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How can I heal when my family won’t let go of the past?

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“I’ve been sober for four years, and I’m doing very well with God’s help. I have a sister that turned my daughter against me, my daughter says that she has forgiven me. But treat me like I’m just someone she met in the street.

I’m not included in her life – not for real. My sister acts like her mom, and it hurts so bad. I’m the only one that was there for her when had my grand babies. She says my mom did every thing for her, and that’s not true. My mom just acts like she did and won’t tell her no different because my mom loves praise.

No one respects me. No one remembers all I’ve done for my family. They bring up my past, I guest to make me feel bad, and it does.”






Thank you so much for reaching out and for trusting us. I’m so sorry to hear you’re struggling with the ways your family is responding to you and your efforts to connect even after all you’ve done to support them.

Family can be a very tricky beast when it comes to addiction and recovery. I also have a daughter, and handling that relationship has never been an easy thing for me to do. I have my own guilt from my past with her, and she has at times also tacked on her own personal list of why I should feel awful. It’s not easy, and support from other women has really helped me a lot.

Something that has taken me many years to make peace with in my own recovery is the fact that just because I’ve chosen to recover doesn’t mean the people in my life will. The chaos and drama that often comes with the “family” label when it comes to addiction and recovery can be a tremendous trigger. Mental illness has so many forms and masks to hide behind, and if/when people in our lives refuse to even acknowledge that there’s a problem, it can be terribly disappointing and even infuriating.

The only thing I know how to do in these situations is to keep my side of the street clean and try not to cause further harm. In some cases, that has meant taking huge steps away from family members and friends. In other cases, it has involved setting (and resetting) some really uncomfortable boundaries and doing my best to maintain them. I’m reading an incredible book right now called, “You Are A Badass” by Jen Sincero. In it she says, “You are responsible for what you say and do. You are not responsible for whether or not people freak out about it.” I love this, and need that reminder…OFTEN.

Another thing that has helped me though a lot of that pain is having a therapist to help me process through which feelings and facts were mine to own and which were not. Do you have someone like this close by that you can talk to? If not, I’d be more than happy to help you find someone in your area.

I’m so happy you reached out today, Yalanda. You are not alone, and I hope you will continue to communicate with and through us.




What about you?
Do you have family or friends who still refuse to let go of your past?
What steps have you taken?
What would you suggest?




Do you have a question? Ask A Sober Mom today!

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  1. I’m a 54 year woman who battled addiction to opioids in the past and been clean for over 25 years… in the last 4 years I’ve dealt with extreme and debilitating headaches that have made my life absolutely miserable… I’ve gone from doctors to doctors trying to find an answer for this condition… lately my family (parents and siblings) have been mistrustful, judging and critical of me making erroneous assumptions that I have relapsed due to the fact that that there is no clear answer for my headache condition… determining in their minds that, because nothing seems to help resolve my headaches is due to the fact that that I’m consuming opioids again… this is so frustrating, hurtful and exhausting!!! having to defend myself over and over again against a ghost that seems to follow me forever… I need help because I don’t know how to deal with this… please give me some advice…

  2. I’m the child of an abusive alcoholic parent who wants me to “just let go of the past” too. What some parents need to understand and accept is that they may have done too much harm.

    Of course they’d love for us to “leave it in the past” amd move on; they get a pass for their behavior and what they want – a relationship as if nothing ever happened.

    I spent years in therapy dealing with PTSD from my father’s abuse and still carry physical scars from the injuries he inflicted. He is now in recovery and refuses to accept that I do not want a relationship with him, nor do I want him around my family. He did too much harm. I never want to see him again. I’m harassed with a constant barrage of unwanted phone calls, letters and attempts to drop in and visit. He waits for me in the parking lot of my work. I don’t want to go to AA or family reunification therapy with him.

    It’s great that he got his life together, but I wish he’d accept that I have moved on and do the same. He wails that he will make it up to me, not realizing that he never can. Every time I see him is a reminder of the horror we endured. I will never trust him again and would be an irresponsible parent to knowingly risk exposing my own young kids to him. My wife agrees.

    I disagree that recovered addicts are entitled to a relationship with the families they harmed. Part of recovery should include that they accept responsibility for the harm you did and the fact that it may be unforgivable and definitely not forgettable.

    Stop telling us we are angry, bitter, mentally ill etc because we won’t do what you want and give in.

  3. This is going to sound harsh, but perhaps you should accept that the pain you inflicted, whether intentional or not, may be too great for that person to forgive and forget. Their wounds may be too great. This is not just about you.

    Sure you’d like everyone to forgive you and everything to be okay again. But this is not owed to you.

    I found this entry because I’m going through this with a parent who won’t accept that I no longer want him in my life. I’m glad he got sober and his life together, but I do not want him in mine. I moved on. I wish he would do the same. He is revictimizing us all over again. He believes he is entitled to have a relationship with me whether I want one or not. He wails that he will make it all up to me. He does not accept that he can’t.

    He has negative personality traits that alcohol made worse and didn’t go away with sobriety. It took years of therapy for me to start thinking of healing. I was having a wonderful life with my family until he reappeared with his demands. The constant barrage of calls, letters and attempts to visit are taking a terrible toll on me, my wife and kids.

    The best, kindest thing you can do is accept responsibility for harm you did and their decision to banish you. Own up and back away. They may decide to forgive you later, but trying to force that issue won’t make that happen

    You may feel that what you did is no big deal, but you do not get to decide how someone else feels. You are hurting them and reminding them why they resent you in the first place. Stop reinforcing it.

    I hope you and yours do reconcile. Going No Contact is a terrible thing to do and their decision wasn’t made lightly. Everybody wants to be part of a happy family.

    Sometimes it isn’t possible, as in my case. I’d be knowingly exposing us to potential violence, narcissistic bloodsucking and my kids to emotional abuse and mental cruelty. He’s an emotional vampire and verbal abuser.

    I am sorry for your pain. i believe it is real But your expectation that you be forgiven and whatever it is forgotten is disturbing and self-serving. Show them you are not selfish by living an example. If you can’t convince them, though, you must accept that. Please.

    Good luck.

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