Raised by a Heroin Addict and Paranoid, Delusional Mother

Reader’s Question

I was raised by a heroin addict and a paranoid, delusional mother. They beat and verbally abused me constantly. My mother said “you deserve it. You’re possessed!” My father never hit her, just me. She told me that she knows how to beat me without leaving marks. She made me drink turpentine with sugar as a kid and said it would make me better!

I really need to be validated because everyone in my family denies what I went through. My mother denies that my dad was a junkie even though there is ample evidence. He just died of cirrhosis, and he had hepatitis and she still lies about it. She claims “it’s all in the past.” She pretends she doesn’t remember anything that she did to me. They try to make me think I am crazy.

My boyfriend died when I was 19. So I had to move back in with them. I asked if I could keep my bunny outside in a cage because it was all I had left and they refused. Isn’t that just plain cruel? I had the money to pay for it myself. They treated their cat better than me.

I was raped two years ago. They would not go with me to the hospital even though I cried and begged for their help; they refused. Is this normal? She has allowed him to spend thousands of dollars on drugs and yet will not help me go to the doctor. I have been living with an abusive man for eight years and they won’t help me get out. They claim “it’s not that bad, just ignore it”.

I attempted suicide last week and she did not call with concern or love, but instead left me a barrage of harrasing messages and told me I can’t count on other people. She said she has “given me enough already”. My entire family has not bothered to call me after my dad’s death last week. But they have all called her, the abuser. I have three aunts who are teachers and yet they allowed me to live in a warzone. Why am I the enemy when I was the victim?

Six months after the rape, my parents visited me and told me I was “heavy and getting big”. I weigh 113 lbs. I asked — begged — her for an apology for not going with me to the hospital and she said, “I’m sorry, I guess.”

My mother promised to pay some of my school loans every month. It was her idea “to make it up to me”. She backed out of it two months later. She denies ever promising to help. I was told as a kid that I come last and her husband comes first. I never asked them for anything because I knew I wouldn’t get it.

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I had to feed, clothe, bathe myself. I stole food from neighbors. I was not allowed to wash my clothes at home, to have friends, to join sports. I was forced to quit cheerleading. I have tried to buy their love, but to no avail. I made them presents that they refused to take with them. They insult my cooking even though it is better than their’s. My dad stole my things and sold them for drugs.

She continues to make me feel bad about myself and won’t stop harrassing me. What kind of mother won’t help her child and yet gives everything to a junkie who doesn’t work? Is it normal that an entire family has not called to check in on me after my dad died? I was not at the funeral and still no one has called. This is proof that no one cares. They didn’t care about an innocent child, why should they care about me as an adult?

I just want someone to tell me that this is wrong. My own mother doesn’t care if I live or die. She knows I have medical problems and still doesn’t care. They took a life insurance policy out on me two years ago, is this normal?

Please help me — I am losing my mind!

Psychologist’s Reply

You’re describing what happens when our parent has a personality disorder (see my introduction to personality disorders on this website). If our mother or father has a personality disorder, our childhood will be very difficult and almost always abusive in some manner. Personality disorders are totally selfish in their view of the world. As you accurately describe, they view the experiences of their children as an inconvenience in their lives. They don’t respond to situations with love and support — just with verbal abuse, blame, guilt, and rejection.

Sadly, it is highly unlikely that you can change your mother because her behavior is unrelated to you as her daughter. You didn’t cause it, you don’t keep her behavior going, and you can’t fix it. The only option for you is to protect yourself as much as possible from her negative influence.

Protecting yourself will be more difficult due to your current depression. Your father just passed away, you have been assaulted and traumatized, and you’ve been depressed enough to attempt suicide recently. You should focus on recovery from your depression rather than changing your mother. To save your future, you’ll need to recover from your depression, build up your strength and resources, then gradually detach from your mother and begin your own life. Several types of mental health treatment may be needed, including medications and therapy/counseling.

It’s sad to say, but as you recover from your depression, don’t discuss your personal concerns with your mother. She will use any personal or heart-felt feelings and memories against you later. You will need to accept that she is your “biological” mother but not emotional mother — and she isn’t your friend. For that reason, you’ll need to be careful about the information you provide to her. Rather, confide in true friends, trusted family members, mental health professionals, etc. Importantly, you don’t need to have your mother’s blessing to be successful. You can have a happy, successful life but it will likely be despite your mother rather than with her support and encouragement. Your mother, as a personality disorder, is only concerned with her success — not yours. By the way, if you have children, you will need keep them at a safe distance from your mother as well. When there’s a shark in the family gene pool, we must keep them at a safe distance.

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