My mother gave birth to me when she was an unmarried teenager. I grew up in a household with a grandfather and uncles who are alcoholics…. In spite of the fact that my mother never hit me, she caused a gaping wound that is difficult to heal. She is also an alcoholic and, even though she no longer drinks every day, she can hardly wait until five o’clock on Fridays so that she can start.

I left to live at some distance away in order to get away from all that caused me pain; but even now, when my family comes to visit, my mother comes with her beers and cigarettes. It bothers me a lot. Should I put all that behind me and seek… to live calmly and in peace, even though it means that I would be isolating myself from my mother’s family? With just my husband and children I feel good. Give me your advice, Linda. I know that you can understand me.

You are right; I do know exactly how you feel. Just thinking about it makes the emotions come back to me. You are torn between the desire to cleanse your life from such negative and destructive influences, and the desire to honor your mother as the Fifth Commandment teaches. You want a way to make the pain stop, but being with your mother and her family brings it all up again.

Honoring your mother means respecting her for whatever sacrifices she may have made during your growing up years. It means speaking to her kindly, especially when she is not under the influence of alcohol. And it means sending her a card or letter on special occasions. But it does not mean that you must spend time with her while she insists on drinking and smoking. It does not mean that you have to subject your husband and children to her behavior. And it does not mean that you have to let her continue to hurt you over and over again.

Obviously if you could move far away it would be easier in many ways. But if that is not possible, then you must take control of when and where you will see and speak to your mother. Do not invite her to your home anymore, and if she asks to come, make a plan to be away from home during the time she wants to come. Do not go to see her unless it is during a time when you know that no one in the home will be drinking. Or meet her in a restaurant where alcohol is not served. But do call her at least twice a month, on evenings when she is not drinking, to keep in touch.

Holidays are always the worst when alcoholism is involved. You may need to arrange to go on trips during holidays, or make plans with friends or your husband’s relatives. If your mother tries to make a plan to see you on one of those occasions, tell her that you have already planned something else. She will be angry and may lash out at you. So expect her anger and unkind words along with her attempt to hurt you in retaliation. And expect her to manipulate you by trying to make you feel guilty. But build a wall around your emotional heart so that nothing she says can get through to you.

Finally, your mother will probably be so angry that she won’t contact you for a while. If that’s what she chooses, then take it as a nice period of peace and don’t feel guilty, for you will be doing the right thing for yourself and your family.

I wish you well,