#90 – Episode 90 – Surviving Our Mothers with Elissa Altman


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Veronica interviews Elissa Altman the author of best-selling memoir Motherland – A memoir of love, loathing and longing. They discuss what it’s like growing up with a difficult parent, how that affected them and led to their drinking. They also talk about that due to coronavirus, many people are having to share spaces with family members that can be triggering and difficult.

What This Episode Is About

This episode is for people who have a strained or difficult relationship with their parents. It’s something you’ll be able to relate to, because you’re not alone. We hope you’ll be able to pull strength from the stories, and learn ways to cope from the advice we share here.

I was excited to have Elissa on the podcast after I met her through my friend, Laura McKowen. Her latest book “Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing and Longing” caught my eye, and I’ve really resonated with her story because I’ve also had a difficult relationship with my mother, and I know a lot of you are going through the same. It’s not your typical happy ending, Hollywood-style story.

Elissa gives a voice to the intricacies and nuances of a codependent parent-child relationship better and more accurately than I’ve ever seen.

For her, people have always been drawn to her mother like a moth to a flame.

She is beautiful, tall and charismatic. She was almost famous, being a TV singer and model, but she never quite got there, and that’s always haunted her. Even in her 80s, it’s still the topic brought up in almost every dinner conversation.

For as early as she can remember, Elissa deeply adored her mother. But towards puberty, she realized that something wasn’t right. No matter how hard she tried, she could never measure up to her mother’s expectations. She could never fill her mother’s bucket of needs because there was a hole cut in the bottom.

She also realized that she had her own dreams and aspirations, and her own path she wanted to pursue. That became yet another thing they fought about. That stress and starvation of approval led Elissa into an unhealthy relationship with drinking.

She was introduced to alcohol at a young age, attending a party with her parents where she was given a screwdriver. From that point forward, she got sucked into the power of being numbed by it. After her parents’ divorce, she fell even deeper into it as part of her ritual with her father. It evolved from simply being a numbing agent to being a totem of joy and happiness and bond with her father.

Those two don’t make for a good combination.

The story doesn’t have a clean ending, as real-life never does. You’ll learn more about her story, and Veronica shares her life experiences with her mother as well.

Resources Mentioned

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