Q. I am a recovering alcoholic and the mother of two beautiful adult daughters.
While I have been sober for seven years, my relationship with my oldest daughter, now 30, is nonexistent.
I continue to do the work I need to do through a 12-step program, but her estrangement puzzles me. She said she could not have a relationship with me unless I quit drinking. Well, I did quit drinking.
I have attempted to make amends for not being more present as her mother during those years when drinking took over my life.
I have continued to send random texts letting her know that I think about her. I’ve sent care packages, as well as birthday and Christmas gifts.
She always replies with a cordial text, thanking me and telling me it was thoughtful and kind of me to do so.
She left home before she turned 16. I’ve seen her maybe five times in 15 years. She is a virtual stranger to me, and I feel that my efforts are useless.
Some people tell me that “she’ll come around,” but others tell me to stop my efforts and move on.
Amy, I’ve carried sadness and regret over this broken relationship for 15 years.
I’m losing hope. Any suggestions?
Don’t Know How to Let Go
A. Apologizing is a “call to action” for the other person. When you apologize, you are asking the person to forgive you, and to actively move on in a relationship with you.
Making amends is a personal call to action for YOU. You are the one who will work the change, regardless of the outcome.
What a sad, challenging childhood your daughter had! She likely faced the burden of not only trying to mother you, but to try to shield and protect her younger sister. And then when other girls her age had far lighter burdens, she had reached her limit and was out of the house.
You cannot undo the past. You can only treat her with loving kindness now.
You are doing that. You are also hoping to persuade or manipulate her into a fuller relationship with you.
You are doing what you need to do for your recovery. But what about her recovery? Being in a closer relationship with you might not be good or healthy for her.
You should continue to love her anyway, in the way that you are doing.
Her cordial and kind responses to you are evidence that she values your efforts, and that is something. It might have to be enough for you.
Q. I am struggling with heartbreak from three years ago.
Last night, I dreamed about her, where she professed her love for me again. I woke up feeling worse than ever.
Long story short, her parents broke us up because they did not approve of a same-sex relationship (neither did my parents).
I put it all on the line fighting for our love, but she didn’t, after her parents broke her phone, threatened to send her to a psych ward, and left her locked up in her house.
I waited for over a year. Then I realized that she had regained access to Facebook and had a new phone, and yet no message to me!
I never got closure, and I was left with a broken heart and long-lasting emotional hurt. I really want to know how someone can do this after saying they love you and want to marry you.
I’ve thought so many times of messaging her, but I don’t know what to do.
A. Please do message her. You may not hear what you want to hear, but knowing where she stands should help to provide the closure you seek.
You both had the odds stacked against you, and I agree that this is heartbreaking.
Q. “Upset” was a mother upset that she was asked to share the expense for a restaurant meal with her family. I was so surprised at your response. Most waitstaff will not do a separate check for a big party.
Usually it is the parents who pick up the tab (and not the kids), if they can afford it. If she is needy, she should talk to her son. Otherwise, she should pay for them!
A. You and I live in different worlds. In my world, working adults take care of their parents, including picking up the tab for their widowed mother’s modest slice of pizza when they go out.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.