A Boundary Letter From the Parent to the Addicted Child
Though difficult to implement, it is imperative that the parent has boundaries.
Posted January 19, 2013 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
Boundaries are one of the most important concepts and implemented tools for anyone involved with an alcoholic/addict. Whether their loved one is in recovery or not, it is important for the family member to take care of themselves, and not be a punching bag for what can be the bullying behavior of the alcoholic/addict in their life.
My clients often need reminding that the world does not revolve around what the alcoholic/addict is doing; whether they are staying clean and sober, living up to their promises, or are successful or unsuccessful living life on life’s terms. It is a full landscape recovery and the family should work on theirs as well.
So what happens when a parent has just had enough of the roller coaster ride of emotions, torments, threats, and disrespect that their child might dump on to them when they feel like it? I have written a few posts with examples of what one adult may relay to the other, or what an adult might stipulate to their elder parents, but I have not touched upon the parent/child boundary letter.
There is no question that implementing boundaries toward a child is much more difficult for we as parents don’t want to come across as uncaring or not supportive. Yet, is it being supportive if we let our addicted child run rampant over our hearts and soul? I don’t think so. We are fearful about putting our foot down, as we don’t want to be punished or at fault if something happens to them due to a boundary that we now feel is very important to implement.
I have been working with a client who is struggling with the emotional upheaval her daughter is displaying. She is afraid to pick up the phone or view an e-mail or text if she sees that it’s from her daughter. After a few sessions, we composed a letter that she felt comfortable sending. I advised her not to e-mail it, text it, or call and have a discussion or leave a lengthy message, but to actually write it on real, live paper and mail it. Find a comforting card (flowers, dogs, or something along those lines) and place the letter inside of that. Sending something is tangible and can be read and reread, stored for the future, and not deleted with the touch of a key. If her child opts to toss the letter or rip it up then that’s her business, but it’s just a bit tougher to do if it’s on paper.
With her permission, here is what we composed:
I’m sorry that I’m not a texter as it takes me a long time and I just don’t have that time to give it. So here is my letter with my thoughts.
First and foremost, I love you. You are my daughter and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of you and hope that you are well. It saddens me that our relationship is poor. However, with that said, no matter whom I have a relationship with, respect, dignity and honesty comes with that relationship.
For the past several months, I do not believe that you have shown me the respect, dignity and honesty that I need/want. I don’t want to list the last minute cancelled dinners, or the late arrivals using the excuse that you had to go to the bathroom or just doing what you want to do when you want to do it regardless of anyone else’s feelings. Whenever I see you, you are either stoned or inebriated and pull the some lame excuse telling me that you’re not, just tired. I deplore being taken for an idiot.
For years I have not received so much as a card from you for the holidays or my birthday, yet you have no problem demanding what you want from me when the mood suits you. Just because I’m your mother doesn’t mean I have to be treated poorly and that it’s OK to just sweep it under the rug, and as always tell me to accept you for who you are. I accept you for who you are, I just don’t have to be a participant of the relationship.
Whenever I want to have a calm discussion with you, it winds up with you defending, justifying and punishing…rarely taking responsibility for your actions or if you do, it seems that you’re just doing so to get me off your back. The word humble or being genuinely sorry and making right by your mistakes doesn’t seem to part of your thinking.
I’m honesty tired of you asking “why did you adopt me, I don’t think you love me, you’re not much of a mother.” Frankly, I’m exhausted being thrown under the bus by you whenever you feel like it.
The day that you honestly look at your part and you say to me “hey mom, my side of street needs some massive cleaning and I want to do anything I can to try and build a friendship with you with respect, dignity and love, not only because you’re my mom, but probably a really good friend as well,” will be the day I will bring to the table the same thing and work hard to do my part and meet you half-way.
There you have it.
My client mailed the letter and was fearful for the fallout. However, to her surprise and pleasure, her daughter responded with an acknowledgment of the letter and said she would try to do better. The next step in our session was to break down what better meant and how my client would implement different boundaries if an abusive daughter was to rear her disrespectful head again.
Please don’t be afraid to take care of yourself—99% of the alcoholic/addicts' reactions are a lot of hot air or puff; they want to get you going and control the situation. Stay neutral, don’t engage, and don’t lose sight of the important boundaries ball. It’s like tennis; if you take your eye off of it, it will whiz by you.
If I can be of service, please visit my website at www.familyrecoverysolutions.com and I invite you to explore my new book Reclaim Your Life—You and the Alcoholic/Addict at reclaimyourlifebook.com or on Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio on my website only.