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Is there a support thread for people being driven insane by elderly alcoholic mothers?

(30 Posts)
chihiro Fri 17-May-13 09:41:03

And if not does anyone want to start one?

I'm sure I can't be the only person struggling with this problem.

chihiro Fri 17-May-13 10:18:54

OK some background. My mum is what you might call a 'controlled' alcoholic. She doesn't drink every day and in 30+ years of drinking she has never got behind the wheel of a car after consuming any alcohol. But she is an alcoholic nonetheless. On days when she does not have to drive or has no particular commitments she just cannot help herself.

She is indulging heavily at the moment because she has her cataract op next week and she is fucking terrified. But I thought is would be safe to take her birthday cards and present over yesterday and take the kids after school. Also she had WI in the evening so I thought she would likely be sober. But no she was completely toasted. I didn't say anything at first as we weren't stopping long but we got into an argument and I lost control and yelled my head off at her for being drunk in front of the kids. She went very quiet and said that I should have had a conversation with her in private and not in front of them, but I lost control again and yelled how come it's ok for you to be drunk in front of them but not for me to talk about it. Surely this is just using the kids to maintain a silence around her problem.

The kids went and hid behind the sofa and giggled 'Mummy is shouting at Grandma' but now I am feeling hideously guilty - have I scarred them for life?

I am also feeling sad sad sad that my kids will never have a normal grandparent like lots of other kids do.

Meery Fri 17-May-13 10:58:22

No OP you are not the only one. My dm is a functioning alcoholic and this has defined to a large extent our relationship with her. Have never really called her on it or rather never effectively done so. There's no point when she's drunk and she denies it when sober. She lives abroad and we never speak on phone as by the time im home from work the sun is well over the yard arm so there's no point. And yes she does drive when drunk

chihiro Fri 17-May-13 11:33:07

'There's no point when drunk and she denies it when sober'

Yes, this exactly. 30 years of this. I feel resigned to the fact that she will go to her grave without ever admitting she has a problem.

Can i ask do you have kids and do you take them to see her? Does she behave when you are there?

It is worrying that she still drives. Even without that we still worry about her falling downstairs or leaving the gas on when drunk.

TheMagicToyshop Fri 17-May-13 12:17:44

Sadly my mum also has a very worrying relationship with alcohol. Although she's not yet 60 so not really elderly, I do sympathise with what you are saying. Off out now but will come back to the thread later.

Meery Fri 17-May-13 12:25:12

Yes we have 2dc. When we visit she is normally good for a couple of days (and we police the flow of drink) but then has a bad day. This is usually because we've left her behind for an afternoon or something. We then try to keep the dc out of the way until the next day as feel it's not right to expose them to ramblings.

As for the driving we have pulled her up on that but her response has been we fuss too much as it's different over where she is as there are no police about. Totally missing the issue.

She did fall and break her arm last year.....

chihiro Fri 17-May-13 13:13:22

Yes the level of denial is just staggering isn't it. That sounds like a very familiar pattern - fine for a couple of days then a tiny trigger and back to the bottle. Do your kids understand that there is an issue? Mine are only 4 so they cannot yet distinguish between drunk grandma and normal grandma but presumably at some point they will learn and goodness only know how we begin to explain it all to them.

Magic - yes please do come back and talk to us. I only mentioned the elderly thing because I feel that the alcohol adds an extra complicated dimension to the normal worries that everyone has about aging parents.

My mum rang this morning completely sober - didn't mention my outburst at all. I should have followed up on it and spoken to her but I chickened out of the confrontation so now I'm cross with myself.

Lemonylemon Fri 17-May-13 14:13:23

Yes, my Mum did have a very worrying relationship with alcohol, to the point that she would have falls, forget complete conversations that we'd had on the phone etc. It has now got to the stage where she's in the final stages of cirrhosis of the liver.

The journey from her having a few drinks, to being terminally ill, was a horrendous, scary journey for her and for us.

OryxCrake Fri 17-May-13 14:50:30

Ah, elderly alcoholic mothers. Yes, I have one of these. She's in her 80s and has always been a big drinker but I've rarely seen her drunk. The past few years, though, I've been more aware of it - partly as she's disabled and mostly housebound and I do her online shop.

I suppose it could be seen as enabling that I order her alcohol but if I don't, she gets other friends and neighbours to bring her booze (in fact even when I do order alcohol - wine and spirits - for her, she still gets top-ups from friends and neighbours).

It's a very difficult situation but thankfully the kids are older and don't really see this side of her. She's not been able to drive for years, either, for which I am also very thankful.

I find it hard to talk about it with her as we don't have a very open relationship - we're chatty and close on the surface but you don't have to dig far to realise there's not much depth there and she's always been a very hands-off parent emotionally and practically.

I sort of feel that as she's in her 80s and not harming anyone, that I should leave her to it but at the same time I worry terribly that she'll fall and hurt herself or become even more ill than she already is.

Chihiro - don't feel guilty about calling your mother on her behaviour in front of your kids. It's good that you were able to be upfront about it and say what you thought to her face to face. Wish I could do that...

GeordieCherry Fri 17-May-13 15:16:37

Yup. She's only in her 60s though...

It was pretty shit growing up in our house & it's taken a lot of Al-Anon for our relationship to be as good as it is now

DC1 is due any time now, her first grandchild. Interested & a wee bit scared to see how this is going to work

I'm good with my boundaries; we don't speak on the phone if she's been drinking; I don't let her off the hook if she's told me something already & then forgotten; I don't put her to bed, dilute her drinks, make excuses etc etc

Won't be able to attend meetings for a few weeks with a newborn & DM will be coming to visit. Hoping I manage ok!

Meery Fri 17-May-13 17:57:21

Geordie good luck and enjoy your baby; those first few weeks are special.

And well done for having boundaries - I feel I should take a leaf out of your book and be a little firmer with mine.

I remember when DC1 was a baby and we went to visit DM; it was a long days travel (and a long day to "prepare" for our arrival i.e. have a drink or two). DC1 needed a nappy change and DM wanted to help (under tight supervision of course). We were using disposable nappies and DM managed to rip the nappy when fixing around the baby. Rather than apologise and say "oops look what a mess I've made of it, best you take over, sorry" she simply patted the two halves of nappy into place and said "that'll do!" We then had a firm discussion (row) about how wasteful I was by throwing that nappy away and using another.

GeordieCherry Fri 17-May-13 22:54:01

Thanks Meery, I'm excited!

Need to work out how it's going to work best with the visiting & care of DC. I'm not teetotal but will certainly not be drunk in charge of my child. So what's my 'cut off' with her....?

Just out-loud musings smile, I'll work it out

What happened when your DM broke her arm?

chihiro Sat 18-May-13 12:24:00

Wow there are a fair few of us aren't there. So many of the situations described here sounds so familiar.

Lemony sorry to hear about the cirrhosis - my father-in-law died of cirrhosis despite the fact that he wasn't an alcoholic at all - nothing like my mum. His was just too much social drinking. But it is of course still a worry.

Oryx thanks for your supportive words. I think my problem is talking about it to her when she is sober. Had two opportunities yesterday and chickened out both times. I want to set the boundaries in place but struggle to tell her. She is quite remorseful at the mo - came and told me that she had been very silly and confessed that she is worried about her op. That's the nearest I'll get to an apology. She'll lay off for a few day maybe even a week and then we'll be back to 'normal' again.

Geordie good luck with the baby and sorting out how you will work it out with your mum. I found that my mum was so excited about the twins that she was really good when they were first born. She would come and stay for a few days, then go home again and come back the following week and I don't recall her drinking once at our house - she just when home and did it all there. So you may find the early days aren't too bad.

Meery Sat 18-May-13 14:02:39

Geordie the tale is that dm slipped on wet decking in her garden and thus broke her arm. I say tale as i wasn't there when it happened and only have her word for it. That's one of the problems i find with dm;because she likes a drink we always jump to the conclusion that drink will have been somehow involved. Maybe we do her a disservice but i don't know.

bbqsummer Sat 18-May-13 23:55:23

Do any of you get drunk sometimes?

Imo, zero tolerance of anyone else's drinking habits, no matter what the occasion, has to mean zero drinking to the state of being drunk oneself.

So I am assuming and hoping that no posters here accept themselves or their partners being drunk

chihiro Sun 19-May-13 12:22:11

Bit puzzled by your latest comment there BBQ. Personally DH is a teetotaller and I have a low tolerance for alcohol - rarely have more then a small glass of anything. But it wouldn't matter a flying fig whether we did or not - you cannot lead an alcoholic by example. It simply doen't work like that. Nothing you do or don't do can affect their behaviour whatsoever.

I'd be willing to bet that everyone on this thread has learnt this the hard way - possibly like me during vulnerable childhood and teenage years!

musickeepsmesane Sun 19-May-13 12:30:11

I have had my mother let me down several thousand times over the years. She is in her seventies now and is a bit more in control now. She has to be, her children have stopped getting her out of her messes. bbqsumer your last comments are very unhelpful. I enjoy a glass or two of wine or spiced rum. I very nevery get drunk. I have been drunk when younger. Getting drunk sometimes is not the same as drinking far too much every single day. It is not the same as getting drunk at every single family/social occasion. My parents drinking ruled my life for a very long time. Dealing with alcoholic oldies is nothing to do with having zero tolerance to alochol, imo

musickeepsmesane Sun 19-May-13 12:30:51

very nevery?? blush very rarely I mean.

Meery Sun 19-May-13 16:50:11

Interesting point bbq but I'm not quite sure where you're coming from, maybe you'd care to elucidate a little further? Do you have a particular experience that you'd like to share?

I agree with the post above that there is a distinction between having a glass of wine with a meal or a drink on a social occasion and being a functioning alcoholic. May be this is quite a fine line, but it is still a line not to be crossed.

Hazeleyedbaby Sun 19-May-13 19:53:07

Yes my mum is a 'functioning' alcoholic in denial. She drinks to the point of being drunk with slurred speech every night and had done for as long as I can remember. I used to find bottles everywhere growing up. Linen basket, between towels in the linen cupboard, in the ottoman you name it!

She is in her 60s and won't admit she has a problem, instead she gets defensive if you mention it and family excuse her behaviour. She is a bad 'nippy' drunk. I don't call her or answer the phone to her after 7pm as she won't recall the conversation the next day.

She recently really disappointed me when I was due to have DC2 as we have no other family near I needed her to be on stand by to watch DC1 when I went into labour, sure as fate this was in the night and she needed picked up to sit in our house. She reeked of booze and I was so anxious leaving her in charge of DS but had no option as I have very quick labours. Thankfully DS slept through and was none the wiser.

She further disappointed me when DC2 was ill at 15 days old, had to pick her up again to stay with DS (again thankfully sleeping). Came home she was crashed out cold on the couch and had helped herself to a large gin!!

I will never ask her to watch DCs overnight or in the evening. I feel really resentful towards her behaviour but have come to accept this now. It's unbelievable how selfish she is through the drink but she won't change. On the upside I will never be like her and will always be there for my children.

chihiro Mon 20-May-13 10:29:57

Hazeleyed - your mum has really let you down badly there. I don't think you can ever really forgive them for doing that at those most crucial times.

As you say I think children of alcoholics do work harder/have more awareness of not being like their parents.

Had to smile slightly at your comment about keeping her bottles in the linen cupboard - my mum still does that even though she's lived on her own for 5 years! I asked her if the bottle of courvoisier was there for old times sake and she said 'I don't know what you're talking about'. God sometimes you've just got to laugh or you'd spend all your time crying.

musickeepsmesane Mon 20-May-13 12:34:16

my mother never hides it. Wears it like a badge of honour. I think children of alcoholics become parents at a very early age. My parents needed parenting for as long as I can remember. As eldest female I also had to look after the siblings. I feel now that my mother is much more reliable, bad health etc so can't take her drink quite so much. However, I am always waiting for her to let us down. I approach any social occasion she is going to with trepidation sad I am very happy she never ruined my sons wedding but was on tenderhooks the whole time, watching her. It pisses me off that they just don't get how much damage they cause.

Lemonies Mon 20-May-13 13:23:13

I'm the only daughter Musickeepsmesane so sorting Mum out has always been my job.
Despite my Mum hating women in general and hating me with a passion everyone else just made excuses for her.
She would deny drinking, swear to everyone that she wasn't touching it, call me after four pm (she drank before that time but four was her first public drink before she 'quit') to slur and argue. If I asked her had she been drinking she would just laugh, not even deny it.
If I said to Dad or my brothers she had been drunk she called me a liar and said I was turning them against her.
My oldest brother died six years ago unexpectedly, at the time he died he wasn't speaking to me because my Mum had convinced him and his new wife that I was making up lies about her.
That's something I will never forgive her for.

YoniOneWayOfLife Mon 20-May-13 13:25:58

Me too. Except for a brief period in the late 90s my mother admitted she had a problem. A good 20 years too late mind, and she'd deny ot ever happened now. I have no idea how much she drinks on a daily basis as I do not call her, most of the 6-7 times a year that I do see her, she is slurring, forgetful and belligerent. But that could be librium or any of the various other tranquilizers/beta blockers/opiates/meds she takes for all her other self-inflicted alcohol-induced conditions

My biggest fear now is that my dad dies first or goes into a home first - at the moment everything simmers under the surface.

musickeepsmesane Mon 20-May-13 14:28:02

Lemonies sad I still find it difficult to see how people can think my parents are great. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your brother, that regret must live with you every day.

Yoni If your fears come true, you need to stay strong. You are not responsible for your mother. Took me a long time to realise that. A very long time. Leave her to her own devices.

I do feel that my mother can be selective about our childhoods, however I do know she regrets it (not enough, but better than nothing) and that helps me. She is toxic tho'

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