Family Matters,  raving lunatic rant

the follow-up post

early morning surflooking for the sun

After I had my run-in with my mother-in-law on Saturday, I called her social worker.

A side note: Social workers are angels. I used to get so annoyed with their persistent phone calls trying to get us involved in her latest disaster but now I am thankful for them. The more we pull away, the more I am thankful that it is someone’s job to punch in on Monday and check on her.

But that wasn’t the frame of mind I was in when I called him on Saturday. He was a big part of orchestrating me taking my mother-in-law to her big appointment. I was about to let him have it that he would have me show up at her apartment and see her trashed like that. Is this some kind of game?!!!

Who really knows. Maybe she was sobering up and just going through withdrawals. She just got out of detox days ago. It’s so hard to tell the difference between getting better or starting to binge again. All I know is that she whimpered something about not being ready and it just killed me because she’s been talking about this big appointment for months. It was really important to her! Why would she give up at the last minute? I just don’t understand.

I was disappointed.

I wanted to yell at her. But I didn’t. I turned around and walked back to my car holding my hand up behind me so she wouldn’t call after me. On my way to my car I dialed the social worker’s number, furious. He told me I should stop, turn around and apologize to my mother-in-law for turning away from her.

Me! Apologize!!!??? Are you kidding me? I was the one who showed up to take her to her important appointment. I’m the one who listened to NINE desperate phone calls on my answering machine asking me to please please please be there for her. I could go on and on and on…

I was there! I was ready to take her to her appointment. Why couldn’t she have made one more phone call telling me she couldn’t do it? Why did I have to show up and see her like that again? I’m done with that. I don’t do that anymore.

I didn’t turn back but I listened to the social worker. He’s a nice guy. He’s a recovering addict. He’s been sober for thirteen years. I have respect for that. Maybe he knows something I don’t know. He rambled on all the usual stuff about addicts not being able to change and how I shouldn’t have expectations etc etc… but then he said something about how I should have “scripts” set in my head so I know how to deal with this. My heart might want to say something else but my voice should say the script.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Then I wrote Saturday’s post and you guys blew my mind with all your support. I realize now that this is not about my mother-in-law anymore. Not to be selfish but this is about me. This is just another test to see how I am going to react. I can’t change her. I can’t stop her. I don’t mean to sound pathetically pat but I can change me. If anything, I can be a good example.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

And this is where I’m going to talk about something that is difficult for me to be public about. I don’t normally talk about religion because I have a very mixed perspective on it. I am a Christian but I don’t wear that badge as proudly as I’d like to. Sometimes I’m closet Christian. I know. How shocking. I’d go into why and how but I am not ready to talk about that. Or to put it more correctly, my family is not ready for me to talk about it.

Anyway, one of my friends pointed me towards the story of Jesus healing the blind man. You all know the story. Jesus spat on the ground and made mud and put it on the blind man’s eyes. Then he told the man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam and suddenly he could see. But that’s not the interesting part.

The part that got me today was when the Pharisees contested the blind man. They couldn’t let it go that some random stranger (Jesus) would come along and heal a blind man. They didn’t rejoice that he wasn’t blind anymore. They wanted to know who and why and what for. They even put his parents through the wringer. Then they kicked the now-seeing blind man out of town.

They asked Jesus, “Who made this man blind? Was it the sins of his parents? Or did he do something evil?” Forgive me for paraphrasing. I’d look it up but even though I know the story well, I don’t know the reference. The important part here is that Jesus turned around and said, he was made blind so that I could come into this world and make him see. So that this story could go down in history and you might learn from it. Seems like a raw deal for the blind man. He had to be blind and begging on the street just so some sad girl in 2008 could have an epiphany and feel better?

Life is so unfair like that but it wasn’t really that bad. Jesus didn’t just heal the blind man and let him fend for himself. He went to the outskirts of the city and found him. He looked after him.

That is what I am taking away from that story. I don’t understand why my mother-in-law is cursed with this disease or if she is just a selfish drunken liar who never grew up. Why was the blind man blind? It doesn’t matter. I can’t make heads or tails of my mother-in-law’s life and I don’t have to.

Life seems very unfair. I can’t fix it. But I do know that I’m looked after. Somebody up there is punching their time clock and checking on me.


  • Uncle George

    I’m not a seminarian by a long measure, but I’ve heard that Jesus said one should “Hate the sin, not the sinner.”

    I have two moms. One is the most wonderful, caring, loving, interesting and fun person to be with. I love her so much. The other is a conniving, cheating, lying drunken monster. I still love her. But that love feeds the monster as well as the wonderful mom. That’s where we become entwined in the maelstrom, out of control, powerless. And that’s when the intervention of those not entwined must be called upon.

    Letting go and letting them; the “Higher Power” as the twelve steppers call it, and the social worker do the hard things that upset us is the right thing to do. You did. Thanks B. You, too, are an angel.


  • Uncle George

    p.s. I’m having BB picture withdrawls right now, so post some new ones soon, please! Uncoe Choge needs his BB fix. :-).

  • Jenifer

    The road of forgiveness, understanding and acceptance is one of the most difficult ones to walk. It’s parables, such as the blind man, that allow us to understand that there are situations that confound us and make us wonder why but reassure us that there is a purpose.

    I shared with you about my father being in a similar situation. Now that I live further away from him, I can look at the situation with a bit more clarity. Because he was the person he was, I am now a successful strong, independent woman who won’t allow herself to be walked upon. Those scary moments gave me a spine.

    Just keep remembering the parable and that of Job, when you’re faced in this situation. I’ll keep you and your family in my prayers.

  • Sarah

    You are in a really rough spot here, I know you want to support her but you have to support yourself. You are doing a great job.

  • familymclean

    that is such a break through with your thoughts, I will choose to learn from this too. The Jesus story, that is great!
    Thanks B, I needed this today:)

  • bluejaye

    B, you are a better woman than I.
    I have the luxury of living a 1000 miles away.
    The situation is easy to ignore from that distance.

  • bethany actually

    Don’t you love it when you hear a story and it seems to be JUST for you at that particular moment? I am so glad your friend told you that story when you needed to hear it. :-)

  • jonniker

    Oh my. This made me all snuffly and weepy, and I’m so glad that story came to you at the time you needed it.

    You’re doing something great here, even if you’re not sure what that is.

  • sizzle

    That’s a big thing to accept- that we are powerless to change the alcoholic. It’s brutal to get that but it’s true. I’m glad you’ve taken these steps for yourself. It’s not selfish at all!

  • Jeanette

    Life is too short, way to short. And really all the blessings are standing right before you. I went through the same thing, and finally had to come to terms with just doing “what I could” and left it at that. My kids are what make me whole, everything beyond that is just that. :) Hang in there – Arizona Friend.

  • Jummy

    I really appreciate what you’ve written—it’s a great reminder for those times when we struggle to deal with things in our lives that we wish we could change/control but aren’t in the position to do so. I like knowing that there’s Somebody up there looking out for me too!

    (My gut reaction was the same as yours when I read the SW’s response)

  • Mary

    Oh my, SAJ, so great you are having this discussion. My two cents. My ex and I had a conversation shortly after our break-up. He asked, “Why don’t you like me.” I said, “I do like you, but I can’t live with you. Let’s think about it this way. Isn’t your dad a wonderful man? Kind, loyal, goodhearted, appreciative of life? But he was an awful father and husband because of one problem that wrecked all of that–alcohol. You’re a wonderful person too, but your addictions wipe out all that. We’re not doing this to your boys, you know yourself how bad it is.” He looked startled, but agreed. I will never understand how he forgets this when it affected his childhood so much.
    It is heartbreaking what one problem (albeit a huge one) can do to what is a basically good person. Thanks for writing about this, I find it cathartic myself.

  • bethany v

    sniffling. clicked over here instead of starting my newsletter, and am so glad I did. fighting accepting things in a huge way right now, things that i don’t feel like I have any control over (finances, responsibilities, etc) and haven’t been talking to god unless forced to. one thing’s been poking at my consciousness for oh, about 4 days now. be still and know that I am God.
    oh, and closet-christian? I SO know that one! love and hugs and many thanks again for putting it out there.

  • OMSH

    It is an amazing, amazing passage.

    There is so much packed in that passage, and depending on where I am at that time in my life, the Spirit can touch me with the same passages differently. I believe that is the gift of a personal relationship with the Lord.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • knitterykate

    I really like it that you have decided this is not about your mother-in-law but about your reaction to her. You can choose how you will react. That’s maturity. One thing you can do is to hold a forgiving spirit. That is, that whenever you are offended by what she does quickly say to yourself, “I forgive you”. That way she has no power over you or your reactions. Even if she never apologizes to you for anything ever you can be at peace. Then pray for her. You will find that the Lord will change you and your attitude towards her and no matter how poorly she behaves you can react in a mature godly way. This is all about you, you know. So yes, those Bible stories were written with you in mind, believe it or not!

  • Jude

    SAJ, your story hits to close to home and you have handled yourself very well and the fact that you keep trying is amazing. All I can say is just a little reminder that you must take care of yourself first and do what is best for you. We often gets lost dealing with other peoples ‘issues’. If you are strong you can deal with the rest. Stay strong, and by being so, even when we feel weak, we can make it out to the otherside and see the ocean and the world of happiness that exists;)

  • Michelle

    I’m just now catching up on my weekend reading and I’m so sorry. My ex-husband was an alcoholic. After all the emotional abuse, etc. in the end I just had to leave. My life has been much better. I Know it’s not the same situation, but I can relate. God Bless.

  • Elizabeth

    I just read that scripture last night, in my Ladies Purpose Bible Study. It’s from John 9. The reason that we read it was to learn about how we are prepared for a purpose. God places “thorns in our flesh” (2 Corinthians 12) to prepare us for His moulding, to guide us in our relationship with Him and to strengthen us through our weakness. I really feel for you to be hurting in this situation. I am praying for your strength and guidance so that you know how best to help. I am also praying for healing and for strength for your MIL. Thinking of you… God Bless.

  • lainey

    My sister is an alcoholic too. We’ve been going through this same cycle with her. Sobriety and then relapse. She’s ended up in the ICU three times from drinking so much. It’s so frustrating. I have to remind myself daily that she’s not doing this to hurt us, she’s sick. I wish I knew the answer too.

  • Busymomma66

    My heart goes out to you. You are right, it’s not selfishness, it is about you. It’s about you, because that’s all you are in charge of.

    I don’t know if you go, but Al-Anon is a wonderful support group. It gives great tools as to how to handle this (and what to handle about this). I was very nervous the first time I went, but once I sat down and listened, I realized these people were me.

    Good luck and LOTS of hugs!!

  • Mrs. Wilson

    Oh you’d better believe He’s looking after you! I’m blessed when I read that the bloggers I love are believers.

    It saddens me when people do not believe because “bad things happen”. Well, there is sin in the world. Bad things are going to happen.

    I’m so sorry that you have to deal with your mother-in-law. But, you have the blessing of being able to count on your Heavenly Father to help you through this difficult time. You may not know the words to say, but ask Him, and He will give you the words to say.

    “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

  • ~moe~

    Thank you for this SAJ. You’ve helped me realize some things in my life. So maybe it’s all connected – a Pay It Forward kind of thing. The blind man was blind so Jesus could heal him so you would come to some realizations and then write this post so I could do the same. Who knows? There aren’t answers to that kind of thing but you nailed it on the head: someone is watching over you.

    You and your family are in my prayers.

  • tulip

    Comfort to you. I wanted to comment on the other post but I didn’t have the right words and everything just sounded so trite. Thank you for this post. I’m kind of a closet Christian too and what you have learned here for yourself has helped me put some things in perspective.
    Thank you and keep fighting for yourself.

  • jailgy

    Now you know afresh why the Bible claims to be a living book. (Hebrews 4:12) It really is. No other book can make that claim.

  • BeachMama

    I am so sorry that your Mother in Law is not the MIL you deserve. I am also sorry that Toby and BB have been deprived of the Love they deserve from his Mother.

    From one closet Christian to another, I know it is tough. It is also tough to admit when something is put out before you to learn from. I myself had been struggling with my patience. I always had it, but this last year has been trying for me. All I wanted was my patience back. Then I saw the movie, “Evan Almighty” (Ok, please don’t laugh). The character of God was talking about praying for something and how it is not always given to you but, the opportunity may be presented to you to change they way you are. And that really spoke to me, I could pray for my patience back, but everyday God was giving me the opportunity to practice it and I was ignoring it. Not every day is patience perfect, but I am definitely getting it back.

    Ok, now back to you. Perhaps this situation has been given to you for you to make a difference or change in yourself, like you were writing above. It isn’t about her, it is about you. And you are such a wonderful person, there is a reason you are the one chosen to help her out right now. Your strength is what is needed right now and He will give it to you.

  • Holly

    Thanks for the heart-breakingly honest posts. Especially the second half of this last one. It is different if someone does not have hope and faith and a body of believers to lean on in times like this.

    We (even us lurkers) love you and pray He will give you the wisdom, strength and grace to get through this.

  • Kelly

    Have you and your husband tried al anon?
    Glad you are a Christian, that was the gospel reading at Mass this week, about Jesus healing the blind man.
    Thoughts and prayers,
    (also I am enjoying your writing, and your illustrations are darling, especially the crazy boob lady)

  • s

    These two posts have been really helpful for me to read right now – we’ve been trying so many things in dealing with a family member with alcoholism, and I have such a hard time with being so worried and sad, but also so angry. Your honesty & strength come through when you write about how you are facing similar hardships. Reading your thoughts does me a lot of good.

  • Susan

    Your honesty is beautiful SAJ! You don’t run and hide from things happening in your life. You are facing this head on and we are all here to back you. Praying hard for your family!

  • Cheney

    We were all put here to look after each other and take care of each other. If you can take care of your M-I-L half as well as you can take care of Bug, she has it made, and so do you – you can be proud of yourself for having the patience to deal with the things that other people cannot handle.

  • cath

    Just add me to the list of people with an alcoholic in their life, and also to the list of people that is reading your words and feeling every-single-one-of-them-fully. Yesterday’s letter made me sit back on my laurels with the wow factor, someone else who is going through the same pain. Today’s story has made me think yet again about my situation, through looking at yours. Thank you so much for being so open, and sharing something I dare not fully express, even with my family.

    In your story, you say, Jesus said the man was blind, so Jesus could come along and make him see again. For me this interpretation means that there is someone out there that will have the power and ability to turn the wrong around. Maybe it doesn’t necessarily have to be you. Perhaps the story also means that you can step away, as you don’t have the power to fix things, and until you can truly help the situation then maybe you could stand in the background until another corner is turned.

    My mother is our alcoholic. My brother, with his two kids around baby bugs age lives around the corner. He’s had to step away a lot, whilst also managing to help her with her daily life. The effect on the kids seeing her behaviour at times is too distressing, and really something they don’t need to experience. Maybe your time at the moment is meant to be spent with Baby bug, and to continue the great things you do with her, as well as sheltering her from your MIL’s destructive behaviour and its effects on you.

    Oh dear…I’m almost too embarrassed to hit the ‘submit comment’ button, for fear that i’ve said too much. Yet, you’ve opened a can of worms that must be explored.

    Hope things get better soon

  • Kuky

    I feel like I’m so late in writing. I’ve just been in my own head lately. You know. But I’m reading now and sending you hugs. You, like me, are surrounded by love.

  • franticallysimple

    That was a really beautiful post. You are right, this is about you. But it can also be about me and anyone else reading this. Your epiphany can be our epiphany too.
    You have and will continue to strengthen and inspire us as we follow you in this struggle.
    You are like the blind man. His suffering and healing touched your heart and lifted you. Your path to healing can touch and lift those that read you.
    It is unfair that you have to have this pain in your life, but your good heart, your openness, and your faith will see you through.
    Big hugs!

  • Jessica

    Taking this perspective will help you continue to be strong. I shared of my step-dad being an alcoholic in another post, but I also had an uncle who let alcohol kill him. The alcoholism he suffered from was ugly, but when you could see through it to his heart it was beautiful. That reinterates the “Hate the sin not the sinner” quote.

  • jac

    ((((((((((hugs))))))))))) i could say quite a lot, but the bottom line is, i get it. for me, my “go to motto” is Ecclesiastes 3 “for everything there is a purpose”. i’m so glad that you’ve felt the love and support that the “internets” can provide.

  • Gingermog

    I think I may be a closet Christian too, but to my shame I had never heard the parable of Jesus healing the blind man, although there are other stories I grew up with and see the wisdom within. A few weeks ago my beloved, kind, auntie committed suicide releasing herself from years of pain, but turning the world of those who love her upside down, all I could do while help bearing my famillies pain when it all felt too much to deal with was to repeat to myself “I am in God’s hands”, over and over as I went about my business. It helped. I did feel support around me that I could lean against. That and having a small epithany about how beautiful the world is while watching the sun come up over the city and listening to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

    Today I have been showing my students the Bravia adverts. You may be totally sick of them in the States, I don’t know, but I feel such joy when I see those coloured balls bouncing down the street and the claymation bunnies rabbits. Can’t help fee uplifted and I hope you do too.

    I don’t think your MIL is your problem to fix, I think you will always do what you can to help, but you do need to remain a litle distance to remain sane and look after that lovely little girl of yours and Toby. I was in a similar situation a few years back, but won’t elaborate right now as this post is way long.

    Remember your like a rainbow :)

  • Builder Mama

    I’ve been coming back to this post over and over trying to think of what exactly I could say that hasn’t been said already. With our family, it’s my father-in-law that is the alcoholic. It used to be something that I could ignore for the most part until my son was born…then I started getting really resentful of his behavior and how it affected my husband, my brother-in-law, my mother-in-law, and now my son. Funny how these little people make us circle the wagons and face down these issues.

    One thing I have learned that has brought a lot of peace is that I can’t control his actions, but I can control how I let his actions affect me. I refuse to let his disease ruin my life. I refuse to let it ruin my son’s life. We’ve really distanced ourselves quite a bit from him, only allowing very supervised and brief visits with pretty mixed results. It’s like Russian Roulette, you never know what you’re going to get when you see him – either sweet as pie, or mean as a snake. And kids don’t understand it, so it’s our job to protect them.

    The irony in it all is that my husband, bless his heart, is such a sweet, caring, involved father. I have my father-in-law to thank for that, since my husband’s top goal in life is to be a far better dad than what he had.

    It is so frustrating. I hope that she gets her own epiphany so she realizes how much it hurts the people that love her the most. And I hope that you guys get some peace.

  • Charles

    I know the swamp you are in….the desperation and fear roars back to me with your every word. I hope your person can find the sponsor, the meetings, her higher power to get her on the road to recovery. For your own sake, protect yourself and your family. Disengage if necessary. It is a vile disease. I feel for everyone… just sucks.

  • reddirtroad

    I have no words, other than to say I hope that the pain has passed for the most part and you (and her) are on your ways again.

    This is what I miss when I lose track of blog reading time for myself. I’m so sorry that I wasn’t there to join the masses in helping to hold you up again. Sometimes we all need that.