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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My mom is in AA for alcoholism and is doing pretty well with that. For years, a big part of her dysfunction involved secret drinking- she'd claim to have quit, then she'd disappear upstairs with her "water" glass and come back with it full of vodka from her secret stash in the closet. At some point when she was at her lowest, she also took up smoking. My sister and I each spoke with her about it at different times and she either denied it or changed the subject.<br><br>
These days she lives with her parents (my grandparents) in Florida, which has been a huge transition for me as she used to be driving distance. She has mostly stopped drinking, and this most recent visit I'm pretty sure she didn't drink at all. But she makes these weird excuses to leave the house and comes back smelling of smoke and whatever she tried to use to cover up the smell. She's totally paranoid about me figuring it out, which of course I already have, and so she talks a lot about why she went out, why it took so long, etc. I rode with her in her rental car today and had to endure a long speech about how "rental cars always seem to smell like smoke."<br><br>
I am not happy that she took up smoking; it's just gross, it's sadly self-destructive, and it makes me worry she'll become ill. But I also feel like she's an adult who can make her own choices, she clearly has an addictive personality and this is much less dangerous for her than the drinking was. I just wish she wouldn't go though this whole charade with me about it. I wish she would just say, "I'm going to go out and have a smoke, be back in a few." I get so irritated when she spins these long tales for me, and it actually makes me much more upset about the smoking than I would be. It just feels so familiar from her drinking days. It makes me worry about her mental health and about the quality of our relationship.<br><br>
But what do I say? "Mom, I know you're really smoking," when she comes back from one of these trips? What's the point? I don't want to make her stop, it's something she will have to stop of her own volition. I don't want to shame her about it. I'd just like us to act like adults about it.<br><br>
Should I just let it go, since I don't see her (unfortunately) more than a few times a year anyway? Is there a way to say "I know what's up" without it seeiming like judgment?<br><br>
Thanks y'all. Would love to hear from anyone else who's dealt with a "secret" smoker.
 

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Well, cut the crap. I would just tell her that you know, and that you are so glad that she smokes now instead of drinking. It is really hard to go to AA and not smoke or drink coffee. The secrecy is obviously part of her pattern of addiction, and allowing her it part of your pattern of co-dependency. I have a crappy sense of humor, so I would probably buy her a pack of additive-free cigarettes and give them to her when I told her. These days, all the additives in the cigs make them harder to quit.
 

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I'd let it go. My mother has started smoking again secretly and honestly, I think having a secret thing is part of why she enjoys it. She's an odd duck and right now, there's a lot going on she can't control and doesn't like. I think when she's secretly smoking, she can tell herself that she IS in control of something and there's nothing we can do about it. She'll never out grow stuff like this and I don't want to fight about it. She reacts like a teenager. I would rather her quit but we've been over it and she knows that so I'm just not saying anything.
 

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<p>.</p>
 

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If I were to say anything to her, it would be to ask her why she feels the need to hide it from me? It's obvious that I can smell it on her, can see the stains on her fingers, etc. (whatever you notice). But why hide it? I mean, if SHE is ashamed about it, then quit. But if she's not, then why hide? kwim? We all make choices in our lives. She's obviously choosing to smoke. It's her choice, she's a grown women, she's made the choice. She has a right to make that choice and you have a right to not like it, but it's the fact that she's hiding it that I would worry about. Just tell her that she doesn't need to hide it from you. You already know, and you still love her anyway, because she'll always be your mom. Maybe that's all she needs to hear.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Kivgaen</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/15366554"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">If I were to say anything to her, it would be to ask her why she feels the need to hide it from me? It's obvious that I can smell it on her, can see the stains on her fingers, etc. (whatever you notice). But why hide it? I <b>mean, if SHE is ashamed about it, then quit. But if she's not, then why hide?</b> kwim? We all make choices in our lives. She's obviously choosing to smoke. It's her choice, she's a grown women, she's made the choice.</div>
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Because just quiting is NOT as easy as it sounds, and being ashamed of it is really humilating when you are judged about it. Therefore, you try to hide it.<br><br>
FTR, alot of times smokers can't really smell the smoke on themselves, so don't realize how really strong and offensive it is to those around them who dont smoke. So they figure keep the window open and spray some perfume, chew some gum, they'll never know.
 

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I would feel like you do in this situation as well. It seems you know it is not your place to shame her or make her quit. Maybe she is afraid you will try? Maybe she is ashamed about it, but still, she should act like an adult and take responsibility for it.
 

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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">But what do I say? "Mom, I know you're really smoking," when she comes back from one of these trips? What's the point? I don't want to make her stop, it's something she will have to stop of her own volition. I don't want to shame her about it. I'd just like us to act like adults about it.</td>
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Yes, say this. Tell her you know she is smoking. Tell her that you don't want to try to convince her to stop, that's all on her and tell her you arent embarrassed or disapprove (ie addressing that you don't want her to be ashamed) and that all you want is for her to be upfront and adult about it. And then just let it go. If she still insists that she's not smoking, just "smile and wave boys, smile and wave"<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/orngbiggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="orange big grin">
 

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If it were me, I would just let it go.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks all! Your responses really helped me think this though. While I feel the secrecy and the smoking itself are both dysfunctional, they're also both not my problem and not something I have any control over. I went to a few al-anon meetings back when my mom's drinking was at its worst, and I learned there that while you can't stop someone from an addiction, you can stop throwing out pillows for them to fall on, meaning you can stop protecting them from the effects of their substance abuse. So I stopped talking with my mom about her drinking. But then when it got to the point where she was drunk almost all day, I sat her down and told her she could no longer babysit my son because of her drinking. That's what eventually got her to go to AA.<br><br>
I think it's best for me to deal with the smoking in a similar way. If it affects me in some way, I'll talk to her about it and be honest. Like if I had a newborn, I'd tell her she needed to change her clothes each time before holding him/her because I have no way of knowing when she last smoked. But right now, it really doesn't directly affect me. She is free to go out and do weird errands whenever she wants while she's at my house. She found something non-offensive to cover up the smell when I asked her to stop wearing so much perfume during her last visit (it was infusing our house with perfume smell and was giving DH allergic reactions). So really it just comes down to me being annoyed about her secrecy, and I think I should just let go of that.<br><br>
I think I got a bit fixated on this because it's relatively small and concrete and seemed like something I could do something about. Really, it's just a symptom of much larger, more complicated problems with her and with our relationship. For now I just need to rest up after her visit, get refocussed on my own little family, and not get sucked into her crazy drama.<br><br>
Thanks y'all. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/hug.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="hug">
 
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