I really hate my life right now and I don't know how to make it better
September 15, 2017 3:59 PM   Subscribe

When I'm finished my day at work, I get so sick thinking about my "real" life. I have felt so profoundly alone and lonely since my father died in March. I've been left to "take care of" my 72 year old (alcoholic, etc.) mother and it's just too much for me to deal with, I'm an only child. I've recently moved out, but I still feel awful. I just feel so alone. How can I make it better?

Everything just hurts. I had to go to my mother's house today after work because I forgot a receipt for something I need to return to the store. Of course, she wasn't home... she's at the bar, where she usually is (the only place she'll go!!!). After I found the receipt I just started wailing and crying and so upset. I am so tired of this pain. I'm 29 and I feel like an 8 y ear old.

I'm an only child and I really have no family or close by friends to support me. My father's brother is the executor of the estate, but once the estate's settled he's not someone I can rely on. I worry so much that she's going to spend all her money getting drunk at the bar and that i will have to support her forever. I'm in grad school and working part time now and I don't think I could even support her if I had a job. I probably will never make *enough* money to support someone living in a senior's home, if worst comes to worst. I know she's going to be my responsibility until the day she dies and that terrifies me. I am absolutely horrified.

Moving out hasn't made me feel any better, it's made me feel worse. I don't know what's wrong with me.

I just feel *so* profoundly alone. All I want in the world right now is a family so badly and I know I'm not going to get it. Growing up with my mother has made me feel completely worthless and unlovable. I feel like I'm nothing. If I got into a serious accident no one would care about me. I don't have anyone to use as an emergency contact if I got hurt. How do you go through life alone like this? I'm terrified. I'm too afraid to date, because I can't imagine that anyone would want to be with me if they knew about my mother. They would run away so fast. I don't even dream about getting married or having a family anymore. I feel like I'm bound to be alone forever and spend the rest of my life taking care of my father's mistakes (my mother). I'm utterly terrifed.

I'm at a loss at what to do. Can I do anything to make my life better? It hurts so much. I am in therapy, but I don't know what more I can do.
posted by modesty.blaise to Human Relations (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in a similar situation - but at 37, I'm almost a decade further into the caretaker role. Let me start by saying - you're doing a good job. I know it doesn't feel like it and I know there isn't enough that can be done to make everything okay right now but you're going to be okay.

I have siblings but they are each involved in their own lives and have, pretty much, left me to care for my sick mother while she goes through various ailments that seem to make her weaker as we go through the years. It hurts a lot, sometimes, and it makes me feel bad and guilty and lonely and crazy and wrong. Just like you do. I had to learn (and am still learning) how to accept that maybe, perhaps, I'm not a bad person and that I'm doing the best I can with what we have going on. I was also given the advice that I need someone to say to me every few weeks: this, too, shall pass. Things don't stay the same. They change. The way that things are now will not always be how they are. In good and bad ways, this is true and it helps me to remember this so maybe it will help you.

You should know that you aren't alone. You might be alone when you have to take care of your mom and when you can't make her better but I swear - every single one of us who has taken on the role of taking care of our parents is with you. We are the ones who get the calls at three a.m., we are the ones who have to drop all of our plans at a moment's notice for whatever is happening and we are the ones who get the blame with very little of the praise for being decent people. Especially from ourselves. Give yourself a break. Literally, by spending time doing things you enjoy even if you feel like you should be somewhere helping your mother or trying to help her. And emotionally, let yourself cry, scream, yell - you are not acting like an 8 year old (no offense to 8 year olds), you are a human being who is dealing with an overwhelming situation and you are having feelings. Have them when you need to, wherever that is and forgive yourself, please, as much as possible for anything that you feel could be better or different.
posted by Merinda at 4:23 PM on September 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

All you really need to do is just hold on and not give up. You have put many good things in motion already - moving out, therapy, grad school. You are like the trapeze artist who has let go of one bar (the flaming, shitty mess of life at home with your mother) and is going through the stomach churning free fall while your momentum carries you towards the new bar (new home, school etc) that will give you the momentum to continue to move onward.

Most of what you are experiencing are feelings but feelings are not the truth:
I feel like an 8 y ear old.
I just feel *so* profoundly alone
... feel completely worthless and unlovable.
I feel like I'm nothing

But then those feeling go on to tell you lies -
I will have to support my mother forever (false, you have no legal obligation to support your mother. Your only commitment is whatever you, personally, feel the healthy and appropriate level of support to offer)
You are required to bankrupt your self to support your mother (false! if she does spend her money, which hasn't even happened yet, her social security and medicaid can support her))
No one will ever love me because of my mother (false - just do search of askmefi to see how many, many other people have alcoholic parents and yet still manage to have friends, and even partners)

I know people have said the same in your past posts. Eventually you will figure this out for yourself and start to believe it. Maybe go back and read the replies to your old questions when you start to feel this way?

My only other advice is consider AlAnon - you will find a circle of people who will understand what you are going through and give you some support in getting through this until your own resilience kicks and you grab the new trapeze bar and go sailing into your happier future.
posted by metahawk at 4:25 PM on September 15, 2017 [16 favorites]

I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sorry you are dealing with this and hurting. I have experience with alcoholic family members and dysfunctional family dynamics.

What helped me was focusing on myself and not the ill person. When you focus on your mom's agenda you can't focus on your agenda and your life will slip away from you and you will be miserable. You're not responsible for your mom. Cliche, but you have one life.

Codependent No More and other books on Codependency helped. Also therapy.

Also anything I could read on the subject: Darlene Lancer, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Lisa Romano on YouTube -- I didn't use her life coaching but her videos are a good starting place to understand why you're feeling the way you feel. Codependency podcasts.

You have choices. You can set boundaries. You are not a victim, you're a survivor, a warrior -- a love warrior! You don't have to be bogged down in the drama of your mother.

You are not your mother. Most everyone has addiction or baggage in their families. Don't be afraid to date. The fact that you think people will judge you based on your mom's behavior makes me think you are suffering from shame. Shame-riddled people is a byproduct of alcoholic parents. When you're an ACoA you can feel help helpless and get caught up in victim-mode -- there is hope. Keep working to heal yourself. I started with the AcoA stuff and Codependency stuff and then as my healing progressed I found great understanding and peace with the teachings of Eckart Tolle.

Good luck and health and healing. You deserve a happy life!
posted by loveandhappiness at 4:36 PM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I thought you were going to say, "I'm 29 and I feel like I'm 75." You have lived a lot of life already, more than most 29-year-olds.

I am not the child of an alcoholic mother so I'm not maybe the best person to offer advice. But I recognize the voices you have in your head. They're voices that do not have your best interests at heart, and they don't have the best information, either.

A grief group would be helpful, and maybe Al-Anon would be, too -- do you have access to either of these? Some of the people might be insufferable, but you just need one or two good souls -- peers. Peers who are going through something like what you are going through would be good for you to have. Therapy is good but folks who are feeing the pain you're feeling would be even better.

If the god part is a stop, in big cities there may be secular/buddhist/ or humanist al-anon groups.
posted by nohattip at 4:46 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to second Al Anon, as it's free and seems to be exactly what you need (because it's a really normal, natural thing to need!). A group of people who viscerally get what you're going through, and are gathered for the express purpose of supporting each other through it. I hope there's one near you, but it looks like they have virtual groups as well.
posted by mrmurbles at 4:49 PM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm too afraid to date, because I can't imagine that anyone would want to be with me if they knew about my mother.

You are so lovable. This question and seeing how hard you're working on making progress in your life make me want to wrap you up in a big hug and let you cry and then sit there and help you figure all this out. I don't mean this in a sappy, condescending way (like those comments that start with "oh honey"). Just the fact that you're bravely putting one foot in front of the other and that you're emotionally honest and self aware enough to write this, both speak so highly of you. Yes, your life has a big challenge. But people looking for love aren't, like, looking for someone with a full retirement account; that's not what love and building a family are about. Money helps, don't get me wrong. But love is what makes a family, and love doesn't come from one's financial assets; it's about one's character and how two people click. Now -- when you're so overwhelmed, when you're still struggling with so much fear and grief -- might not be the perfect moment to find a good long-term partner, or maybe it is. I agree with metahawk's comment -- keep your focus on that trapeze bar you're reaching to grab, or less perilously, keep tacking toward your goal. So much of what happens in life is determined by what we stay focused on. Your keen desire for a family makes me believe you'll get there.
posted by salvia at 5:07 PM on September 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding the advice above - go to an Al-Anon meeting and go to codependents meetings. You will find support and other people going through similar experiences. Peace to you
posted by gt2 at 5:46 PM on September 15, 2017

You absolutely can still have a family-- the one we came with is not always the the one we belong with. Many of us with unsuitable families make a family later in life from friends, community, pets, coworkers, partners, classmates, causes, etc.

You've done so much for her. Now it's time to do for yourself.
posted by kapers at 6:20 PM on September 15, 2017

I just feel *so* profoundly alone. All I want in the world right now is a family so badly and I know I'm not going to get it.

You are in an awful situation because one parent is dead but the other one isn't yet, so you have to live half in dread instead of being free to give yourself up to sadness (which, when you can devote yourself to it completely, takes a few years of your life. so even if it was "just" that your father had died, the way you feel is the way you would feel.) at least know you aren't being immature in your reactions, or overreacting or anything. it is miserable and the paralysis of not knowing how long your mother's situation will go on and not being able to hope for the only possible end is an extremely bad way to be. none of it is in your control.

however -- you already took one great step in moving out. this is the first step, not the final one, towards the goal, which may take years to accomplish but need not, and that is: to vacate your sense of false responsibility, not just the physical house. Your mother is not your moral responsibility and you do not have to let her be your financial responsibility. that is not a general statement about everybody's mother; it isn't true about everyone's, but it's true about yours and you, personally. you have already taken heroic measures to look after her and you aren't able to make her safe and well. nobody is.

one day things may suddenly get worse and you'll have to be back in contact to have her committed or get her set up with Medicaid. but unless that happens, you are done, you don't owe anything. A lot is owed to you by her that will never be paid; you aren't obligated to anyone for any thing at this time. It may not feel like you just did some great and heroic task because there's no reward or acknowledgement for it, so I'm just telling you, you did.

the feeling & fact of having no parents is not itself repairable, it's real. but you can find other people to be close to and fill your mind with other things to think about. you are probably going to feel awful until you're able to believe that your mother is a burden you can put down, you are not hers to ride to exhaustion. therapy should be working towards this gradual understanding. even though it is a massive and long-term project, it should be your therapist's priority.

In your place I would be terrified of the relief I would expect to feel when my mother died. when that time comes, it will help a bit if you have been able to work towards an understanding that you did not fail her at any point and you have and will have nothing to be blamed for. if you can get far enough away from her, with your emotions and your attention, that you don't know anymore what her daily life is like, you may be able to start feeling better about that. you probably feel worse now because you can't see her but you still know what she's doing. that means you need to get further away.

believe me that a lot of people would feel a connection to you exactly because of all this misery. nobody wants to be in the dead parents club but it is a relief sometimes to meet other people in it, and there are other people your age in it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:11 PM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think support groups would really help you. When I was at a point in my life where I had those same feelings as you do (hopelessness, failure, grief, self-loathing) about a different issue, attending support groups was incredibly healing. Being in the company of people who truly understand exactly what you're going through cuts through the dreadful sense of aloneness and isolation that is compounding your misery.

Al Anon is truly just right for the stuff around your mom. Please remember that you are in no way obligated to say anything at all, to disclose a single thing, including your name. You can just go and listen. The people there will absolutely understand on a gut level your struggle, pain, fear about your mom.

Another idea is that there is SO much grief in your writing that a grief or bereavement support group would also be appropriate. You lost your dad so recently and so much has changed as a result. People in a bereavement group will understand that completely.

You are not alone, not by a long shot. You are a young adult who is under immense pressure right now. It won't always be like this. You can take it one day at a time and make it through. And the world has lots of people in it who care and will empathize and help. Go look for them. It will help. They're there, I promise.
posted by Sublimity at 5:12 AM on September 16, 2017

Yeah, Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics are a great resource for this kind of stuff. Especially ACoA. What you are experiencing is a pretty much textbook reaction/feeling to growing up and living with an alcoholic. In other words, you are not alone by a long shot. Your emotional needs have likely not been met because you're living with someone who is emotionally unavailable due to the heavy drinking over the years.

My family situation is the same way. I am a recovering alcoholic myself and my mother doesn't drink (oddly enough), but she acts just like an alcoholic but without the booze. And I am an only child too, so I totally get where you're coming from.

Fortunately in my own recovery, I have learned that I only have to be responsible for myself. My mother is 73 and she intimates from time to time that she has an unspoken expectation that I will take care of her when she gets too old and sick to take care of herself. Well, it's not going to happen like that. I can barely take care of myself a lot of the time and I'm not going to make myself miserable trying to be a nurse for her. I will make appropriate arrangements when the time comes and set my boundaries as necessary. That's one of the reasons I live 2000 miles from her.

My point with all of this is that living with an alcoholic teaches us a lot of things that are patently false, like we suck, are unlovable, have to cater to others, etc. Spending time with people who are seeking a solution from the alcoholic family dynamic via Al-Anon or ACoA or whatever therapeutic means works for you is really where the healing can begin and you can feel connected to others in a meaningful way. I don't seek support from my family anymore because I know I'm not going to get it there. My "family", if you will, is the folks in the recovery groups. They actually have the love to give, and I will gladly take it and give some back to them too.

This stuff is really hard, and it took me a long time to get to where I am now. The good news though, is there's hope. You can have a great life. And believe it or not, somebody out there needs a friend like you. Memail me if you want to chat more. :)
posted by strelitzia at 9:25 AM on September 16, 2017

Have you considered attending services at some local churches to see if any click for you in terms of building a community? Unitarian Universalist churches tend to be very welcoming and non judgmental, if that is a concern.
posted by ewok_academy at 9:51 AM on September 16, 2017

You will find a support group and home at Al-Anon. Please give it a try.

Initiate a no-contact policy with your mother when she's drinking unless there's a true emergency. Just tell her on the phone or in person: "Mom, I can tell you've been drinking. I'll call you in the morning to arrange a for a visit when you're sober." Restricting your contact with her when she's sober is incredibly difficult; you've probably spent your young life being "good" when she's sober so as not to "cause" her to drink. But try it.
posted by Elsie at 10:14 AM on September 16, 2017

Your county will have eldercare services. When you're feeling up to it, contact them to find out more about how your mother's finances will work. She has [whatever money she has] and presumably social security and medicare. When she needs a nursing home, she will do the medicaid spend-down to reduce her assets and then medicaid will pay for her care. Again, when you're feeling up to it, you can find out the process for making sure that she is housed and cared for. This is not your financial responsibility, and there are resources available to you. Some of them will be a pain to access. There are online discussion boards and support groups specific to eldercare that will be able to advise you. Don't feel that your life should be spent in thrall to your mother - it really, really should not, because ultimately you need to support yourself and build your own career. You have a long life ahead of you.

It is true that any serious relationship you have will involve a kind of reckoning with your mother's condition. But: 1. Shorter, lighter or earlier-stage relationships won't. You don't need to hold back from dating because of your mother, and until you get into a serious relationship, it's not going to be a giant issue. 2. When you're in a serious relationship, that person should be a support to you are you work this stuff out. We all have parents who are aging - it comes with the relationship territory. While your mother has a serious and upsetting problem, a lot of people's parents also have serious and upsetting problems of various kinds. This is not a dealbreaker situation. If people whose parents have serious health problems couldn't have relationships, a huge percentage of the population would never date.

I know that a lot of the stuff around your mother's situation is about the trauma you've experienced and the sad events of this year, and that you'll be better able to deal with the practical stuff as you work through the emotions. But please know that the material issues facing you are not insurmountable and your life does not need to be - and should not be! - spent as your mother's caretaker.
posted by Frowner at 8:19 PM on September 17, 2017

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