A Piece of the Puzzle

Posted on April 21, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Addiction Resources/Support, AlAnon, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I was flabbergasted to learn that Hayley called my 92 yo mother a week or so ago. I’m not sure what it meant – but I have to think that this was some kind of step towards something. However, I’ve learned not to make too much of almost any/every thing. I don’t really know the full details of the conversation, and never will. However, within a few days of Hayley’s and my meeting on her 31st birthday, she must have felt guilty/moved enough to call her elderly and failing grandmother. My mother hasn’t seen or heard from Hayley since her 30th birthday dinner/party more than a year ago.

My mother is very tricky territory.  I’ve come to learn and realize how narcissistic she is. She can be very cruel, mean, and full of blame – really, quite emotionally abusive.

For several months I had tried to keep Hayley’s ‘situation’ from my mother, but it became way too hard and was just too much work.  I didn’t want my mother to know about Hayley for very selfish reasons – to protect myself, as well as Hayley, from my mother’s projected anxiety, wrath, and blame game. During this past year of dealing with Hayley’s ‘hard’ addictions, my mother has said the cruelest things to me – like, “Your daughter hates you” (then why am I the one she calls and stays in touch with?); “The reason Hayley is so screwed up is because you made her take ballet lessons as a little girl”; “Maybe it would be better if we would just find her floating in the river”; “I’d like to come down there and talk to Hayley and straighten her out – she won’t talk to you”; and, “You’ve lost her, you know. Start grieving.”  These are just a few of the bombs she dropped.

Two weeks ago on Hayley’s birthday, my mother called me in the evening.  She didn’t bother to ask how I was doing, or to offer any comfort or support, such as “I know today must have been difficult for you, Peg.”  When she asked if I’d heard from Hayley and I told her that I had actually met with her, she didn’t believe me, then insisted that Hayley hates me and wondered how I was able to arrange the meeting.

My mother is clinically narcissistic – she aggrandizes, exaggerates, turns everything back to herself, and is also committed to finding someone to hold responsible for anything that goes wrong. She, herself, at age 92, is still a deeply wounded child of an alcoholic mother.  I’ve learned only bits and pieces about my mother’s childhood, but know that it was filled with shame, guilt, fear, and anxiety.  She grew up in a small town in Minnesota where her mother’s alcoholism was difficult to hide, let alone treat in any way. When Mom was about 7 hears old, her 5 yo sister was killed by a drunk driver as she played in the front yard/on the street median in front of their house. And when my mom was almost 15 yo, her younger sister was born. Her parents divorced a few years later and her dad, my grandfather, took the baby sister with him to Duluth to live with his Danish immigrants parents,  So, my mother never really had much of a childhood and left home as soon as she could at age 17. In fact, after Mom left for college, she came home for a visit one weekend and found her mother passed out on the couch, and her baby sister no where to be found. Baby sister was hanging out at the neighbors’, and this frightening incident was forever, indelibly emblazoned in to my mother’s persona. It was at that point that my beloved grandfather moved to Duluth, taking his toddler daughter with him.

My mom essentially had no contact with her mother after that, except at the funeral of her (my mother’s)  younger brother, killed in action during WWII.  I’ve learned that she received a phone call, in her early 30s, after marrying and having two children, learning of her mother’s death. My grandmother never met me or my brother – in fact, I didn’t even know she existed.

With 8 years of therapy and AlAnon meetings under my belt, I know that my mother has transferred all the guilt, shame, anger, and anxiety about her mother over to Hayley. Hayley’s addiction has stirred up all sorts of buried, repressed feelings and issues in my mother.  And, I know enough about my mother’s need to cope and her lack of skills in this area, to forgive her for the way she treats me and her granddaughter.

While on this journey of addiction with my daughter, I have inadvertently learned a lot about my mother and the impact her mother’s alcoholism had in shaping who she became and is, today. And, I’ve developed a lot more compassion for and understanding of why she is the way she is.  I also greatly admire my mother’s  spunk, and strength, and determination to carry on with her life, in spite of her compromised childhood. She, unfortunately, didn’t ever have the resources or tools to deal with the fallout of her mother’s alcoholism and, as a result, her nurturing skills and interpersonal relationships suffered greatly.

For the past 8 years, I have been trying to sort out, identify, and understand three generations of mother/daughter relationships in our family.  I need to do this work.  I am convinced that armed with a better understanding of these systemic family dynamics, I can break the problematic, toxic relationship cycle in our family.  I’m going to give it my best shot.

My mom is 92 years old – living independently 2 hours away from my brother and me, still driving, active in the community, playing golf and bridge.  And, I love her now more than I ever did as a child or young adult – because I better understand the devastating effects addiction can have on a family.  I am grateful to my daughter for opening the door – and leading the way.


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13 Responses to “A Piece of the Puzzle”

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Stevie reached out for his long lost grandparents- his father’s parents- who disowned them upon our divorce. He called them after contacting them through myspace. Told them what a horrible mother I had been, and that I had kicked him out when he was 16. He was currently living in the desert, and could they possibly send him the $250.00 he needed to take a plane to MA to be with them? THey called me. I quickly gave them the full story….. as I write this, I realize this material is really my next blog. I will tell the rest. You where to find me. I will continue to pray and hope for the best with Hayley. Keep smiling, even if just for today!

Wow – and the story unfolds. The addict’s manipulation is incredible, isn’t it? They are so resourceful. How old is Stevie now? Are you saying that his contact with his grandparents just happened? I was a bit confused. I find your blog very interesting, with both your and your son’s point of view. Is he still posting? Peggy

Peggy, this strikes a cord with me. The whole generational thing, how these behaviors, dysfunctions get carried on from one generation to the next and in order for it to change, someone has to break the cycle. I think you are doing just that. You are in my thoughts often.

First I just have to say you are an amazing woman. The last lines here about loving your mother more now than ever, about better understanding – I feel the same way about my 85 y.o. mother who verbally abused me my entire life (still does now and then but has mellowed with age). Hurt people are the ones who hurt people…and often with anger. I think that inside your mother is PROUD of you – how could she not be? You may never hear those words (I know I won’t either) but I believe she is very proud of the woman you are, the mother you are, the person you are.

Barbara – thank you for this. It’s very true and you said it so well: Hurt people hurt people – often those they love the most. I have learned this, and am deeply aware of my own potential in this arena. Your kind words and loving support are tonic to my soul. Has there ever been a more difficult job than being a mother? The only one I can think of, is being a daughter.

I have found that our addicted children can provide great lessons to us. I became much more understanding and loving with my own Mom and even my son through this process. Thanks for sharing this with us.

So great you are able to forgive your mother, and are working toward (and have gained) a better understanding of her. To be able to say today how great your love is for her, and thanks to Hayley, are both great blessings.
God bless.


As always Peggy you get us all thinking and Bob – your wise words continue to educate and resound with me. Thanks both.

What insight you have Peg. I have learned that addiction is truly a family disease in more ways than one. I am not speaking on genetics or hereditary traits, but more behaviors, blame, shame, guilt, anger, the feelings behind of it. Because we all deal with emotions and feelings in different ways we are left we different types of people but usually those people play the same roles in the addicted family.
Your are in my thoughts as always.

Bob – your comment just struck a chord with me. Beyond the genetics, family behaviors and patterns are passed down and perpetuated. I sometimes challenge the genetics card, since it can be an excuse in some ways. However, the way family members interact, the learned dysfunctional behavior, can be more of an influence than the actual genes. Thanks for this.


(and *hug* )

My daughter is a little bit younger (same name.)

Your Mother sounds very much like my own in the ‘blame game’ and some of the horrible things she has shared with you from her store of nasty thoughts and predictions.

With my Mother – she never got over the fact that I chose to leave rather than deal with her craziness and substance abuse issues and she uses that example whenever she asks if I have heard from my daughter.(My daughter has made many life style choices that are NOT in her best interest. My recent separation from her Father is a source of great guilt that she has since tried to use as an excuse for her lack of good judgement – to rather good effect with her previously estranged Grandmother…)

I know you want the best for your family – any Mother would…

I will just hope that you know that you need to care for yourself in there at some point too?

I wish you all the best.


M.L. Thanks for your comments. I just visited your blog and realize I need to spend more time there. I will.

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