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Alcoholic Mother, Enabler Father, Newly Married and Trying

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Long story short: My mother is a severe substance abuser (alcohol and pills) with depression and anxiety. She self harms, and mixes alcohol and pills. She is emotionally abusive by getting strung out and then doing the “woe is me, I am a bad mother” thing while i am picking her up off the floor. My father enables her by only blaming others and believing she is okay when she is not- even telling mental health professionals that they are wrong and she is fine.
I was married in February and has a baby in September and through the help of friends, family and my therapist tried to be supportive but also set boundaries about her substance abuse and my children (also have 2 older stepkids). I told her that she did not have to be sober but had to be making positive strides toward a healthier her- therapy, AA, *not hiding her alcohol*, being honest. I have expressed that all i want is a safe environment for my kids and that I want her to get better for her. Nothing has worked- she hides alcohol, wont go to AA or therapist, in and out of rehab, cuts her wrists and attempts suicide.
About 2 months ago, i tried to invite her and my father to come see the baby. That same week she went into a psych facility for depression and then cut her wrists and then omitted to tell me. So i canceled the invite. This was responded with increasingly nasty remarks and more “woe is me”.
So I made it clear that i needed a break and stopped talking to them. I feel awful about it. My parents are both well intentioned, but cant seem to stop being so toxic- to themselves or others. Especially with a new baby in the picture, I am torn between helping them (which all my support has gone unnoticed or criticized by them, and has only hurt my relationship with my husband) and having them a part of my life, but knowing that they are harmful- emotionally and physically.
I know this is the right choice for the health of my children and marriage, but I can’t stop beating myself up. I feel so guilty and I feel like i lost my family. I don’t know what to do.

Alcoholic Mother, Enabler Father, Newly Married and Trying

Answered by on -


I think you do know exactly what to do and are doing it — it is just very difficult. The feelings of guilt you are having are right on target. You are breaking the good ol’ family tradition of denial by setting boundaries and seeing things clearly.

If you haven’t made the connection, the kind of support you need will come from Al-Anon. In it you will find support for making this stance, and support is what you will need. You can’t use your mother and father as supports nor seek their approval. The natural consequence from this is to feel guilty for breaking with the family secret. But feeling guilty is much better than the systematic resentment you will feel for them if you don’t. Remember the Al-Anon saying: “I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it, and I can’t control it.”

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Alcoholic Mother, Enabler Father, Newly Married and Trying

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Alcoholic Mother, Enabler Father, Newly Married and Trying. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 19 Jan 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.