Real Stories

To My Mom: Who Said Our Family Therapy Was a Waste of Time

I remember being in the back seat of your car as you picked me up and drove me to detox. At the time, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to get sober, and I most certainly didn’t want to see you. 

Looking back, I know you did the best you could. However, I always felt like you were so critical of me. I was terrified to be vulnerable with you because I was terrified I would be met with a judgemental stare and a cynical response. Allowing you to see me, like this, with my arms covered in track marks, 40 pounds underweight, pale as a ghost, and covered in sweat from those unruly heroin withdrawals, made me terrified you would judge me even more. 

Still, you were the person I called. You were the one person who would still answer the phone. You were the only person I could turn to, despite your obscenely critical remarks, I thank you for being there.

What I don’t thank you for is telling me that our family therapy was a waste of time. I don’t thank you for making me feel like I was a waste of time.

You’re gone now, and I’m trying to lay you to rest in a positive light, but there exists a plethora of unresolved anger within me towards you. I have to heal, so, I have to get it out. 

A Waste of Time

I was three months sober and freshly out of treatment when you finally agreed to fly across the country to participate in a family therapy session with me. You were skeptical of the entire treatment process due to all of the scams you had read about. You would obsessively try to convince me to come back home because you weren’t sure you would ever see me alive again.

Understandably so, after all, I put you through hell in my addiction. What wasn’t understandable was why you were so reluctant to do therapy with me in the first place. 

Despite your disbelief, you came. I remember being so excited to see you – to see you with a clear, sober mind for the first time in years. I was desperately hoping that my perception of you was one of a warped nature and that you really were the loving, nurturing mother I always wanted you to be. 

During the first hour of therapy, I felt like we gained some understanding of one another. I realized that all of the judgments you had of me were simply out of worry, concern, and a yearning for me to stay safe and be successful. I came clean to you about why I hated our home so much after I was raped right down the street. For the first time, I felt as though we were truly vulnerable with one another. I felt as though this was the first step to rebuilding our broken relationship. 

We left for lunch. 

We sat in silence. 

That all too familiar uncomfortably set in like dust in a vacant, abandoned home. 

Then, we returned. My therapist asked us how lunch went, and I told the truth. You didn’t like that very much. You never liked the truth, instead, you wanted us to pretend like we were that happy, all-American family. In reality, we crept around on eggshells and hid our dirty laundry in the darkest corners of the home. 

After a few nasty words and quite a few tears, we were instructed to sit in silence for two minutes staring into each other’s eyes. Not even twenty seconds into doing so, I saw that stare. The condemning stare of judgment, criticism, and disapproval that I ran from throughout my entire life resurfaced. I couldn’t stare into your eyes any longer. 

I broke out in a fit of rage due to what I saw, and I made sure you heard and understood each word of how I was feeling while looking into your eyes. You denied it. You didn’t shed a single tear. Your voice was monotone as you announced that you were done. You stormed out of the room with me chasing after you, apologizing, desperate for the love of my mother, as you announced to me in a matter of fact way, “this was a waste of time.”


I’m a codependent. – that happens when you surround yourself with sick people like alcoholics and addicts. It even happens to addicts, themselves, too. I get uncomfortable when my words or actions don’t meet the standards of other people. My inner child takes over and I obsessively try to fix my actions to please the emotions of others. 

I spent the next three years doing this with my mom. I blamed myself for her believing that therapy was a waste of time. I blamed myself for my own beliefs that she was ice-cold. I blamed myself for the fact that, for some reason, she was unable to provide me with the love and nurturing that mothers are supposed to give to their children. I blamed myself for everything. 

I would call her every day to try and demonstrate my love towards her, but the conversations always revolved around herself. I would talk about my accomplishments and my adventures, only to be met with criticism about my weight, my beliefs, my career, and my involvement in a 12 step program. 

Cynicism was all I ever got. 

Finally, I stopped. I started going to therapy again and began to heal without the help of my mother. I ripped open those wounds, let my emotions out, and created a healthy distance between my mother and me. Dealing with that emotional trauma from a distant, emotionally abusive parent allowed me to heal and break the chains of codependency. As it turns out, I was putting my energy into healing relationships that really weren’t worthwhile. After all, without love and acceptance, what’s the point anyways?

Now, she’s gone. 

Now, I know that none of my experiences have been a waste of time.

by Kate Adermann

Kate has been sober for 4 years and is an advocate for long-term recovery. She has found writing to be an important part of the healing process as well as a way to help break the stigma that surrounds addiction. She is a hiking fanatic and a dog enthusiast.

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