Carolyn Hax: Before mending ties, there’s an addiction to face

Carolyn Hax
Columnist December 5, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I rarely get a phone call from my mother — maybe once every several months — and never get an e-mail. I’m lucky if she “likes” a Facebook post or sends a text. I’ve tried calling and e-mailing but usually get no response. She says she’s eager to visit and be a grandmother to my kids, but I don’t see a lot of effort.

For what it’s worth, she divorced my father a few years ago and is trying to have a second adolescence (ditching family for parties, talks of little besides partying and drinking, texting while driving with my children in the car, etc.).

Yes, I realize this is deeper than a tendency to text, but I can’t even make the first steps toward repairing our relationship if all I get is a “like” once in a while. What do you think?


Anonymous

You say: “I can’t even make the first steps toward repairing our relationship if all I get is a ‘like’ every once in a while.”

I say: You can’t even make the first steps toward repairing your relationship if your mom won’t admit and seek treatment for her drinking problem and the emotional problems underlying it.

I’m sorry.

Carolyn:

I know there’s a ton of baggage my mother is carrying, and I don’t understand all if it. But she’s my mom and I love her and I want her to be happy. And I want to have a relationship. I just don’t know how to go about it. She won’t seek treatment and I know she really thinks she has done nothing wrong. I guess I just know life is short and I don’t want to regret not repairing the relationship while I had the chance.

Anonymous again

Of course, I don’t question your motives. But you also need to be realistic about how much of that repair job is really under your control. Al-anon might be a good next stop for you. Also, as many have written in to say, don’t let Mom drive your kids any more. Her judgment is too compromised.

Carolyn:

Thank you for calling this situation what it is. I’ve always known my mom has a drinking problem and said as much to my dad a few years ago, but I pushed it out of my mind.

In short, my mother has issues due to a trauma years ago that I don’t know the specifics of (she said something in anger to me as a teenager but didn’t elaborate). No, I haven’t let her drive with my kids in the car since the texting incident and I never let her spend time with them without my supervision.

I don’t want her to be a cookie-baking grandma, but when she chooses pub crawls over a pre-planned trip to visit us — we live in another state — and our conversations revolve around how much partying she’s done without so much as a question about my family, then I get sad. Anyway, thanks so much for giving me clarity and an idea of how to move forward.

Anonymous again

You’re welcome, and, again, I’m sorry about your mom. For more information, try the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services substance abuse referral and information line, 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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