I'm about out of ideas
May 10, 2007 5:46 AM   Subscribe

How can we fix an ages-old family problem with recent manifestations? It involves alcoholism, ineffective counselors, and a lack of people to go to for help.

A close friend of mine has some rather serious family problems, and they all seem to stem from her mother being more and more distant. My friend's mother had an alcoholic father, and for a few years, her mother has been getting counseling from someone who isn't exactly a *real* counselor. All this person has basically done is get her stuck in a rut, leaving her unable to move on with her life.

Now, my friend has some issues of her own, and her mother isn't consistently there for her. She has admitted that she doesn't know how to help, but doesn't seem to admit that there's a problem. My friend has no older cousins or sisters to turn to, and she is not very close to her father either. Me and several other friends have formed a sort-of "safety net" for her, but it's no substitute for her mother and a good family structure, obviously.

Any suggestions from the hive mind about where my friend can turn for help or what I can do to help her through this difficult time?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
...but it's no substitute for her mother and a good family structure, obviously.

I don't see the obviousness of this. If your friend had tons of close relatives, it would make sense to rely more on them. But you are describing an effective family of 2. Even if you could get the mother to be less distant/more supportive and your friend dependent on her, what happens when the mother dies?

It sounds like this friend needs to transition to independence or at least dependence on someone(s!) who are going to be there for her.
posted by DU at 5:59 AM on May 10, 2007

"Fixing" a whole family, or even just a mother-daughter relationship, where both the mother and daughter seem to have significant problems, is a monumental set of tasks, which I think would have a pretty low probability for success, if taken on by you and some of the daughter's friends, anonymous. Unless you are in a position with the mother to cause her to change her situation, find new sources of help, and become significantly more functional with her daughter, you really have no basis for success.

I think your efforts are better spent helping your friend deal with whatever problems she herself has, regardless of the cause, or whether these problems stem from parenting failures. None of us can usually "fix" what went wrong in our past, but we can learn to understand it, and cope with the results, so that the past doesn't continue to screw up our futures.

In the case of alcoholism, AA and its offshoot support groups Al-Anon/Alateen and Adult Children of Alcoholics are frequently recommended resources. They are frequently recommended, because they have helped thousands of people dealing with family histories of alcohol abuse, and because they are geographically widespread, making finding local chapters easier for those seeking help.

If your friend hasn't explored those groups, you could help by going along with her to some meetings, and seeing what resources and recommendations they can offer, for specific issues not covered in your question here.
posted by paulsc at 6:04 AM on May 10, 2007

You can't do anything except be supportive of your friend. Your friend can go to therapy herself if she's in distress and feels like that would help. You cannot do anything for her mother.

People don't tend to get better until they see their situations as a problem that needs addressing.
posted by OmieWise at 6:30 AM on May 10, 2007

How old is your friend? Advice that is appropriate for a divorced woman of forty is not necessarily the same advice that is appropriate for a teenager living with her mother. Some of it will be the same - develop relationships apart from her mother, decrease dependence on a person who cannot provide what is being asked - but some will be more situation-specific.
posted by kika at 7:21 AM on May 10, 2007

I don't mean this to sound harsh, so please try not to take it this way.

It may help your friend to start viewing her mother and other relatives as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution that's failed her. Setting up expectation for help that is not capable of being delivered will bring disappointment. It sounds like her family is not available to be supportive to her because they are so mired and incapacitated by their problems. And friends are great, but they can only do so much.

A therapist for your friend is really what she needs to learn to let go of the problems that her family members have, and start working on the ones she has. And then you can help by letting go a little of the problems your friend has. When everybody is more or less holding all their own stuff there will be less confusion about what to do with it and how it should be carried through life best.

It sounds like all parties involved are caring and compassionate people. While that makes it hard to draw lines and not be dependent on one another, it will really be the best thing ever once those boundaries are set up, and then you can all truly be helpful and supportive of each other. Love and luck to you all!
posted by iamkimiam at 8:05 AM on May 10, 2007

one key thing I think is to let her know that she doesn't have to repeat the pattern of her mom.

she may want to look into books/resources on children of alcoholics to get some perspective on her mom.

also, Witness to the Fire: Creativity and the Veil of Addiction is a good book about addiction generally, but it's probably best for someone that likes literature. (Uses Dostovesky, London to illustrate some examples.)

she can find role models and 'mom-figures' and maybe even eventually be a good role model for her own mom. (my dad credits my step-grandfather for showing him many things about being a stand-up human being.)
posted by ejaned8 at 2:41 PM on May 10, 2007

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