Part of the program for the treatment center was writing an impact letter. They didn’t call it an impact letter but it was essentially the same thing. I decided to go ahead and write one. I could have pointed her to this blog and had her take a day or two to see what it’s really like to live with an addict, but I scribbled down some thoughts and gave it to her.
This is the second letter I wrote:
The kids and I have been through rough times with you. It’s not easy living with an addict. Years ago when you were in a treatment center I wrote you an impact letter. I’ve attached it to remind you of the things I said in 2010. It was different then. The kids were younger so our situation wasn’t the same. Now, 8 years later we are still dealing with you as an alcoholic but it affects us in different ways.
Our family relationships have been shaped as a result of your addiction. The kids and I have dealt with it the best way we could, accepting it as reality and understanding that there was nothing we could do to change it. I did everything I could to insulate the kids from the stress of having an addict for a mother and did so with their best intentions.
What’s it like to live with you? You are always drunk, every day, and as a result you lose your ability to speak coherently and function as a normal adult. Our response has been to tune you out and ignore you. We don’t include you in conversations, plans or activities. I know you were aware and upset by it, but it won’t change. This is the way we deal with your addiction.
The three things that you complain about the most are 1) you never do anything right, 2) you are never included in anything and 3) I never want to do anything. Each of these is true and each of these is direct result of your drinking. When you are drunk you don’t do anything right, we don’t want to include you in anything and I have been burned so many times that it’s easier for me to not do anything with you than it is to agree to do something and hope you won’t be drunk.
Think about what we went through last Christmas. All the kids were home and the family was coming over. What happened? You got very drunk right before everyone arrived. You sat in the living room talking about our oldest’s boyfriend repeating the same thing over and over. We tried to change the subject but you kept saying the same thing over and over. Then you went on about one of the twin’s trip to the cabin. We all agreed not to talk about it but you got drunk and talked about it anyway. I had to stay in the kitchen and cook the entire meal. The kids knew what was up and they came and helped me. There we were, the kids and I were in the kitchen talking it up, having fun, doing what we do while you were drunk in the other room. To us, that was our norm. The rest of the family just dealt with it. Nobody said anything. Nobody ever does.
And now it’s going to change. Each of us wants it to and when it does, each of us will get to know you as a different person. This will take time. It is not something that you can expect to happen over-night. To help us, I have these suggestions:
First, don’t judge everything we do or say. And don’t feel bad if you are not immediately included. A perfect example is when I said I had to buy food for the twins ski trip. I told her it was from us. You immediately pointed out how nice it was to have me say us instead of me. The fact is, if you are healthy and sober, it wouldn’t matter if I said us, me, or you. You sobriety depends on changing the way you think and you will drive yourself crazy micro analyzing everything we say.
Which leads to the second point. Don’t expect us to say what you want. An example was when we were talking on the phone about having to pay for 5 nights. You said you wanted me to say you should stay the extra time to get better. The thought never crossed my mind that somehow 25 days was not enough time for you to get better but 30 is. I would have never said what you expected or wanted. Again, when you are healthy and sober you won’t have these expectations.
Finally, don’t change the relationship I have with the kids, and don’t be jealous of it. Build your own relationships and understand that with your sobriety the family dynamics will change, faster than you think. It won’t change if you drink, but in recovery it will. We all want it to.
Your recovery is not something we can do for you, but we can help you with it. Don’t be afraid to ask for anything that will help. We all want to support you and we all want you to get better.
I read it to her with a counselor and her response was ‘why is it all about you and the kids, instead of just you’. Funny, I didn’t intend to write it that way but that’s how it came out. I guess that is just the way I view things.
Reading the letter now, I don’t think it captures what it is really like to live with her. I think I should have been more direct. Like in the 3rd paragraph instead of “We don’t include you . . .” I should have said ‘We don’t want you . . . “. Too late now.