A success story

I have been a witness of my mother's illness and suffering since I was 10yrs old and gradually becoming aware that she was not like other moms. Her bipolar disorder combined with alcoholism was a source of abuse and neglect for me and my older sister, and the rest of our family did not or was not able to help, as often is the case. Also, the stigma of an alcoholic family member was something very difficult to admit to. My father himself was abusive and neglectful. We children were never beaten but pretty much left to our own devices from a young age. My sister and I argued a lot and the atmosphere at home was one of constant fighting, shouting and abuse, or loneliness and pain. We all tried to spend as much time away from home as possible. Eventually I was the first one to leave home at age 17 and never going back, moving to England 2 years later. My parents quickly separated after that and my sister remained home with my father for a few years, then eventually moved abroad herself. My father remarried and my mother started a new relationship, but lived in dire circumstances for many years after the separation, the drinking and her illness constantly jeopardizing her job and her health. For years I lived in avoidance of her situation. Until back in 1999, I had just managed to get a college education, graduating at age 33, when another severe relapse caused her to be once more sectioned. She begged me to get her out of the mental hospital, which I did, having witnessed the inhumane treatment she got there, but it got from bad to worse. I had to leave her and she ended up back in for a few weeks. That was the turning point. When she came out, I and a close friend/colleague of mine, whom mom trusted - I can count the people she trusts on the fingers of one hand - managed to convince her to get proper help. She became a daily outpatient at a NHS-equivalent clinic where alcoholism is treated alongside mental illness, and with the right drugs and counseling support, for the first time she began behaving like a normal human being. It took two years before she was able to attend only occasional meetings, and another two before she stopped attending altogether. She has now been on the right medication for almost 10 yrs, gradually reduced the dose with her psychiatrist's approval, and not drunk a drop ever since. I have slowly rebuilt a relationship with her, as well as with my father and sister. It is all still very tentative, but some trust is beginning to be rebuilt in our relationship. The abuse will not be forgotten, but it certainly is forgiven, while at the same time remaining on the alert for the first sign of instability so that the problem does not escalate into another nightmare of mental hospitals, bailiffs, and all that comes with with. Both mental illness and alcoholism worsen with age, and so I don't kid myself into thinking the problem has gone away. My mother turns 70 next month, and I know she may be at risk of a relapse again. However, so far we have gotten almost 10 good years and I am grateful for that every day. I have written this in the hope that it will help those who are right now in deep despair and do not know what to do. I know I could not have done it without the help of my friend and colleague who, because she was not in any way involved with the family dynamics, as well as having enough authority combined with compassion, was able to gain my mother's trust and make her believe she was acting in order to help her, not for any other reason. People like this exist and they are the ones in the best position to start the process of healing this terrible illness. Remember, alcoholism and mental illness go very often hand in hand, but when the mental illness (be it depression/anxiety, OCD, bipolar disease or other) side of the equation is not recognized, and the drinking is put down only to a character fault, progress is never made. Gigi

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