Ask Exene: It's Not Your Fault Your Mom Hits the Bottle

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Exene Cervenka

Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. If you want to ask the legendary vocalist for advice--on your love life, politics, your musical career, Armageddon, filial relationships, anxiety over 2012--send an email to askexene@ocweekly.com.

DEAR EXENE,

I'm 16 years old, and for as long as I can remember, my brother, sister and I have been told by my mom that we "drive her to drink." She's a single parent, raising us by herself for the past eight years since my dad left. Since then, my relationship with her as the oldest daughter has been strained. We fight constantly over the same thing: She thinks I don't live up to her standards (a good GPA, hanging with the wrong crowd, etc.), and I resent the fact that she seems to go on autopilot as a mom during the week, sticking me with a lot of the responsibility of raising my brother and sister--it's basically a full-time job. I feel like my life is way more stressful than that of other kids my age.

After a big argument, she has this ritual of pouring a shot of tequila in front of me and my siblings and tells us that this is the only way she can deal with living with us. Then she'll usually just go to her room and stay there until she feels like apologizing or pretending as though nothing happened. Do you have any idea how to deal with this kind of verbal abuse and explain it to my brother and sister in a way that might make sense to them? Maybe I'm looking for someone to explain it to me, too.

Love, Shannon


DEAR SHANNON,

I would recommend going to an Alateen meeting, which is part of Al-Anon. You are the caregiver to your siblings and your mother. You should be a teenager, with your own concerns and responsibilities--and with a mother taking care of you. I think Alateen would help you a lot. You would meet other young people in your situation and learn some excellent coping skills, improve your self-esteem and get help in understanding what is going on with your mother.

Your mother chooses to drink, blame and abdicate her responsibilities. And though one parent raising three children is difficult, lots of people do it and don't blame their children for the situation. Being helpful to your siblings and mother is commendable, but running the whole show is just too much to ask. Often, this pattern of having to be the caregiver of a parent extends into adult relationships. In other words: the girlfriend who supports the boyfriend, the wife who works full-time and still does all the housework, the overburdened mother taking on the kid's responsibilities. These are all the places you don't want to go. You can have a great life and a great future. And it's not your fault.

Love, Exene


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