The mother of an addict calls me, with a question about how to deal with her adult daughter. Once again, the daughter is asking more of her than she is willing to give. What should she do?
The daughter, who's been addicted to some kind of a substance for much of her adult life, is very demanding. When she's in a tight spot financially she expects her mother to help her. When she's angry, she curses at her mother and treats her disrespectfully. All their lives it's been a one-way relationship: the mother giving and the daughter taking. In photographs of them taken when the daughter was quite young, the daughter always appears to be well-dressed in new clothes. While the mother is wearing second-hand clothing or hand-me-downs.
One of the issues between these two is that the daughter plays on the mother's guilt – or the guilt she had at one time. The mother, who never used drugs or alcohol, married a drug addict who's spending the rest of his life in prison. When the daughter was young her mother wished she was able to provide for her better than she could as a single mother, something the daughter sensed. From early on she placed blame for their circumstances on her mother, rather than the drug addict father who never took care of them. She played on her mother's unconscious guilt for years until the mother was no longer willing to take it.
I give the mother the same advice that I've given over the years. Whenever she's asked me how to respond to her abusive daughter I've always given her the same advice: don't do anything for her until she learns how to treat you with respect. There are no good reasons to allow anyone to treat us with disrespect. Especially, when all we've done is give to them.
This kind of dynamic could play out between these two for the rest of their lives – but only if the mother allows it.
Click here to email John