This is the letter I wrote and read to my mother as part of my Step 9 work. In my opinion, my mother and I have had a very strained and painful relationship for many years. My mother’s alcoholism, drug addiction, codependency, prison sentences, and her personal decision to not work through her own childhood trauma and programming made it difficult for her to parent me. I held on tightly to all of the pain and resentment and anger from my childhood for a long time and I treated her badly because of it.
My mother and I both suffered for years without either of us seeking out any recovery and our relationship was superficial at best; full of hushed sadness and pain and unspoken words. Now that I am actively seeking out recovery and working the 12 Steps, our relationship is slowly becoming healthier. The first thing my mother said to me when I started to make my amends was “Why are you apologizing to me? I’m the Alcoholic!” But I needed to apologize for my part – it wasn’t about her part at all. Making amends to my mother was terrifying but it truly was a turning point in our relationship. When I finished saying all of this to her, she said “Sometimes I did think you were being mean to me but I just figured I deserved it.” That’s a powerful insight into the heart of an alcoholic, isn’t it?
My mom has given me her blessing to publish this letter here.
These are the things I want to say to you as part of my personal recovery and my continuing work with the 12 Steps of Al-Anon:
I have been unkind to you many times throughout the years. I didn’t understand alcoholism and addiction at all; I thought you were just choosing other people and things before me and that made me angry but really just sad. I was extremely hurt and I took it all personally when it wasn’t personal at all. I also had really bad behavior modeled to me by the codependent, resentful adults in my life who weren’t alcoholics and addicts themselves; they taught me that the normal way to respond to alcoholism and addiction was with controlling and demeaning the person enough until they “gave it up.” They also made it seem okay to let every emotion loose on an alcoholic or addict because they “deserved” it like they were “less than” anyone else. Obviously, that was some really bad advice but I didn’t know it at the time.
Here are the amends I want to make to you:
- I apologize for being hateful and condescending with my words and my behaviors.
- I apologize for being sarcastic and snotty, as well.
- I apologize for maintaining the huge wall between us well past my childhood because of my own fear and inability to work through the situation as an adult. I detached unlovingly and I think that was wrong in this situation.
- I apologize for any and all times that I was controlling before I realized that the only person I could control was myself.
- I apologize for any and all times that I was demeaning; all of the times I pointed out unimportant things that you didn’t happen to know and made a big deal out of it like you weren’t smart or something. When I realized that I was doing that and where I got it from, I stopped.
It’s true that we don’t agree on a lot of things but you are my mom and I respect you. I know you tried. I know you did what you could with what you had from the difficult situation you came from. My childhood wasn’t great but it could have been much worse and now I can honestly say that I’m thankful for all of it because healing from it has taught me so much good stuff.
I Love You.