Dr. Lastname offers sensible advice to a mother who worries that she's trapped in an endless cycle of post-binge feeling-fests with her adult son, when what she really needs to do is send him to AA:
Tell him he has to find strength in himself by thinking hard about what he wants for himself and what drug and alcohol abuse does to him. He’ll need to get a lot stronger before he can stop and stay stopped, and talking to others about addiction and hearing their stories can give him the strength. Still, he’ll have to work hard every day, and the part of him that wants to use is pretty strong and will never go away.
No, you’re not discouraging him — false hope yields false courage — you’re telling him that life and his own feelings have totally discouraged him and he’s going to have to learn how to think differently in order to get his courage back. You’re not telling him anything he won’t learn from AA, but they’re the lessons that will help him take back his life.
The immediate response may well be negative; he may claim you’re letting him down and making him feel worse, and may openly regret talking to you. Instead of getting defensive, tell him you see a positive way forward and that your vision differs from his. Then stand pat, don’t argue, and stand ready to help him whenever he takes a positive step. It may be awhile before you feel close again, but, if and when you do, it will be the real thing. Until then, you can talk all the time, but every conversation will make you feel further away.He also offers excellent practical advice for dealing with intrusive nags:
If your mother is needy and believes that intimacy is a matter of sharing spontaneous feelings, it’s natural for her to try to get close by asking you direct, intrusive questions and then sharing her honest response. Anyone who does that is, however, is just somebody who has never figured out that this method never works (and probably never will). She gets an A for expressing her feelings, and you know what grade she gets from me.
Don’t make the same mistake by assuming that sharing your honest objections (to her honest questions) will lead to improvement; she might never learn her lesson, but you should know better. If your goal was to see whether confronting her negative behavior works, now you know. No need to repeat the experiment, the results will always be the same (and awful).
So put aside your disappointment and consider other approaches, like steering the conversation to pleasant topics of common interest, or politely refusing to talk about personal topics. The more you stifle your own need for intimacy, the more likely you are to steer the dinner table agenda towards topics that work and come away appreciating the desert and not hating the conversation.