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Old 03-20-2017, 08:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Hello - divorced from alcoholic, coparenting questions


Hello, I've been reading for a while but only now getting up the nerve to join and post. Here's me (and I apologize for using "they" and "them" rather than he or she, but I'm a little concerned about anonymity - please tell me if this is really annoying to read!):

-married to alcoholic for 22 years. I knew they "had a drinking problem" but was not aware of the extent of the addiction. Alcohol was not the only cause of our divorce, but it was definitely a major factor
-we have one child, aged 12. Our post-divorce arrangement was 50/50 shared parenting - not always easy and harmonious, but for the most part it worked well for kid
-in the last year, ex has gone downhill. Two attempts at residential rehab (backsliding immediately), one involuntary psychiatric hospitalization, on disability leave from job, impending bankruptcy, ended marriage to second spouse, several run-ins with police. Ex lies about drinking until they are "caught", then minimizes ("why are you making such a big deal ...?"). I suspect prescription drugs (benzos) are being used but do not know this for sure.

This wouldn't be my problem except for our child. The child loves their alcoholic parent and wants to see them as much as possible. At the moment, child stays with the other parent one or two nights per week. I am torn between wanting to support the child's relationship with the other parent and my knowledge that that parent has not stopped drinking and has not dealt with other mental health issues. Ex has told our child that they have completely stopped drinking and won't go back, and the child believes it. I can't justify telling the child "your other parent is lying". As far as I know, ex does not drink in front of the child and is generally on good behavior when the child is around on short visits.

The other thing I am worried about is allowing ex to become a "wedge" between child and me. If I tell child "no, you can't spend a week with ex because I don't think they can stay sober for that long", I become the bad guy who is trying to keep child and ex apart. Because child doesn't know the extent of ex's problems, child will blame me. As a result, I have gone a little further out of my comfort zone than I would like in terms of child spending time with ex.

I'm wondering if anyone has been here and has advice? How do you balance concern for your child's safety with the drinking parent with your desire for the child to have a good relationship with that parent? Do you just wait for the child to figure it out for him/herself, or do you tell them what you know? How much detail is too much? What should I be worried about? Thoughts welcome!
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Old 03-20-2017, 09:31 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Welcome S. I'm glad you found SR and posted.

You are asking a great question. I never had to coparent with my qualifier so I can't offer much insight here. I expect others with more experience will chime in.

Big hug to you and I hope you find this site useful.
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Old 03-20-2017, 10:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Sasha,
Soberlink is a really good sobriety monitoring tool. The challenge might be getting your ex to use it.

Do you have an attorney? If so, you might want to talk to him/her about instituting sobriety monitoring when the ex has your child, given the documented and troubling incidents that have happened in the last year. Given your ex's record of trouble, a court might make him/her show s/he's a safe custodial parent. I think you would say ex no longer gets physical custody unless s/he demonstrates sobriety during those times.

You could try doing the same with a co-parenting counselor/mediator, if your ex is willing to meet with one with you. That would be less expensive and might get you better results. (My attorney said she didn't think I would have gotten what I did using the judicial system.) You would say the same thing: you know you're both loving parents who put your child's well-being above everything else; given your ex's trouble over the past year, you're concerned to know that s/he is safe and sober when the child is with him/her.

On the issue of your child wanting to spend time with the other parent--I'm in the same situation. My children are very protective of their dad, and they never complain or resist spending time with him. (Also, he has a bad temper, so they may fear ruffling his feathers, too.)
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Old 03-21-2017, 05:47 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Difficult situation.

I think its very normal for children to create an idyllic parent out of a parent who is not. Your very young child is dealing with issues that adult children have difficulty with - he is aware of his fathers drinking problems, and is in discussion with him over his drinking (a lot for a 12 year old to figure out). Of course all addicts lie, and I'm sure Dad is lying to your child regarding his issues.

I think one of the hardest things as a parent is to do what's best for a child when "best" comes with pain. This scenario works well as long as Dad doesn't DO something while your son is in his custody. If nothing bad ever happened then what's the big deal? IF is the key word here. Your Ex's stated record in the past year is a person that has no business having a child in their home. While you have no evidence that anything has ever been amiss, you really don't know what goes on when your son is there. Perhaps your Ex is not drinking while your son is awake then hitting it later....perhaps he is, and your son just doesn't know. Its very possible that your Ex is driving your child while under the influence as well.

If it were me, I would have to move toward relinquishing custody temporarily, no overnights at the very least and NO driving the child anywhere.

As far as what to tell your child will leave that to others that have been there and done that.

Sorry for what you are going through.
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Old 03-21-2017, 06:54 AM   #5 (permalink)
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How aware is your child? My child is in a similar situation although they do not want to go to the other parent's house but are forced to do so, for now. My XAH is court ordered not to drink around my child. He does it all the time, thus forcing my child to be his sober monitor. It stinks. I wish I had gotten SoberLink into my divorce decree, I was not aware of it at the time.

I hate to say, but a lot of this depends on the level of awareness of your child. My child is very aware if the parent is drinking, can spot it a million miles away, and requests to leave immediately. (That parent also takes prescribed benzos). If my child were not able to spot it and request to leave, I would have to go through the courts and get supervised visitation (or that is what I would try for, no guarantee).

I think your best advise is to speak to an attorney and see what they recommend. I would also have the child in counseling, that has helped my children immensely.

I am sorry for what brings you here, but glad you are here.
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Old 03-21-2017, 07:50 AM   #6 (permalink)
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He does not sound like someone to be trusted with the child. Speak with the family law attorney to see if it is possible to write drug and alcohol monitoring into the parenting plan. You should have a good case, given his run-ins with the law

You could always ask for random drug/alcohol screening without court, especially if you suspect prescription drugs in addition to alcohol - he may refuse but trying won't hurt I don't think

I hear Sobelink is good. I finally started to let DS have overnights with dad - but dad stays at his mothers so there is a "built in" supervision there. And he is doing tests randomly - has been for a year now
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Old 03-21-2017, 09:23 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I can't justify telling the child "your other parent is lying".

Why not? Eventually your child is going to find out that their dad is lying and then ask you if you knew? Your child has to be able to trust one of you. I was honest with all our children from an early age. They knew things weren't right and they appreciated knowing what was going on with their alcoholic dad and my concerns for their welfare when with him.

I agree with Redatlanta. Even if nothing happens why subject your child to a situation you yourself have got out of? You cannot know what is going on and what dangers your child maybe placed in.
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Old 03-21-2017, 09:33 AM   #8 (permalink)
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So you have concrete proof your ex is drinking and or using?
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Old 03-21-2017, 10:11 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks everyone for your generous responses! I am still pretty new to this world of addiction and recovery (despite having lived with an alcoholic for decades), so I'm trying to figure things out.

SoberLink sounds like a great idea - I will see if ex will do it. That would really provide an additional measure of safety for visits.

hopeful4 - my kid is very aware of what the parent is doing, knows what alcohol-related behavior looks like, and has their own phone to call me if anything isn't right. We've discussed contingency plans and what-ifs. Kid has told ex "if you ever start drinking again I won't speak to you for a whole year", and we've discussed relapses and slips. However, kid is still in that wishful-thinking phase where s/he believes that because their parent said they've stopped drinking, that means they really have stopped drinking (and ex is on best behavior when kid is around, as far as I know, and kid always comes home from visits in a good mood.

So kid is mature enough to be aware of their parent's addiction, but still wants that close relationship (especially because over the last year, parent and kid haven't seen much of each other because of parent's frequent moves). So I have a very mature and responsible kid (this wouldn't even be a question if kid was much younger or less mature), but I still worry about safety.

NewRomanMan: The information I have is that large quantities of liquor-store purchases have been made on ex's credit card over the last few months, when they said they were abstinent. When I've seen ex, usually at events related to kid, they've have what I've come to recognize as the I-need-a-drink look: very sweaty, tremors, flushed face. I am not sure about the other drugs. Ex has missed kid's events because "I took some medication for my back pain/indigestion/headache and it made me sleep all day", which I think means "I passed out" - which could be alcohol, drugs, some combination, who knows?

Ladybird579 - I've been pretty frank with kid about addiction and alcoholism, including things like denial, relapse, not blaming oneself for the addict's behavior, etc. We've talked about "early recovery" and how addicts often face challenges during this time. However, I haven't told kid about the liquor store receipts, and I haven't told kid about the financial troubles and the job problems because I really don't want kid to start thinking that it's one parent against the other one and kid has to take sides (this has been a dynamic that ex has used in the past - "it's you and me, kid, against the other parent"). . But maybe this is not the best choice? I'm open to others' experiences.

Many thanks again everyone. What a great community!
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Old 03-21-2017, 10:21 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I haven't told kid about the financial troubles and the job problems because I really don't want kid to start thinking that it's one parent against the other one and kid has to take sides

It's difficult knowing how far to go in the honestly stakes. I made my kids aware that their dad was still drinking but they also saw it for themselves cos when they went round his place he had a fridge full and even bought it when one child was with him and they also saw him passed out drunk. I stopped the sleepovers but I am in the UK and I was happy to go to court if I had too. Child choice is much more taken into account here. They are older now....18 last December and still love him but don't have any respect for him whatsoever. Was that my fault for not protecting them from the truth? I don't think so. He is who he is and that is his choice. There is too much secrecy around alcoholism. It sound like your kid is aware and formulating their own ideas anyway.
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Old 03-21-2017, 10:33 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Thanks Ladybird579! My situation is complicated a bit because until recently, ex was living with another spouse in a conflictual domestic relationship. Ex left the other spouse, which is good because brought that level of conflict way down, but seems to have ramped up the drinking. From the kid's perspective, ex is getting better because they're no longer in this high-conflict relationship which made visits to ex's house pretty uncomfortable for kid. For the first time in a while, kid and ex can spend some decent one-on-one time together. Ex can hold things together pretty well in the short term, but has not dealt with addiction and other mental health issues in the long term.
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Old 03-21-2017, 11:03 AM   #12 (permalink)
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It's really good your child knows what to look for, has a means to communicate with you, and that you have contingency plans in place. My child is not legally able to say I won't speak to you, because legally the courts do not protect children of addicts. It's so sad.
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Old 03-21-2017, 09:45 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Ugh. I know this is trivial compared to what a lot of people on this board are going through, but it's part of the slow drip drip drip of dealing with an alcoholic co-parent.

Tonight kid asked if she could stay with ex for three nights this weekend. I said no, we're holding the line at two (see first post). Kid threw a fit - "you don't want me to see my parent, you hate them because they're an alcoholic, they promised they won't drink and they really mean it!". Kid said "I'm calling ex to tell them to tell you they want me to stay for three nights". I say okay, the other parent and I can discuss this. Kid calls. No answer. Kid texts "can you please talk to Sasha1972 about me staying three nights this weekend?". Other parent texts me within five minutes. Is it about the weekend? No, that would be too straightforward for an alcoholic. It's about one of kid's school events, not something which needs to be discussed now. Kid asks "did they ask you about the weekend?". I say no, it's about the school event. Kid says she doesn't care about the school event. She is upset because ex won't talk to me about the weekend.

I am upset too. I don't think ex wants kid around for the whole weekend, but ex can foist the blame on me. They'll text me because they told kid they would do so, but they won't ask the question kid wants them to ask. This has now become my fault.

I am so tired of navigating co-parenting with someone who lies, blames, thinks that no one notices the lying and blaming, and oh yes, drinks a lot.
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Old 03-22-2017, 07:43 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I have an ex that does this too. He does not exercise his rights of visitation, but likes to say that I withhold it. He uses about 30% of his time that he could. He even tells my child that. However, in all honesty, I don't think he can hold himself together to have my child any more than he already does. He avoids issues at hand, constantly.

My child is ahead of this because she has been in counseling for a long period of time, and has a very good grasp of addiction and the behaviors that come with it. My recommendation is to get counseling for your child, with a counselor who is very familiar with addiction issues.

This will progress and that will help your child deal with having an addict parent, and all the hurt that comes with it.

Don't minimize the situation. Yes, there are people here going through worse. That does not mean that you and your child are not going through a serious situation that she needs help with.

Hugs to you. You are not alone.
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