Codependency and feeling like I should fix everything




Hi all,

I am an ACA who’s parent-alcoholic has recently (in the last year) relapsed hard. Since just before Christmas last year we’ve had quite a few periods where she has been incredibly low and times she has completely emotionally destroyed me by saying horrible, nasty things about me and how she dislikes things about me as a person. Obviously, she was not sober at this point. We’d got her help and she’d been to rehab and then relapsed again really hard and sent horrific messages to me again about every aspect of my being, which caused me to take a step back and not speak to her for a few weeks.

I started going to al-anon meetings and trying to take care of myself as I managed to completely leave my university work and well-being behind as I was too caught up in the whole situation and was mentally really struggling. I am an only child and have felt intense guilt and pressure around the whole situation and have desperately trying to help her for most of the past 10 months or so – whilst also having a lot of childhood flashbacks of situations where she was drinking and not really knowing what to do but feeling like it was my fault. I know her partner/ex-partner violently disagrees with my life choices and wants to try and separate her contact with me, which complicates things further. Since we started talking again after a few weeks of not speaking she hasn’t mentioned him to me, but I’m pretty certain he’s back and around when I’m not here.

Recently, I have been to visit and stay with my partner for a month (in another country). I cannot explain how much lighter I felt being there with her and just feeling unconditionally loved and in a stable situation. Coming back and being thrown back into a huge atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety has been so difficult.

I’m due to go back to university again soon (to one of the most important years of my course) and I’m so anxious about…well, a lot, really.
My parent has been unhappy for years, has such low self-esteem and I’m so upset for her that she can’t be happy. She recently lost the job she was doing and she’s currently trialing a job she doesn’t think will work out and said earlier she doesn’t think she can “cope” with another ‘failure’. This sent me into a huge spiral of worry about how she won’t be able to manage and will likely take another turn for the worse. I know I can’t stop this or stop her turning to drinking if she does this but as much as I’m trying to fight I’m so worried. I don’t really know what to do because I know I can’t control anything and I will return to al-anon but I just feel like I can’t breathe at the moment. Her parents have supported her on and off for 20 years of this illness at least, and they have stepped away from her since her last relapse around 3 months ago. I feel like I’m on my own and by putting space between me and her I’m abandoning her. She’s my mother and I love her so much, but emotionally I don’t know how much longer I can cope with this.

Any response/advice would be appreciated, and I’m so sorry to everyone in these tricky situations.

Thanks a lot in advance 🙂

  • here2help

    Hello there,

    I’m so glad you’re sharing this with someone and reaching out for support. I’m sorry to hear about what you are going through with your mother. Alcohol can cause people to say hurtful things to people they care about and I’m sorry you’ve experienced that. It is common for upsetting events in the present to remind us of events from our childhood and bring things to the surface we haven’t thought about for a while. Have you considered speaking to your GP to see if you can access talking therapy or other support? Sometimes mental health support is available through universities so that could be another option to explore.

    It’s normal to feel a mix of emotions when someone you love is going through difficulties with alcohol. While it’s clear you really love your mother, it’s so important to focus on your needs and your happiness too. I’m so glad to hear you had a nice break with your girlfriend and that you have been to a local support group. Sometimes it is helpful to remember the 6 C’s:

    I didn’t cause it
    I can’t control it
    I can’t cure it
    I can take care of myself
    I can communicate my feelings
    I can make healthy choices

    While we can’t make decisions for others no matter how much we want to, we can make choices for ourselves and our own lives to protect our wellbeing. Please try not to feel shame or guilt in having distance from the situation and putting yourself first. You matter and your feelings and wellbeing are important. Please contact Nacoa’s helpline to speak to someone if you’d like further support. Be kind to yourself and keep making some space to take some time and focus on self-care as much as you need to.

    Take care,

  • listener


    Thank you for reaching out to Nacoa recently.

    I am so sorry to hear that your parent has relapsed recently, that must be really hard for you. Even if you know the words they say when they are drunk is only due to the drink, it must still be a lot to process when you have horrible things said directly to you, so it is understandable to have wanted to take a step back from her previously.

    It must have been so difficult in the last year to help her a lot but also struggling with what must have been difficult flashbacks from childhood and feeling like it is your fault. I hope that it may reassure you though that it is never, ever your fault that your parent drinks. A lot of COAs also internalise the carer role when they grew up with and still navigate life with a parent who drinks and perhaps that caring part of you is what makes this situation complex. I can understand that it is hard to make the decision to completely cut contact.

    I can understand how difficult that must have been to come back from spending time with your partner and then find yourself back into a very unpredictable and stressful situation.

    It is reasonable to be worried, it sounds like you have been there for her throughout so much and, from these words alone, I get the sense you are such a caring person. It can be a difficult thing to accept sometimes but it sounds like you are doing everything you possibly can to support her – you would not be abandoning her if you chose to step away, even though I know that is a difficult feeling to overcome. You are doing your best and that is enough – the fact you have reached out to us shows already how much you want to help her. Alcoholism, unfortunately, can be so complex and the drinker has to be the one to access help.

    You matter in this too, your wellbeing is just as important. You mention that you feel alone in this and that you do not feel you can cope much longer to be there for her. Have you found anything in the past has particularly helped when you have found things to be stressful? Any activities or hobbies?

    I hope that Al-Anon meetings continue to be a valuable space for you, I am also wondering if you have any other support network around you, friends, other family, colleagues etc that you can talk to about your situation?

    Nacoa can be here for you. Our promise is that:

    - We are here to listen
    - We won’t judge
    - We are here to help as long as you want
    - What you say will remain confidential

    If you would like to know about any specific services, then we can also do some research for you. If you feel you would like to speak with one of our helpline counsellors, you can call us on 0800 358 3456 or email us at between 12 and 7pm.

    Take good care,


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