When mom offers up a way for Suzie to deal with her feelings about her mom, Suzi isn’t quick to reply.
Long pause with no response from her daughter, so she adds, “Hey, you want to go to a movie?”
Mom is a smart cookie. She doesn’t press, hound or react. She has thrown out an suggestion and she is hoping Suzie will think about it. But now isn’t the time to hash that out. So mom offers an chance to go to a movie.
One thing that unwell families do – universally – is to get laser focused on the “ism” and forget to breathe. Or play. Or find something to talk about, do, whatever – that isn’t about the “ism”. This is so very, very helpful because mom is continuing to teach Suzie that she values the relationship. Did you know that sometimes the impaired family member feels very isolated and alone? Some might argue that it is because they’ve left the circle of trust – and yes, there is truth in that statement. But, if it is safe and possible and doesn’t violate recovery support – it helps to have the family find respite moments. Moments when they can reconnect with an earlier time, perhaps, when the family enjoyed one another, or, begin to make new connections where that can be true. Do you need an escape plan? Well, yes you do. Suppose mom and Suzie go to the movies and Suzie is extremely unpleasant – ok then, get up and go home. Practice decent boundaries; give self permission to be flexible; if an idea goes wonky, regroup. But I’ve heard many stories of how very carefully crafted plans for connections with loved ones that is safe for all of course, has ultimately encouraged the troubled family member to eventually ask for help. Love really is a beautiful thing.