Trouble trusting newly sober MIL

Sorry in advance for how long this post is. I would vent this all out to a therapist but I can't afford it right now.

My mother-in-law and I have never been close. We're polar opposites. She's emotional, I'm analytical. She's outgoing and gregarious, I'm reserved and cautious. She likes the finer things in life, I shop at thrift stores. So we probably would have never been close under the best of circumstances. When husband and I began to date 8 years ago I wouldn't let him give her my phone # because I had seen how emotionally needy and dramatic she was with him over the phone , plus the behavior I'd witnessed myself after meeting her a few times. Examples: Trashing her ex-husband/still playing the victim from her decades old divorce in front of my husband and I who have a great relationship with his dad. Pulling down her pants to show off bruises she got on her behind whilst falling over drunk. Showing up drunk to our apartment to "comfort me" while I was very ill, continuing to drink and then driving home drunk. Asking us for money. There's so much more but I digress. Anyway boundaries come naturally to me after attending therapy for my own family drama for years. We knew she struggled with drinking, and my husband suspected she was using methadone but we werent 100% sure then that she was fully an alcoholic and an addict, but regardless I chalked her behavior up as general toxicity and stayed away. Which was easy enough to do as my husband already had little desire to maintain contact with her. She wasn't the best or most stable mother even before her addiction and he had in fact before we meet, moved out of the country for grad school, and stayed away as long as possible just to get away from the emotional burden she laid on him. We moved a year into our relationship and with the physical distance from her restored we no longer had to worry about her much.

Fast forward to now. My husband and I live in Vegas and had a child in April 2017 and his brother and girlfriend just had their beautiful boy a few weeks ago, in a nearby southwestern city. Right after our daughter is born and my brother and sister in law announce their pregnancy, MIL admits(1st time ever) she is addicted to alcohol and opiates. In her own words becoming a grandmother made her want to be sober. She said she'd like to be a part of our lives and an active role in her grandchildren's life. Everyone was excited for her to go to rehab. We (her two boys,future SIL, and I) dictated that her relationships with her family particularly her grandchildren would hinge on her receiving continued care after rehab. She agreed and acknowledged it would be constant work.

Needless to say she hasn't chosen that path. 2 days after she got out of rehab she tried to spring a visit on us with family of my husand's step father, who he isn't fond of, and one of their toddlers to meet our baby. Our daughter was only a few months old and I was suffering from PPD. We put our foot down and said no. We were still struggling to get our feet under us and my husband had to travel for work half of that week. It really was a horrible time for an extended visit. She reacted poorly tried to manipulate and guilt us, then when it didn't work she cut off communication with both of us. Even though she lives across the country she's managed to stop by our house unannounced during other visits so I sent her a text saying that since she had stopped communicating and we weren't aware of her plans she was not allowed to stop by the house unannounced. That was over 6 months ago and she still hasn't spoken to me.

So after that happens we don't hear from her for months. Next thing we know she texts my husband and she's already living in Vegas, which seems like a horrible place for a recently recovered addict to be. And she's in the process of buying a home in the same area of town we were interested in trying to purchase a home. Now this in itself seemed like an overstepping of boundaries to me. However, I understand it is a free country and technically she can move next door if she wants to but it still seems very invasive to me. She then starts pressuring my husband for a relationship with us and our daughter but continues to exhibit odd behavior. Her memory and communication skills are poor, we don't know if it's from the lasting effects of drug and alcohol use or if she's still using. Another example, she invited my husband over for a short visit and bought him beer to drink during the visit. Now buying alcohol seems like something and alcoholic shouldn't do it all...but maybe I'm wrong. Also it seems incredibly irresponsible to offer someone driving a child around alcohol, really someone who's driving at all. She's also said negative and cruel things about me in the past and kind of continues to hint(more lightly post rehab) at them to my husband. Mostly about how I dont like her. I've kept strong boundaries with her but I don't feel I've ever been unkind. I think she resents the distance I keep from her. She's already lost her job here after a few months and the deal with the house fell through. Same type of perpetual chaos as when she was using. It's really hard for us to believe she's sober when it seems like very little about her behavior has changed. One of the most concerning things to us is her lack of continuing focus on her recovery. I'm sure everyone has their process but, she won't do AA, refused a sober living facility and has been saying she would go to family therapy, which is how my husband and his brother would like to move forward with their relationship, but she has put it off and avoided it for months now. I feel so torn. I really want to give her a second chance but her behavior is still raising giant red flags for me and my husband. We've said unless she goes to family therapy we will keep our distance from her. So now we're just in this weird place where his mom moved from acrosd the country to 20 minutes away from us (and a few hours from her other son) and her sons hardly speaks to her and never see her. It's feels horrible. Someone tell me are we wrong to say therapy is non- negotiable? Are we making a fuss over little thing's? We all feel that while she might possibly be sober, she's still not emotionally well enough to have healthy relationships. It feels cruel to not build a relationship with her after she moved out here, but her closeness was unwanted and she continues behaving poorly. I feel so confused.
-Lost in Las Vegas
  • 13 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • @SlvrState419... Welcome to the community and thank you for sharing with us. I'm sorry that you've had so many issues with your mother-in-law.

    I don't think it's wrong of you to tell her that therapy is non-negotiable. You are perfectly entitled to establish boundaries for any relationship you have...even if it's your MIL. If you and your husband both feel that way, I'd say it's a no-brainer.

    Sober or not, if your MIL is behaving in a way that will make a relationship with her toxic, you should do what is necessary to keep that toxicity out of your life. It also doesn't matter that she moved closer to you. That was HER choice, not yours. Just because she's close by doesn't mean you're suddenly obligated to change how you feel about a relationship with her.

    This kind of family issue is never easy, but I think if you and your husband work as a team, you can handle it. Just remember: Boundaries are perfectly acceptable!

    We're here for you. Whether you need help, support, or just a place to vent, you can reach out and lean on us anytime.
  • @SlvrState419 hey there! thanks for sharing. i agree with dean. it's your life and whether it's family or not, boundaries are ok. you don't have to allow toxic people close to you like that.... if you want and need for family therapy to happen, set that boundary. let the ball be in her court that way.

    it's good that you and your husband are on the same team. keep the lines of communication open between you two... i imagine it is frustrating for you... if you find yourself going crazy... find someone you can talk/vent to.... get it out or choose to let it go... your sanity matters :)

    it's a tricky situation... but sounds like you are handling it well considering... chances are she really does want a healthy relationship with ya'll (grandkids too), but maybe just doesn't know how...and the addiction that's running doesn't help.

    i hope she will get the help she needs....and wants to make some big changes in her life...so she can add to the family and not take away....

    the reality is she may never be emotionally "well"... i mean... for some people, emotional healing takes a lifetime...and that's if they are willing to really get down and dirty to do the "inner healing work". if that's the case...and she is sober, can you possibly find an arrangement that works despite the emotional immaturity? just a thought.

    a therapist can prove helpful.. :)

    just my opinion. we are here anytime... again, thanks for sharing.
  • While I agree with the others, boundaries are key here.... I only have this to add... She has only just very recently hd to own up to the errors of her life. the shame, the disgust, the regret.. knowing that she ket people down, knowing she embarassed herself and others...
    It is possible that she is reaching out in an attempt to right the wrongs. Ok, she's not doing it very gracefully, but to be hones,t in the shoes of a recovering alcoholic.. it's a crucial time. If every door she knocks on is closed to her, she WILL pick up a bottle. I know this from experience. She has to prove herself, and she needs to keep her distance, but the truth is, she is someone that needs support. think about it... What is it that was so bad that happened to her that made her turn to alcohol? she is very probably hurting a lot and feels like throwing herself out there to make amends.

    I'm not saying to trust her outright, but just to be a bit sensitive with her and understand that if she feels really shut out, her entire recovery is gone out the window.
  • @SlvrState419... How are things going? If you get a chance, let us know.
  • @DeanD @dominica Thank you both for the words of support and insight. Sorry for the slow response. There's been lots to process this week. After holding firm and not giving in to her usual tactics, she agreed to go to family therapy so I'm hopeful my husband will get the apology and acknowledgment of what she put he and his brother through and I hope so much that they can start fresh from and honest place.

    I feel justified in my boundaries but I grew up with a narcissist father and gaslighting was a normal tactic, so I find myself doubting my instincts and feelings in some situations, particularly with family.

    Maybe I just haven't accepted her level of emotional immaturity. I guess I thought she'd go to rehab and at least begin to do the work of getting to the root of her problems. But it seems she just stopped using and not much else changed. I think maybe I was very naive. I have several family members who struggled with addictions. Sadly my uncle recently passed from complications due to decades of crack use. Only one ever got help, and she was sober by the time I was 4 and still is to this day! I've never been in a position to support a newly sober addict. Is it common for people to only focus of their physical sobriety and not deal with the emotional aspects? Does not dealing with those emotions make relapse more likely?

    @zozzie See that's that thing is she actually hasn't made amends with anyone, well maybe herself and that's probably the most important person to make amends with, but she hasn't acknowledged any of her past behaviors or the pain she's caused her children or anyone else in the family. She acts like we're crazy for being wary of her, especially me. She's trying her best to act like nothing was ever wrong. To my husband things were wrong with their relationship and her behavior WAY before she became an addict. She's hesitant to talk about rehab, she's not participating in any type of aftercare or support. All she's trying to do is bulldoze her way back into the lives of the people she has used and hurt for most of her life and everything thus far has been on her terms. We all really want to support her but everything is still so one-sided. Are we supposed to give up our boundaries just because she's a recovering addict? Are we supposed to act like it's normal for her to move across the country to the same city without uttering about it word to us? Is my husband we supposed to tolerate her still unhealthy and emotionally manipulative behaviour? Is her sobriety our responsibility to uphold? I think that's so painfully unfair. Particularly for my husband, she's made him responsible, as a child, for her emotions and so many other aspects of her life that she should have had ownership over as an adult. Her not taking responsibility for herself and her actions is how she got to this low point.

    We all talk frequently about her and really do want to support her. When she went to rehab we did a lot of research and the one common thread we found everywhere was that family support seems to be a really important factor to to staying sober. But isn't that all built on the foundation of having, or at least working on having, a healthy relationships that both people are happy and comfortable in? I guess I don't know what supporting v.s. tolerating behavior we're not okay with looks like in real life. Especially when most of her behaviors rub us the wrong way.

    The one revalation I had for myself was that she is a great opportunity for me to grow. I struggle with anxiety and it's hard to not be affected by other people's behavior. Maybe this is life telling me it's time to deal with that. Then when she behaves poorly I can stay calm and centered. I'd like to be able to be honest with her about how I feel and not clam up and go silent like I usually do when she's acting badly.
  • @SlvrState419 i am glad she is for family therapy.... to your question about recovering addicts just putting down the drink and not growing or healing emotionally... yes, it is quite common. i'll be the first to say old wounds can linger and make life challenging for the individual and the family... those old patterns running the show... i call it an old, dysfunctional CD playing over and over... and you'd think it'd be easy to take that CD out and smash it, and put in a nice, lovey dovey, emotionally mature CD in there...

    not so. :)

    someone told me people are doing the best they can with the level of consciousness they are dealing with. that helps me to offer patience and compassion...and not take things so personal.

    (well, most of the time. there are times when i just want people to stop acting based upon wounds they got as children)..

    opportunity for growth. for sure. any relationship gives us that. i support you in keeping that great attitude. the buddhist philosophy helps me out on that level.

    thank you for sharing here...and i do hope that she can get the help she needs and make some progress. it will take time... no doubt about that. and the reality is she may not grow or heal or mature as fast as you'd like.... tough to know...

    sounds like you are doing good at taking care of you and your boundaries. that's great!

    sending big hug your way!
  • @SlvrState419... If your MIL has stopped drinking but hasn't dealt with the emotions, causes, etc., then she is what a lot of people call a "dry drunk." A term "dry drunk" is often used to describe a person who no longer drinks or abuses drugs, but continues to behave in dysfunctional ways. And yes, relapse for this type of person is much more likely.

    Her agreeing to go to family therapy is a good start. I hope it can be the foundation for a lot of progress to come. Let us know how things go, okay?
  • @SlvrState419 , you're right... where does her responsibility to others begin, and where does you and your husband's responsibility to her end??
    Nobody should have to feel responsible for the decisions of another person. If she relapses.. it's not on you for not "supproting enough"... it's on her for not taking every step necessary to stay sober and free herself of whatever demons were making her drink. Putting down the bottle is not enough if we are still living with trauma or inner conflict.She needs to sort herself out.
    therapy is a good start.... It can really help as long as she is honest and open, and willing to put all her cards on the table.
  • @SlvrState419... How are things going? Let us know when you get a chance.
  • @DeanD She's now started to waffle about therapy. She picked a date and time with out asking my husband if it would work for him (normal for her). When my husband said he couldn't go because of work, she claimed she would have to find another therapist. What?? Why not just re-schedule? Who knows what her logic is. Then she says the new therapist is having issues with insurance, which is unlikely as her current husband was in the military and then an employee of the federal government for most of his life. His insurance is rock solid. We feel she's making excuses as usual and are waiting to see if she follows through. Not holding my breath. My husband is pretty disappointed. I'm beginning to accept that this is her norm and that this will be the norm for our relationship possibly forever. It does makes me sad though. Sometimes I just want to go No contact with her to remove the stress, but I don't think we've given it a fair shot yet. It frustrates me that I have to allow such stressful and unreliable person in my life but I love my husband and my child and if there's anyway they can have a healthy relationship with her I will support it.
  • @dominica I really like your skipping CD analogy. Very helpful to me. I think it's tough even with a full "emotional toolbox" to change behaviors so I'm sure change is even more of a monumental task for her. I'm trying my best to gain an understanding of her.
  • @SlvrState419... It definitely sounds like your MIL is making excuses to avoid going to therapy. *sigh* Hopefully, she will eventually follow through. But I think you're wise to not hold your breath.

    I give you credit for trying to strengthen the relationship with your MIL for the benefit of your husband and child. You're a good person for doing that!
  • @SlvrState419 accepting that this may be her norm.... that's quite a mouthful and wow, great insight. that may bring you some peace of mind.... people operate on their level of consciousness or emotional maturity, etc.... and some will only get so far... i know it can be tough though, for sure.... not how you planned your life...

    you are an incredible woman for trying for your husband's sake. what an example. this is a great portrait of unconditional love or "love without conditions"... :)

    i do hope she will follow through with therapy and that things do get better.
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