mother, and while she is not an addict or abusive in anyway, she completely disrespects my husband (she is jealous of what my husband provides to me and my children that she did not have growing up.) I have to turn my back quite often and walk away. That is the only way I can manage to keep her in my life- by having very limited contact and planned occasions that I can control.

Good luck to you. Relationships are so tough as it is- when someone is not bringing the respect that you deserve in your life, it's the best decision to stand up for yourself and demand it.

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GOOFIERNU 7/4/2012 1:53PM

    I understand, to a degree. I cut one of my sisters out of my life. She would physically abuse me and I finally got tired of it.

As for the "Queen of Guilt" Mother, she sounds like mine. (rolling eyes) I swear it's behavior that she learned from her mother... and I am trying SO VERY HARD to break the cycle. My sweet hubby has worked with me over the last 10 years to deal with the Martyr Syndrome, too... a behavior I learned from Mom. (Sigh...)

It sounds like you made the best decision you could to protect yourself. It was a tough one and I applaud you for it.
emoticon

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ARCHIMEDESII 7/4/2012 1:44PM

    emoticon

You were in a very difficult situation with no easy solution. Your mom needs help, but isn't willing to accept that help yet. Until she is, it probably is best to keep your distance, just like your brother. She's being very manipulative. You can't and shouldn't feel guilty for your actions. Perhaps when your mother is ready to get the help she needs, things will be different. I hope so.

Also, my family is the same way. Weddings and funerals are just about the only times we all get together too. My aunt is trying to change that. Since the death of my cousin, she's trying to make sure everyone stays in contact via email. she's been keeping everyone updated with assorted family news.

emoticon

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MJ-SHE-BEAST 7/4/2012 1:19PM

    Though I often called my mom the "queen of guilt", we had a healthy, happy relationship for the most part. I talked to her every single day and saw her several times a week. My husband would stop by after work the night before trash pick up to take the garbage to the curb for her and my dad when mobility became an issue. When Mom got too frail to take care of herself, we gave up our home and came to live with my parents. I cared for her until the end of her days and now care for my dad. The difference is...my mom always put family first and my parents instilled in us a deep desire to be close to our siblings and extended family.

I'm so sorry that you didn't have that experience of closeness and family unity. I wish it for everyone. I carries into generations. But you can have a hand in making this a family trait...with that new nephew of yours. Congratulations Auntie Jenn!

I have been on both sides of the addiction situation. My dear, you need to know something. Cutting off the addict from your life, but not your love...is healthy. You are telling the addict that you value yourself too much to watch the disintegration of their lives and value who they WERE too much to see what they have become. It's called tough love. Sometimes it has an impact to the good for the addict, sometimes it doesn't...but almost always it has a good impact on the giver of the tough love. There is pain involved, but peace in your life is absolutely necessary to good mental health for YOU.

Bless your heart for having to make such a tough decision. No child, at any age, should have to. It is just too sad when a parent can't shore themselves up for their children, but even parents are first and foremost..human. Pity her, love her, be there for her if and when she figures out this lifestyle cannot continue...but be strong in your resolve to have a healthier life, mentally and physically. Big, big, hugs to you, my sweetheart.

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WINNIE1978 7/4/2012 1:01PM

    I'm sorry that you have to deal with that situation with your mom... I can understand how frustrating it must be for you. You definitely deserve to be happy!

A few years ago I made the decision to cut my dad out of my life. He wasn't an addict or anything, but he was and always had been a crappy excuse for a father. I finally came to the conclusion that by trying to have a relationship with him I was just causing myself unnecessary hurt... so I decided not to allow him to hurt me any more. As sad as it may be, I'm better off without him in my life.

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KARISSAA 7/4/2012 1:00PM

    ((((hugs)))) That was a very hard decision. You absolutely deserve to be happy and I hope this works out that way for you.

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IRISHBEANERGAL 7/4/2012 12:48PM

    What a hard thing to do - and yet, I applaud your healthy choice.

Addicts can easily derail all the good in the family that (tries) to support them and love them. But until they truly want to change, their first love will ALWAYS be their addiction. They will nurture and feed that addiction to the point of perfection.

Yes, sadly, I speak from experience.

You put up some very healthy boundaries, and they are well thought out! You may not get the type of relationship you want with your mom ever, BUT you will gain some sense of sanity within the new one you are trying to develop.

Stay strong!

~Irish

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JWOURMS 7/4/2012 12:45PM

    Estrangement is hard. I get it; I'm estranged from my mom too. Its been 10 years. Its the right decision - but I do get episodes of pain.
Some advice - counselling helps. (At least it did for me).

Hope you are kind to yourself this week.

Jo

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