Update from an alternative universe!


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Hi everyone.

A little background......As many of you know, my daughter is 43 years old and has not been diagnosed, but clearly has some sort of mental illness. Her husband committed suicide 16.5 years ago and after that event, her life went off the rails, she lost her home, her job, her kids and her sanity. She became homeless 5 years ago and has since couch surfed at different places. I raised her daughter from the time she was 11 years old until she left for college 2 years ago. When things got really out of control for me, I got myself in a 2 year codependency course, lead by therapists trained in substance abuse, mental illness and codependency......it changed my life.

In May, I left town to go to visit my mother for Mother's Day in North Carolina. My daughter had just gotten out of jail and again had no where to go but where she had been living which had no water, (the well was broken) and the owner of that home is bi-polar and unpredictable. She stayed with me a week, and when confronted with the choice of either leaving my daughter in my home, bringing her back to the place she was staying or canceling my trip.......I opted to go on the trip and take her back to where she was. A tough choice. She is still there today.

That choice ushered in more change. When I got back, my daughter was once again charged with a minor offense and the legal system was going after her. Her usual response to this kind of thing is to NOT handle it, in the past she has gone off the radar with a warrant over her head. At that point, I told her she needed to make a different choice and take care of business, face up to it and deal with it. I told her that I was not going to suffer along with her this time, that if she made any other choice but to face this new charge head on, that she could count me out. I was not going through another 2 years of waiting for the police to arrest her, it was just too much. I told her if she chose to go to court and face it that I would help her, I would drive her and stand with her, but if she made the other choice, I would not be available for any help and in fact, I did not even want to know what happened. I told her she created these messes because she didn't handle anything and I was now taking a stand that if she opted to run, that I would disconnect from her except for the most basic relationship, that I had reached critical mass and I could not do it anymore.

She chose to face it. We went to court 3 times and the case was dropped to a misdemeanor with some restitution, but no jail time. She faced up to something she usually hides from and the result was a positive one. She gained some strength from that choice. She did the right thing. On one of the drives to court, I ended up sharing with her how it has felt to me to be so worried about her life, I recounted examples of how badly she had treated me years ago when I was simply trying to help her. I told her how much damage that did to me, I told her, in detail and for the first time how much her choices have harmed me. When I glanced over at her in the car, she looked absolutely stricken. I told her that we did not have a "typical" relationship where we go to lunch, go shopping, talk about our dreams, our concerns, sharing our lives........all without drama and intensity. I told her I would have liked that as opposed to the continuing scary dramas she brings to my door. I told her the truth about how much her choices have hurt me.

The next day she told me how very sorry she was, how she never knew how much I was impacted by her life. I know that sounds absurd, but having lived with mental illness my entire life, it is not incomprehensible for her to not have the insight and empathy to truly understand how her behavior would impact another. She took it to the next step and contacted her daughter and apologized and asked for forgiveness. I was dumbfounded. So was her daughter who called me and said she felt cautious and I told her my experience with mental illness with my parents and my siblings and that she needed to consider all the factors because a healthy, "normal" relationship may or may not be possible and she needs to know that truth. I trust that she will do what is right for her, she's a smart and perceptive young woman. And, I will always be there for her to discuss this, she can count on me and perhaps one day she can count on her mother. I don't know. Right now we are both approaching this with cautious optimism.

Then my daughter continued to let me know how the truth of what I had said was really hard for her to hear and take in, but she was grateful to me. She then posted a long, somewhat odd general apology on Facebook to anyone she may have harmed. Right after that she called and when I answered the phone she said, "Mom, you sound as if you are waiting for me to say something terrible." I told her that I have been trained by experience that when she calls it is usually about the next drama or awful thing I will now be dragged into. She said, "Mom, those days are over." She proved that the following day when she and I went to our chiropractor and she then invited me to lunch! She has NEVER done that. We went to a small town nearby and did a bit of shopping and had lunch. That was the first day in 16.5 years that we enjoyed each other fully, without any drama.

She told me she was now going to go to a Psychiatrist to attempt to get a diagnosis which would allow her to apply for disability. I tried to get that started for her 5 years ago, but she treated me badly and did not follow up. Now she is ready to do it. She has a plan.

Last year I thought it would be a good idea to take her to my acupuncturist and chiropractor since she suffers from severe back pain (from the stress of living the way she does) and general anxiety. Both agreed to see her for a very reduced fee (which she pays). Both of them told me last week that my daughter is doing much, much better. The Chiropractor told me that now that her health issues are being relieved, she can "make better choices." And she is.

She stopped drinking coffee and soda. She has begun to address getting her car fixed so she can get a job and move out of where she is. When I see her, she is calm and never discusses the parts of her life that cause me stress. She is more positive, calmer and appears to be on a new path to move ahead with her life. The bitterness that used to be on her face......is gone......she laughs easily, her entire face has shifted back to how she looked before her husband died.

Some of these changes had begun to happen about 2 years ago, right after I graduated from that codependency course and I began making big strides in detaching and accepting what is. It's been incremental, it's been a process, it's taken time and effort and a commitment to not enable, to not step in and help. It's been hard. But there's been continual progress.

Honestly, I had accepted the way it was, I had placed many strict boundaries around her behaviors, I had learned how to actually enjoy my life even when her life was a shambles, I had detached from her in almost every way and I had found peace in the middle of the hurricane........I had really not expected anything to be any different than it had been.........and now it is. For whatever reason, it appears as if she woke up from the nightmare and is making strides to change it.

My granddaughter is doing extremely well. At 20 years old she's taken control of her life. She has moved into adulthood and I am now simply her touchstone.......I had a bit of sorrow about letting go, but this is what she is supposed to be doing now.......this is healthy and positive.

I retired in December of last year and I now understand why everyone told me to NOT make any life changes before a year, this process has it's ups and downs. I felt a good amount of grief which I think is linked to not only retirement, but letting go of parenting my granddaughter and the rather large shift with my daughter. Even though these are all things I wanted, they are also big changes and with changes like these, there is grief, a letting go of what was. I've gone through a real emptiness, a sense of not knowing who I am and what I'm supposed to do now. Fortunately, I've moved through those stages and am now feeling quite good. Hopeful, open to new possibilities, ready to fill up the emptiness with what I love.

I began a new dietary regiment which has worked out very well. We are essentially vegans, no animal products. We do not eat any sugar, dairy or gluten. We exercise and hike a lot. I've always been a sort of health nut and I used to think "when I have the time, I really want to devote myself to creating a very healthy lifestyle with a clean diet, proper exercise, meditation, yoga, all the things I know that promote health." And, I'm doing it!! I've done a lot of research lately on "clean healthy living" and I find it fun to implement my new ideas. If anyone is interested in finding out about a whole foods, plant based diet, a good place to start is the documentary Forks over Knives which you can view on Netflix. It's very good and offers a lot of information.

I'm so enjoying creating this new lifestyle! With my granddaughter happily on her life journey, my daughter managing her own life in productive and healthy ways and all the time I now have to do what I really want to do........I feel a ton of gratitude. There were whole years where I thought the pain and the suffering would never let up, where I thought I could not go on for one more minute, where the sense of powerlessness and fear was so great that I was withering underneath it all.......but it did change. The major shift was making the decision to detach from my daughter .........I needed a village to help me do that, it was the hardest thing I have EVER, EVER had to do. I thought it would annihilate me for sure.......instead, it opened up new doors ..........and as I let go, she stepped up to the plate......each and every time I let go, she shifted her stance and took hold of her life. Every small and large step back that I took, she responded in kind by stepping up. I don't know that that works all the time, but it worked for me and all those therapists in the codependency course told me that they had seen that same scenario unfold in the same way in almost every case with mental illness and substance abuse. And, it cannot be overstated that it is the hardest thing for any parent to do.

My story is not unlike many of yours with adult kids who've gone off the rails......I chose to go about detaching, letting go, accepting, recognizing my extreme powerlessness in being able to control or change anything about anyone else's life......it sure isn't easy, in fact, it's extremely difficult, which is why I always advocate getting professional help, a therapist, a support group, NAMI, 12 step groups, whatever and wherever you can go to get help. In my opinion, this is almost impossible to do without A LOT of help. As parents we are spring loaded to continue to try to help our kids, but with some of our kids, that help is detrimental to them and to us. I feel very fortunate that I found the help I needed to make the changes I did. I am so grateful to have landed in this new place.......Now it's time for me to have my own life.........stay tuned. :smile:
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Well-Known Member
Thanks for sharing.
For some of us who are not as far down the road... it's a long road. But it's always nice to hear the stories of those who come out right-side-up on the "other side" of the journey.

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member
RE, what an amazing thread! Thank you so much for sharing and pouring out your heart to us. You have offered so much hope to me that someday my son too might "wake up".

How wonderful that you have been able to process all the emotions attached to your daughter, grand daughter and retirement and that you are focusing on yourself and your health.



If focused on a single leaf you won't see the tree
What an amazing story and I am so happy that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for you and your daughter. Sometimes it takes years and years for them to "wake up" and want to change the way they are living. I pray that all continues to go in a positive path for daughter and you will get more days of lunch, shopping and just "good conversation" with your daughter.


Well-Known Member
What a great update, RE! I found myself grinning and my eyes tearing up as I read it.

It amazes me how people just can't see or hear things as they are, UNTIL THEY ARE READY. I guess your daughter was finally ready to hear how her actions have affected those who love her, finally ready to see where to make some positive changes.

I'm so happy for all of you, RE! Thanks so much for sharing.

savior no more

Active Member
I appreciate your sharing your story and happy your daughter is making positive steps. I was thinking the other day that I'll get my eating under control when my son's life settles down. ha My whole life I've been waiting on some outside situation to be different before I put me first. I'll look into the documentary as I'm starting the climb up the mountain (again) to taking care of my body. My child psychiatrist friend always tells me to let my son know how his actions are affecting me. Such a novel idea, a healthy opening of emotions that I never grew up with. Not in an accusatory way of you're so bad, but it saddens me to see you this way and I feel helpless to make a difference, etc.


one day at a time
RE, what you wrote brought me to tears. I am so glad for you, for her and for your granddaughter. I am so glad.

The world works in such mysterious ways. Who would ever have thought that you would experience the kind of life change you have, due to your daughter's mental illness? How we get to where we are today, the twists and turns, the incredible pain and the incredible joy. It's mind-boggling.

I find it particularly instructive what you said about retirement. I'm scared to retire. I am afraid that I won't know what in the world to do with myself. Thank you for sharing your experience of your first year.

I don't think it is an accident at all that your precious daughter started to change when you started to change. The age-old adage: when nothing changes, nothing changes. Is so so true with our DCs. What's so bitterly funny is that we keep waiting for THEM to change. We never think it might be, or needs to be, US that needs to change...at all. In fact, I was supremely insulted when that idea was first introduced to me in Al-Anon. : )

Now...today...I am so very grateful too. You have been such a light to me in this awful journey, RE. You have helped to show me the way. Thank you. Thank you!!!

I am so happy for you all. Thank you for sharing with us. We love you!


Well-Known Member
Staff member
Thank you all for your kind responses.

it's always nice to hear the stories of those who come out right-side-up on the "other side" of the journey.

Yes it is, I remember when I first came on this forum, I so wanted to hear that there were others who managed to live through this. I wanted so much to be there too, but at that time, I couldn't even imagine it! Thank goodness we CAN change!

I guess your daughter was finally ready to hear how her actions have affected those who love her,

For her to sincerely be responsible on some level for her actions is a HUGE step in the right direction. In the past, she has not taken any responsibility for anything, she had an uncanny way of somehow NOT seeing it and of dispersing the responsibility onto others. I knew in my heart that when that legal action began that she had to own up to that or I was out of the picture. I felt that it was a turning point for both of us. She really wanted to run. When she told me that, I mapped out what that choice would bring, as it had the last time she ran.........when confronted with the truth, with what the outcome would be, for whatever reason, she realized it was a bad choice. She did not want to go to jail which is what prompted the "run" idea.......and in the past, her not wanting to go to jail would trump any other choice. That's exactly how she got in all the legal trouble in the first place. In order to NOT go to jail the first time, she plead guilty to something she didn't do. She would have gotten off in 2 weeks, she never had any issues with the law before, but she would not stay in jail for the 2 weeks. That began a 4 year terrible situation where she was continually picked up by the police for probation violations and put back in the place she was terrified to be in. I was actually pretty surprised that she chose to go to court and face it. And, the fact that it turned out to be a relatively positive outcome, she now has a direct experience of doing the right thing. Hopefully, she'll build on that.

Not in an accusatory way of you're so bad, but it saddens me to see you this way and I feel helpless to make a difference, etc.

For me, I needed to share with my daughter more than how it saddened me and how helpless I felt, I told her how it felt to me, how scared I was, how much stress I was under, how it messed up my life to worry about her, how it impacted my health, how it ripped my joy from me.....I didn't minimize or edit it this time, I really expressed all of it. I think she needed to hear about the harm her actions caused for not only me, but her daughter and many others. She acted very badly for a very long time and I told her that for any of us to move forward, we need to clean up the past, make amends to those we harmed. I believe in "right" timing and that was the right timing for me to express all of that to my daughter and apparently, it was the right time for her to hear it.

What's so bitterly funny is that we keep waiting for THEM to change. We never think it might be, or needs to be, US that needs to change...at all. In fact, I was supremely insulted when that idea was first introduced to me in Al-Anon. : )

COM, I believe that is the crux of it. When I realized that I could change and I got the support to make those changes......EVERYTHING changed. Once I took that responsibility and began the journey of detachment and acceptance, it changed every part of my life. It removed me from a number of places in my life that had become toxic due to my own 'stuff'.....my own perceptions and beliefs.......I too was insulted when I first realized that I had to change! Waiting for my daughter to change kept me stuck in resentment, anger, grief and powerlessness......when I took the action to change, I once again had my power back........I had to learn how to detach, I had to learn how to accept what is, it was not natural......but man, it brings peace, it brings back the joy.......it's been a remarkable, life changing couple of years.......and the most profound realization I've had is that the devastation that my daughter's choices brought to my life that forced me to change.....ushered in what I needed in order to fully engage in life, to experience peace of mind, to deepen my own joy and well being......so the worst possible situation brought about the most significant shift in my own experience of life. And, it appears, in my daughter's life too.

I'm scared to retire. I am afraid that I won't know what in the world to do with myself.

A therapist told me that it is a huge transition for folks that many don't initially see. I honestly think it was the biggest transition of my life, perhaps because mine came at the same time as letting go of my granddaughter and the changes with my daughter. There is the initial experience of a kind of euphoria, however, I've read that the stage after that is the grief, the not knowing who you are and what to do. A lot flew in for me to deal with, the aging process, letting go of "youth" in a very real way, really feeling that emptiness, learning how to identify myself differently, allowing a new identity to unfold and being able to walk through the time when that new identity hasn't shown up yet. However, now that much of that is over, a whole bunch of new possibilities are emerging. And, that is really cool!

in a daze

Well-Known Member
I am just so happy for you! You've been through so much, and you've shared your wisdom and experience with us to help us all with our "gifts from God", lol. So glad your daughter is finally taking the right road!

New Leaf

Well-Known Member
RE, I would love to buy a ticket to your alternative universe! Thank you so much for sharing your good news. It is wonderful to read positive posts. I am so glad your daughter is taking steps towards a brighter future.


Well-Known Member
Ah, Recovering, I have the same feeling reading this as I did when I accidently walked into the reaching scent of night blooming jasmine last night...such a flood of warmth and happiness and joy overload. I am so happy for you that you are in this place. You have worked hard for it, and found your own path, and your daughter is finding her own path too. I was so happy to see your name here, and to get this update. I know that you will continue on in your strength and hard earned wisdom, and that that new resilience will help you with all of life's paths and changes.

I am interested that retiring has been hard...of course I know it often is...I am several years away, and I guess maybe I just don't see it. I so long for more time, more time with loved ones, more time with my dogs (see loved ones), more time in my garden, more time in the sun. Both my younger sons are leaving for college this month...one is gone already, one leaves in a few weeks. I do feel a deep sadness and sense of loss..my husband left when they were about 11, and we got very cozy together over the early years. The comings and goings of Difficult Child had their share of grief, and my daughter leaving for college seemed right and correct...now, these, my last ones, leave hole in my mother's heart, and I find myself walking around with tears and a trembling lip never far off. Like you with retirement, I did not foresee this. I am invoking many of the tools I engaged with Difficult Child...self care, some meditation, exercise, the quiet things that give me joy.

Difficult Child is in jail, having been let out on a variety of supervised releases a few times, and failed each time. He is sweetly earnest in jail, and an IMMEDIATE impulsive disaster when he is not in a secure environment. It does not drive me to despair any longer, and I do find some lightness in his phone calls.

I wish the same access to calm and joy to all of we parents emeritus. We are in all of this together.




Well-Known Member
Good one RE!

We've all grown so much over the past couple of years haven't we?
You helped us all: me, alb, com, echo, cedar, all of us, through all that angst.

We've all moved on and deal with things in a more positive way thanks to all your great advice and support when it was so badly needed.

Look back and find all RE's past posts, all you newbies!


Well-Known Member
Absolutely wonderful story!
I'm so glad your daughter apologized and you had the drama-less day.
I have often wondered how our daughter, who is intelligent and caring, can not realize that her drama is extraordinarily difficult for me and her father. He is very near retirement and I have health issues big time. She has very brief moments that she can be very kind, but overall, I be,I've she is clueless re how difficult being with her can be.