My planned intent for this blog post was to highlight another Step Towards Healing, and feature the second book I read on my journey to recovery. However, given the fact that I haven’t slept soundly in two nights since something seemingly major happened, I’m gonna take a detour–bear with me.
Over the weekend, I received two phone calls from a phone number that intentionally blocked its Caller ID. The first one was in the evening, the second call came in at exactly 12:42am–the middle of the night. I have a general rule that I don’t answer phone numbers from area codes that I don’t recognize. If it’s that important, they’ll leave a voice message and I will kindly return their call. It is highly rare, next to never, that a Blocked phone number calls me. I don’t associate with any of my ex-significant others and any friends and/or family would not block their number. The only logical conclusion I could come to was that it was my mother calling.
Earlier last week, my mother made a passive-aggressive post on my wife’s Facebook profile about how we (my wife & I) had forgotten about my grandmother on her 91st birthday. This was not at all true, of course. In actuality, I’d had a 45 minute conversation with my grandmother, during which I not only wished her a Happy Birthday, we also talked about how my mother’s alcoholism has not changed and furthermore how it has impacted the current state of our relationship. I hold nothing back when it comes to talking to my grandmother, that’s just the kind of relationship we have. We love each other truly unconditionally, so we try our hardest to be as frank with each other as possible. Life is too unpredictable to leave things unsaid; each conversation between us places everything on the table and we don’t walk away from it until everyone feels heard and understood. I’ll blog in the future about my grandmother’s role as an enabler, but regardless, my grandmother has played a huge role in fostering my resilience.
My mother’s post was an ill-informed opportunity for her to express some obvious anger she has about our estrangement. As a reminder and note, we have not spoken at all to each other since my wedding 6 months ago..but really it has been 7 months since I last confronted her about her alcoholism. Since then, she has regularly Liked and Commented on my Facebook posts to keep up appearances to the outside world. As a Narcissist (who also happens to be an alcoholic), her image is more important to her than reality–as evidenced by this behavior. So basically, as long as my 11th grade Chemistry lab partner interprets her Facebook activity to mean things are alright between us, my mother can write me off in her mind as crazy for so much as implying that her habits & behaviors are unhealthy.
Again, the communication between my wife & I is ironclad. Upon reading the post on her wall, she came to me and said, “This just happened. We know it’s not true, so what is the best way for us to respond without feeding into her anger?” I love my wife for this. She could have impulsively fired something back at my mother, she could have tossed her Facebook wall at me and said “Handle this.” But what did she do? She stated the facts and initiated a conversation about how we should handle it…because she understands that what goes on with either of us, involves both of us as a team. We talked, and thought it’d be best for her to respond in a respectful, but matter-of-fact way, stating that my mother’s assumptions were incorrect. Of course, she removed the public wall post and responded in a private message, as that should have–if at all–been the appropriate way for my mother to reach out with her concerns to begin with.
My mother responded with a snide remark that showed she didn’t really read my wife’s message to her and then proceeded to copy & paste her response to my wife’s message in a group text message, CC-ing my entire family, including me but excluding my wife. She did not include my wife’s message that kindly stated that we had spoken to my grandmother, despite the fact that it didn’t occur during the time when my mother was at the nursing home visiting my grandmother. My mother just decided to broadcast her snide response to me & the rest of my family. My eldest cousin was the first to respond, completely confused about what the context of this random message was and furthermore what she had to do with it at all. My mother responded and labelled the copy/paste of her snide remark to be “Conversation about [my name] not calling Nana on her birthday ! Retraction”…whatever that means.
By this time, my blood was boiling. I’d been using the 6 months of my mother’s avoidance to dig deeper in my recovery and build strength. I’d become so comfortable with the space in our relationship. Whenever I step closer my feelings are exploited, she tries to manipulate me and I always end up burned. I was even already coming up with best practices for journeying to Boston to see my family. But in 15 short minutes, she managed to penetrate my zen-like calm with hot rods of iron. I took a moment to breathe and then responded within the Group message, “Why is this a family conversation? You messaged [my wife] about us not calling, which we had. Your original information was incorrect. I don’t understand why this was copied & pasted to the family..?” My cousin responded in agreement, the rest of my family remaining silent. I then sent my mother a text message to her phone directly stating that if this was an attempt to get me to talk to her, she can call me at any time–I am not hiding from her. She responded in a manner I’d expect from a teenager going through a break-up about how I had her phone number and that I can call her. I recognized the fact that I wasn’t talking to an emotionally-mature person and didn’t even bother to respond.
So then, over the weekend I get a couple ghost calls from an intentionally blocked phone number with no voice messages left. On Monday, I received a missed call while I was working-out from my mother’s cell phone, with no voice message left. On Tuesday morning, I receive an ambiguous e-mail from my mother’s work e-mail address…”Love You” in the subject line and a vague quote from Eleanor Roosevelt about shared responsibility in Understanding as the only words within the message. After a long talk with my wife during one of our evening family walks with our dog, it was agreed that the best way to respond to my mother would be to remain emotionally mutual while directly addressing the real issue–the fact that since I confronted her last about her alcohol abuse, she abruptly ended the conversation and has avoided contact with me since. I did my best to send her an email response back stating the issue and furthermore that if she wants to re-initiate contact with me, she will need to be prepared to continue & resolve our conversation from 7 months ago.
She responded. Her response was that I am correct in our need to continue the dialogue from January and that she has been “working very hard on resolving [her] ‘faults’ and inconsistencies with spiritual help and growth.” She wants to set up a time for us to talk over the phone. Anyone on the outside is probably thinking this is great news and that I should be sighing relief and putting eggs in my basket left-and-right. If this hadn’t been the umpteenth time I’d heard my mother claim she’s changed, I probably would be doing all of the aforementioned.
Unfortunately, I feel like I already know where this is headed. She wants another attempt to better mask and hide her alcoholism from me. She wants to have everything back the way it was so that she can be comfortable and stagnant. She wants me to believe that because she goes to bible study and gives praise to Jesus 20 times a day, her alcoholism can go un-addressed; like dirt under a rug. But alcohol has been her best friend since she was 14. She has drunkenly admitted that fact to me. You don’t just go to church for 6 months and everything is fixed. You don’t go from passive-aggressive Facebook posts, humiliating group text messages, blocked phone calls at inappropriate hours and vague emails about shared responsibility for damage you did on your own to “Let’s talk heart-to-heart because I’ve worked really hard to change,” in one week’s time.
This is where I reiterate to myself the abusive lover analogy. I feel like she’s the cliche husband who beat his wife within an inch of her life 6 months ago and has gone through every cycle of getting-her-back: sending flowers & gifts (my mother has done this), begging her friends to talk her into seeing him again to no avail (check!); leaving nasty messages (check!) and stalking her outside of her job; grabbing at her wrists as she walks past him to her car to get her to stop and talk to him; saying he’s been going to church (check!) and working out more and it’s helping his anger. In the movies, she believes him and she goes back into his arms. And things are great for a while, sometimes for years. But because as soon as she lets him all the way back into her life, he knows he’s won and so he stops working on himself. Until something happens down the road and he snaps harder than he’s ever snapped before.
I’ve been through this cycle with my mother too many times before to count. I confront her, she denies, I take a step back, she gets furious and does everything to win me back, I accept her back into my life and then..over time..something happens and she reveals herself as unchanged. I’ve been hurt by this cycle so many times since that first tearful intervention I had with her at age 12. The only thing I can attest to that has changed is my ability to see it as a cycle and my dedication to my own recovery.
So right now I’m just kinda thinking…do I want her back in my life? Or would I just be doing this because it will pacify her? Deep down, I know the answer…I’m just hoping I can be as honest with myself as I’ve always been with my grandmother, before my mother & I talk for the first time after 6 months of silence.