“Dawn, I’m at wits end with my mom and really just need to vent before I explode on her!”
This was a message I got recently from a GUC reader that prefers to remain anonymous. So, we’ll call her Jackie.
My mom is a 42 year old alcoholic in denial. And I’m a 21 year old recovering alcoholic and drug abuser and also a new mom. I am frustrated with my mom because my younger sister called me again and said my mom came home drunk and was arguing with her significant other…again. I have been in my sister’s shoes and recently told my mom that I refuse to be the peacemaker in her relationships. I want to leave home again but my Grandpa just lost my Grandma and I don’t want to leave him but my mom and her ways are making it difficult to stay.
Jackie’s situation, unfortunately, is not an uncommon one. And that’s why I’m tackling it in today’s post.
Like Jackie, I’ve experienced similar frustrations with my family and I can totally relate to feeling trapped in what feels like a dead end situation.
Now. I don’t have a magic wand that will make all of her problems go away (that would totally kick ass if I did though) but I certainly have plenty to share when it comes to navigating through family chaos.
Today I’m throwing down 4 ideas that may help keep you sane and safe when you’ve more than had it with your family.
Really what today’s post is about is shifting your focus back on the only person you can ever change or take responsibility for. And that’s you.
Once you’ve had a chance to read, I’d love to hear your point of view.
Have you ever felt like Jackie? Can you relate to her frustration and feeling like you’re about to explode? How did you navigate your family’s drama? Any wisdom, advice or hard earned lessons you can share?
Leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Remember, your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
As always, thanks for reading!
P.S. If you have a question or issue that you’d like me to cover in a blog post, please send them my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
# 1 Take A Nap
It’s well known in the medical field that doctors, nurses and caregivers in general often suffer from a phenomena called compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is a type of burnout that occurs when we overextend ourselves emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.
When she was alive Mother Theresa, probably one of the world’s most recognized caregivers, made it mandatory for her nuns to take an entire year off every 4 to 5 years to avoid burnout resulting from compassion fatigue.
Now. I know were not all Mother Theresas, trauma nurses or emergency room doctors but believe it or not if you’re someone that’s constantly caring for other people you could be suffering from compassion fatigue.
Let’s take Jackie for example. She’s 21 years old, in recovery and also has a kid. Her grandmother just died and she’s worried about her grandfather’s well being. She’s trying to protect her little sister and teach her how to deal with the drama at home. And she serves as the peacemaker in her mother’s relationships.
That’s a whole hell of a lot for someone to take on emotionally. It’s no wonder that Jackie feels like she’s ready to explode! It sounds like she could have a touch of compassion fatigue.
To deal with this kind of burnout, the first thing you can do is literally take a nap. Or commit to doing anything that will give you the space you need to breathe and recharge.
What you may need is just some time alone to reflect and figure out what’s really important to you.
I think the key here, when we’re dealing with family drama, is to recognize where our responsibilities begin and where they end. It’s about recognizing when you’ve extended yourself too far and then coming up with a plan that makes your health and well-being the priority.
#2 Know Your Role
In her book, “It Will Never Happen To Me!” Children of Alcoholics: As Youngsters-Adolescents-Adults, Claudia Black lays out the most common roles that we take on in an alcoholic family.
Here’s a simplified summary for each role.
The Responsible child is the little adult of the family.
The Adjuster is the easy going one.
The Placater represents the emotional sponge of the family.
The Acting Out child is the trouble maker.
Again, I’m simplifying here to make a point about the importance of understanding the role that you play or played in your family.
The benefit of understanding this is that once you identify your role you can change it.
The roles we play or adopt are not only a mode of survival for us but they can also help preserve the cycle of dysfunction in the alcoholic family.
So by challenging your role or even to just start thinking about it can go a long way in breaking through your family’s dysfunctional patterns.
#3 Step Away From The Chaos And Step Into A Solution
I’ve witnessed this in my own family but I didn’t really recognize it until recently.
I’m talking about the tendency for my family to jump from crisis to crisis without ever trying to come up with a solution.
Have you experienced this? When I look back on my childhood I see that whenever there was a problem, everyone stayed stuck in the problem.
It wasn’t until I came across Wayne Kritsberg’s book, The Adult Children Of Alcoholics Syndrome, and read the following passage that this idea came to life for me.
“The healthy family for a short period of time, can act in a very dysfunctional way, depending on the nature of the family crisis. The healthy family, however, does not remain in a dysfunctional mode for an extended period of time. This is not true for the alcoholic family. Crisis increases the amount of intensity of dysfunction, and the family does not recover. It gets worse.”
If we’re not aware of this as adults and we grew up in a dysfunctional family, we can continue to live crisis to crisis and not even think to consider any other way to live.
Take Jackie for example. She wants to move away from home but all she can see are the reasons why she can’t. With some thought and support, it’s very possible that Jackie could come up with a solution that would work for her.
But if you’re not used to looking for solutions or you grew up in a family that jumped from crisis to crisis you may not even realize that you can.
#4 The Truth (Even When It Sucks) Is The Key That Will Set You Free
I’ve learned that when it comes to the relationships we have with our family there are truths that will set you free from the drama if you are willing to let them.
If you’ve never heard these before, you may be resistant to them. I know I was. But for now just read and consider.
Truth #1 – Every Relationship Starts With You
Consider the idea that every relationship you have started the day that you said yes to it. I know someone reading this right now is saying, “Wait but I didn’t say yes to my parents.” And that’s 100% true. But even though you didn’t get to choose your family, you’ve taught them how to treat you.
Truth #2 – You Can’t Change Anyone Else (even family)
I know you’ve heard this one before. Who hasn’t. So if you’re still not convinced maybe this quote from author Kris Karr will help the idea stick,
“The only time you can change someone is when they are in diapers”
Truth #3 – You’re Only Responsible For You
This one goes for you, me and our friend Jackie. No matter how much we may love our family and want the best for them – the only person that we are ever truly responsible for is ourselves. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t love, support, give advice or be concerned, it just means that you’re not responsible for the choices someone else makes. You are only responsible for you.