I don't know how to help my mother anymore - any advice?



My mother is an active alcoholic. I’ve tried the tough love, cutting off contact, strict boundaries, kindness, compassion, understanding and nothing has helped. At this very moment she’s terrorizing my sister and all I know how to do is show my sister support and love and explain to her how the disease works. I’m exhausted and I’m hopeless. Any advice would be welcomed.


Welcome here @Wenderella81.

I feel you on this - my dad and sister are in some kind of ‘fight’ right now, and I feel stuck in the middle, at a bit of a loss for what to do.

If you feel comfortable, maybe you could share a bit more about your situation?! Where your mom lives and how you communicate with her? How long has she been struggling with alcohol use? Etc? That might help the community brainstorm some new ideas with you!

One thing I can offer is that you set the example. Your well-being and quality of life sets an example for your mom, and acknowledging or celebrating her for good things - no matter how small (“You went on a walk today - awesome!” “Look at all these fresh groceries in the fridge - so yum!”) - plants a seed for positive change. :seedling:

What’s understandably frustrating is that we’re playing the looong game here. That seed may take a long time to sprout, but still there is hope.

Thinking of you…


I’m so sorry you and your mom and sister are suffering, @Wenderella81. My mom is also an active alcoholic and I can totally relate to feeling like you’ve tried it all, with no success.

I applaud you for trying (and trying…and trying). And for supporting your sister and helping her understand the disease. It takes a lot of strength, and you’re right, it’s exhausting and feels hopeless at times for sure.

One thing I’ve found most helpful is making sure I take care of myself and maintain boundaries (I had to create them first, and that was a whole journey in itself!) It’s very easy to get completely rolled up in trying to help, and before you know it, your energy is gone and you’ve lost sight of the big picture, as well as your own life and health and happiness.

If you’re not sure about your own boundaries, pay attention to how you’re feeling. Notice when things with your mom are manageable for you, and when they become too much. Then practice doing what you can without letting it get to the “too much” stage. And never ever ever feel bad about maintaining your boundaries.

I have a sister with me in this, too, and I’m grateful for that, even though it does sometimes create its own kind of stress. She and my mom have a difficult relationship and barely talk. @katie I SO know the feeling of being caught in the middle! “Why hasn’t your sister called me?” “I"m not sure mom. You should call her.” Followed by: “Why does mom never call me?” AHHHH It’s almost funny how ridiculous it is.

@Wenderella81 I’m guessing your sister is younger, since you mention supporting her and explaining the disease. Keep doing what you’re doing. She’s lucky to have you and you’re lucky to have each other. Do you find that in explaining things to her you sometimes work things out for yourself a bit, too? Keep communicating and working it out together. Then show that love back to your mom, and step away when you need to.

Always always remember: Recovery can only be her choice.

Tell her you love her. Lots. :slight_smile: Remind her of what’s good and beautiful about life when you can. Celebrate her wins. But never put the weight of her choice on your shoulders. :heart:


My sister is actually 10 years older than me and has been like a mother to me my entire life. She seems younger because I have had a whole lot more life experience than she has. My sister is blind and I have looked after her as long as I can remember. She texted me yesterday because she had her routine 3-mo checkup at MD Anderson for her Stage cancer she has been battling and she has been trying to reach my mother to update her all day and she was starting to get worried because my mother was not responding to the good news that her cancer is stable. She said my mother had been drunk texting her the night before and now she’s worried cause she’s not answering, but when she finally heard from her to tell her the good news, she was met with a self loathing attention seeking “whoa is me” shit that my mother is so famous for. All I could do was tell my sister that I was sorry that her mother is sick and that she deserved a better response than what she’d received and that I loved her and her worth does not decrease because of my mother’s behavior and offered to celebrate her good news. Having been through recovery myself, I have learned to set strong boundaries with my mother and have eve cut her completely off at times if the situation called for it. I am trying to let myself grieve her death so that I am not devastated completely when it inevitably comes. It’s my sister that still lives in denial about my mother and still lets her get away with her shitty behavior. I have encouraged my mother, I have celebrated her and been positive with her and I have been completely honest about how sick she is to her. I have led by example by getting sober and showing her that a better life is possible. Our mother has been an alcoholic her whole life. My older sister and brother were out of the house by the time she got really bad. I was left to take the brunt of it and try and protect my little brother from most of it. It’s why out of the four of us, I am the most fucked up. I dealt with the drunken abuse and whoring she did on a daily basis in our home. She went our partying most every night and brought a new strange man home every time, it’s a wonder we didn’t get sexually assaulted by a stranger. When she wasn’t out partying, she was at home drinking and crying or drinking and starting fights with us. I don’t think I have ever been able to relax in my life. i wish there was a way to have her involuntarily committed to rehab but being an addict I know that would never work.


Celebrating that your sister’s cancer is stable @Wenderella81! That is such great news!! Sounds like your family’s been through a lot, and I hope, even if your mom can’t be emotionally available to celebrate, that you & your siblings find some relief in this good news.


Oh, @Wenderella81 I’m so sorry. You’ve been through so much, for so long.

First off, amen that you were never harmed by anyone your mom brought home, and that your sister is doing well! Also, congratulations to you on your own recovery. I hope you are so proud and draw a lot of inner strength from knowing how far you’ve come and how hard you’ve worked to get where you are today.

I relate to so many things you’ve described.

Taking the brunt and feeling the most fucked up because of it. Feeling as though you’ve never really been able to relax. Wanting to have your mom committed. Accepting what might come and preparing to grieve (or starting to grieve) the loss that might feel inevitable at times.

I once visited my mom and found her on the toilet, not moving. I was sure that was it, and called 911. Told them my mom had died. I went to wait by the door and was on the phone with the dispatcher when my mom appeared and said she was fine. Talk about something messing with your mind!!

I also relate to how your sister is feeling after not getting the reaction she hoped for from your mom. I’m used to it now, and just expect my mom to forget my birthday, holidays, boyfriend’s name, etc. It doesn’t make it less sad to think about, but I think it is harder when your expectations are high. It’s great you were there to provide your sister with positivity and celebration.

I’m curious (only if you’re comfortable or want to discuss, of course), was there something that initiated your mom’s alcohol use? You mentioned she’s been an alcoholic her whole life. Do any of you have a relationship with her parents?

Sending you strength :heart:


Hey @Wenderella81, you’ve been through so much and I hope you know you’re not alone, and we’re here to support you. Your story is a tough one, it’s hard to parent our own parents! First I want to echo others and congratulate you on your recovery, and your sisters health!

Sometimes it can be helpful to take a step back when you’re at a loss for what to do. I wonder if you’ve ever engaged in self-care and healthy living without the primary reason being to help your mother. When you mentioned:

My gut reaction is to let you know that you can find ways to relax for yourself and hopefully, like @katie mentioned, this can set a seed to lead by example. However it’s important for the primary reason to be to take care of you. The space you’re in can be difficult and distressing, but if you can tolerate what you can’t control or change, you ultimately avoid unnecessary suffering. Some skills that can help build tolerance are distracting yourself, changing the focus of your thoughts, finding ways to relax (taking deep breaths), and self-soothing by appealing to you senses (brew some herbal tea or wear something cozy to help relax). And as always, you can reach out here to group members. Personally, I find meditation and focusing on my breath helps me in these types of situations.

Sending you strength and soothing vibes :yellow_heart:


Really like this reminder that it’s not self-indulgent to self-sooth!