single parenthood and recovery

Old 01-11-2013, 07:36 AM
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Unhappy single parenthood and recovery

My exah is a mentally ill alcoholic. He's a very sick man. He's in jail right now for breaking into a fire hall and stealing an ambulance. I have a personal protection order in place which prohibits him from having any contact with me or our son. I've worked really hard at my recovery. I've made alot of difficult but necessary changes to my life in order to root out the insanity of addiction from my life and the life of our son. But I'm struggling lately. Big time.

Our son is going to be 14 at the end of this month. It seems like all we do lately is butt heads. Where I once had this really sweet, kind-hearted, sensitive child in my home, I now have a disprespectful, defiant and reclusive teenager.

Once in a while, the sweet kid I know emerges. Once in a while, we'll connect and have a nice conversation about something. These nice moments used to be common in our home but now they seem so rare and fleeting.

He's a good kid. He is. He's doing well in school. I have him involved in Al a teen. I feel like I've done as much as I can to help him cope with his dad's illness and absence from his life as well as I can.

But this single parent-hood thing is hard. It's really freaking hard. It's hard to raise a child with no emotional or financial support from his father. I agonize so much about what I'm doing and how I"m doing it. Somedays I feel as though I'm too hard on my son when he is disrespectful. Somedays I feel like I"m not hard enough. My thoughts and emotions are all over the place.

Last night we had a big knock, down drag out over the flack he gave me when I asked him to take out the garbage. I had worked all day and had to go to a school function afterwards...I got home at 9:00 pm and I didn't respond well to his disrespectful attitude.

My al anon sponsor encourages me not to react in anger. It's hard sometimes. Sometimes, my son reminds me of my exah. When he tries to be sweet and nice to me after he's been particularly difficult, it reminds me of how his dad used to manipulate me in much the same fashion.

It bothers me that I feel the same reaction to my child as I used to feel to my exah. And yet, isn't dealing with an active drinker an awful lot like dealing with a teenager? The selfishness, the self-centeredness, the ability to turn on he charm when something is wanted or needed...???

I don't even know where I"m going with this.
I guess I"m just having a big old pity party for myself today.
I just feel especially tired today...and beat up. I didn't even want to get out of bed this morning which is so unlike me.

I need to apply my recovery tools to this situation as well.
I just can't seem to find them today.
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:53 AM
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I have a 13yo and I'm seeing the mood swings and aggression too. I was given the advice to act like a "dispassionate cop," i.e. remove emotion and any emotional expectations from our heated interactions and just maintain the rules and boundaries. There's a book about this, "Yes, Your Teenager Is Crazy." It's pretty good. Here's a short version:

When Disciplining, Be Like a Dispassionate Cop |

I put together some incentives for my DS. He has a list of chores that he can choose from, he has to do 5-10 per week, and I will pay him $1 per chore. They're things like vaccum the den, take out the trash, wipe the sink/mirror in the bathroom, clean your room, sort the laundry. Some of them are bigger than the others, but that's okay. He really likes having the income to spend on whatever. It's also a huge help around the house for me, too. I always make sure to thank him for following through on these chores, even though they're an expectation of mine because they DO help.

I also try to have fun time for us. We watch certain TV shows together, or go to a movie every now and again. I like to eat out, so we try to find an inexpensive place to go. I also make sure he has privacy and some friend time. With my other single mom friends, the one thing I've noticed is that kids suffer and get resentful if they're alone a lot on evenings and weekends. If he is, maybe try to find a way to break that up?

The good news is that the teen years end eventually.
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:53 AM
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I'm so sorry you are dealing with it. I understand exactly what you are going through and how it feels. I myself, was dealing with my own alcohol recovery while at the same time dealing with a defiant teenage daughter who attempted suicide every other month, talked to me like I was poo on her shoe, was in the county mental health system, taking multiple medications prescribed by a psychiatrist, many of which were being taken to counteract the effects of the others. No wonder I drank!

It's so hard when our own children seem so lost and there doesn't seem to be anything we can do to help. I hope this is just a phase your 14 year old son is going through. It's almost like one night our sweet child goes to bed and when they wake up the next morning, they have morphed into some unknown monster who wreaks havoc in our lives for years. Then, some years later, that monster goes to bed and wakes up again as our sweet child.

Hang in there and maybe get some kind of face-to-face support, if you can. It really helps to have someone to talk to who can maybe help us navigate that long and winding road. My thoughts are with you and PM me if you think I might be of help. ((((HUGS))))
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:09 AM
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I know exactly what you mean. I also have a son living with me and always thought he was so placid and sweet. Once he became a teenager things did change and I remember thinking how it would have been so much easier if his dad had been around. Then his dad came back and we all moved abroad (son did not want to go.) Things got worse than ever especially between them and my son felt he told me like getting physical!! I would then have to calm my son down. Now I have noticed that when my son gets upset - I can feel like I'm back dealing with his dad. I rely on the Alanon tools to help me cope. My point is - I know how you feel like you are carrying everything on your shoulders - but in my experience having his dad involved was sometimes of NO help and sometimes made things worse.

With or without dealing with alcoholism - teenagers are hard - your sweet kid disappears and this angry creature appears - but on a positive note I thank God that I never had to go through losing a child like some of my friends have - they would do anything to be in our shoes. But yes it IS hard. If it was too easy - you're probably doing it wrong. Give yourself a pat on the back and hug. Your son trusts you and feels comfortable with you that's why he can behave this way. ((Hugs))
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:10 AM
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I think I could have written your exact words today to describe how I am feeling. My son is 11 - but the story is the same. In particular, I can relate with seeing your EXAH's behaivors in your son - it's awful.
I imagine there are a lot of difficult things converging for you right now. The firehouse incident with your exah, filing the order of protection, the fact that your son is an adolescent (and in the best of circumstances adolescents can be awful), and that you are doing this all on your own.
I am sending my love and support to you as we walk this path together.
You are a human being facing difficult circumstances. Be kind to yourself and know that every day is a new opportunity to do your best. I believe the foundation that you have with your son which created the sweet connection you have enjoyed is still there - it's just covered with a lot of debris from the havoc wreaked by your ex. You are there for your children, you love them and they are so lucky to have you as their mom.

I'm just about to go online looking to order the book "Parenting without Power Struggles" - authors name starts with "S" I think. Anyway I hear that it is great and offers tips for parents in difficult situations like us.

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Old 01-11-2013, 08:42 AM
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Sending you strength and support outonalimb.

I remember well, the sassy, it's all about me, me, me, know it all teenager. Most days I thought I was going to go off the rails. I envisioned duct taping all their mouths, and stapling them to the wall, then I would know where they were and I would have quiet in the house.

This too shall pass, stand your ground, he needs a parent, you are not his friend. Kids really do need rules, and they need to understand the consequences of their actions. If he's all pissed off at you, you can be assured that you are doing your job. Hang in there, it's truly for the greater good.
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:27 AM
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I'm sorry. I understand how relentless and exhausting it can be, which is multiplied when we question ourselves. My oldest son will be turning 14 soon. He is not obstinate or mouthy like that (my almost 12yo makes up for it) but he is sooo withdrawn and seems so sad and quiet. I'd rather he mouth off I think. He won't talk. He saw a counselor for a year and didn't talk about how he was feeling.

I can accept the reality of my life now but when I dwell on the sad legacy that has been created for these boys of mine I get so upset. I can do and be a lot if things but I can never be a boys father.
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Old 01-11-2013, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by outonalimb View Post
The selfishness, the self-centeredness, the ability to turn on he charm when something is wanted or needed...???
You just described my youngest when he was that age. I just had this same conversation with a co-worker yesterday. When it comes to teenagers I applied a lot of what I learned from being married to an active addict.

There are plenty of medical studies that show the frontal lobe is not fully developed until the early 20s. Cause & effect, long term planning.. stuff like that. Big article in Time a few years ago the explained why teenagers are the way they are... didn't explain how to DEAL with a undeveloped frontal lobe unfortunately.

Remember they are't doing it to YOU, they are just doing IT, being teenagers. It's no reflection on your parenting skills and don't take it personally. When I stopped reacting in a predictable manner it through him for a loop. One time after he disrespected me I told him calmly that I don't deserve to be treated like that or talked to like that. I don't treat you like that and if you look around you'll notice, anyone who has treated me like that gets removed from my life.

I simply let go and detached, let him suffer the consequences of his own actions. It was a rough couple years but he came through it just fine.

Or at least this was my experience.
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Old 01-11-2013, 10:17 AM
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Sending Mom power your way! I have a 10 year old. We are starting to get some of the growing pains also. 98 percent of the time he is great but has started having some anger outbursts at me.

When my divorce started the courts set him up with a councelor. She is free of charge through a county agency. ( I too have to watch my money) She has been invaluable as issues arise. He never wants to go see her but always comes home feeling better.
This might be an option for your son....

For me:
I am seeing a councelor myself and since I have gotten better at managing the issues from leaving my STBXAH, I have been asking for advice on parenting. It is amazing having someone impartial to bounce ideas off of. So I might not have my husband to help but I have someone who constantly comes up with solutions I would not have thought of.

Just be sure to make sure you find a good fit for you and or your son. I had to meet with a few people before I found someone who I felt comfortalbe enough to really tell everything. The first few were really weird. Also, I work for the state so we get some free appts, but otherwise my insurace wil help pay for appts.

Good luck, 4MyBoys
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Old 01-11-2013, 10:58 AM
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Wow. Thanks for all the love and support. It's so nice to have a place where people 'get it'. What a blessing. Thank you so much.

Florence. Thanks for the link. I like the idea of acting like a dispassionate cop. In my head I know this is hte right approach...but the emotions take over. I feel triggered like I'm dealing witht he active alcoholism again and I never did develop very good coping skills when it came to that. I decided instead to develope the NC and disengage route. I have alot of work to do. I know I"m sick. I know my responses are off-base sometimes. And yet, I don't want to beat myself up because I know I'm doing something really hard right now....which is raise an adolescent boy on my own. Tough under any circumstances...right? hat's off to you. Sounds like you had a quite the handful to deal with. I'm looking forward to the day when my son wakes up as himself again and the monster takes leave.

cr995. Somedays I do feel resentful and angry at my exah that we had this child together and then he went off the deep end. When my exah was here, it always felt like I was dealing with TWO teenagers...not one. At least now, I'm only dealing with ONE of these creatures!!

Mamakit...thanks for the love and support. Thanks for reminding me that I need to be a little more forgiving and compassionate WITH MYSELF throughout all of this. I need to put the mom whipping stick down. It's not doing me any good.

I can accept the reality of my life now but when I dwell on the sad legacy that has been created for these boys of mine I get so upset. I can do and be a lot if things but I can never be a boys father.
Thumper...I get it. I really do. Underneath all teh anger, the fear, the frustration, and pain, there is a very tender spot in my heart that simply aches that my son's father is the way he is. There's no fixing it. There's no amount of recovery that can change this fact. It is what it is. And sometimes, it just hurts...ya know?

Jazzman...thanks for the wisdom...especially the part about nto taking it personally. That's a tough one when I feel so triggered by his behavior. This is what I need to work on. This is where I come off the track and where the anger comes from. Good reminder for me today...thank you!!

And 4myboys...thanks for your encouragement too. I'm thinking about individual counseling...for me...for him... I've been thinking about it for a while. It's hard...I work full funds are limited...but maybe its time to check into this option.

Hugs and huge thanks to everyone who responded. You picked me up when I was down today and I am so grateful...
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Old 01-11-2013, 12:25 PM
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outonalimb, it never rains but it pours...

this is just way too much at one time - your AH and now having a son who's metamorphosed into a teenager.

My youngest (a son) is now almost 30, and has 8 month old twins, but I remember it well - - we had 5 kids altogether, and they all turned into aliens for a while. The good news is that they do become human again. My 2 kids have been the most wonderful support.

There are 2 things I can say. First, don't try to be your son's friend. What he needs is a parent. This is a major separation age, a lot like the 2 year old version. Kids have to test the limits to see who they are and who they aren't. The secret that I finally realized was that they WANT the limits because there is security in that. They can test their independence as much as they want, but they trust that you won't really let them make major mistakes.

Second, I can bequeath you the disciplinary sentence that I FINALLY developed, after everything else failed:

"Don't do anything that you couldn't do without me standing right in front of you watching everything you do"....

Take care, we're all here with you and for you!

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Old 01-11-2013, 02:12 PM
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My pastor gave me this advice. He said most teenage boys love to argue and get a reaction from their mothers. He said it was like fishing for them. They set the bait and see if we bite. Never take the bait.

I kept that "visual" in my head when ever I felt baited and it really helped.

My prayers are with you and your son (and your EXAH too).
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Old 01-11-2013, 02:50 PM
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OMG the teenage years! Dang I think they are very rough on every parent.

They actually seem to turn into aliens.

My oldest grand daughter has just turned 15 and yep as good a girl as she has been and even though she still willingly still helps around the house we are seeing some periods of defiance.

And her brother will be 13 in April and is already turning into an alien. My daughter asked me "Mom how do I do this?" Well I discussed it with her first, this was last fall right after school had started, and since they only live 6 blocks from me, I set the two down, with both Mom and Dad's approval, and I made them an offer.

I seriously said that since they seemed to be starting to have some problems here at home, they were MORE THAN WELCOME to come live with me and my house rules. At first their eyes lit up and then it hit them like a ton of bricks and they both decided that living at home was better, roflmao.

Now that is not to say that the problems went away, but Christy has gotten very good at sitting them down individually and telling them that the 'manipulative ways' do not work when one tries them, and yes she and s-i-l are NOT their friends, they are the parents.

Even with A-ONE children like my grand kids, there are bound to be problems. They are being so 'influcenced' by their friends daily, by what is on television, by what they see and read on their 'friends' FB pages, etc

I firmly believe it is MUCH HARDER today to raise a teenager than it was when I was doing it, with all the external influences (especially the internet). It will always be difficult for parents when first they see the 'terrible twos' (just a glimpse of what is to come later, lol) and then "The Teenage Years." I do believe it does help a parent, it sure did me, to look at ones child as meta morphing from child to alien and then again meta morphing from alien to young adult human being.

(((((Outonalimb))))) I am sending healing thoughts and prayers to you and your son, as I know this is not an easy task you are doing.

Something that help me greatly was something my Grand mother (my native american grandmother) said to me when I was ready to pull my hair out:

"Laurie, parenting is hard, we become parents, so that some day down the road we can be the Grand Parent and we can spoil the 'little buggers' and then send them back to their parents." roflmao she said it was a 'parent's revenge' lol

And you know what? She was right, my grand children give me much more pleasure than my kids did, and my kids have turned into some AWESOME human beings that I just could not imagine them ever being back during those 'terrible teens.'

It will get better, in a few years, so hang in there and know that we are always here for you to vent, rant, rave, cry, scream, and yes even laugh.


Love and hugs,
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Old 01-11-2013, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by outonalimb View Post
At least now, I'm only dealing with ONE of these creatures!!
I love that - I just saw it and realized instead of wishing his Dad was here to help I realize - that in reality I don't have the amount of grief I used to have - as ' dad ' was mostly the one behaving badly!
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