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Is there any hope for my alcoholic ex-wife?

(20 Posts)
singledadinoz Thu 12-Jun-14 04:00:25

I honestly don't know where she is going to end up, either on the street or worse.

My ex is the mother of my son 11yrs, I left her 18 months ago because of the drinking and took him to live with me. I knew she'd be a mess when I left so I found her a flat and paid the rent for the first 6 months but couldn't afford any longer than that. Once I stopped paying she went into arrears as she couldn't find or hold down a job, she's now been evicted and is living in a hotel (she says) but I suspect it may be a refuge/hostel of some sort.
I got a court order soon after I left for our son to live with me and see his mum every 2nd weekend and Wednesday's after school, the order also forbade her from drinking within 12 hours of seeing him or when he was in her care. The last time she saw him was on a Wednesday before she was evicted and she took him to the pub FFS!!! He didn't like it and said it was scary and Mum started getting angry about you dad after she had some wine.

She still vehemently denies she is an alcoholic, I emailed her about the pub episode and she denied the whole thing despite my son telling me clearly with no prompting what had happened.

As she now has no proper address he hasn't seen her for 3 weeks, she phones him about 5 nights out of seven.

She has been drinking for a long time, when I sat with her at her rehab check-in she told the doctor she had been drinking half a bottle of vodka a day for five years!

I have let her go as best I can but I'm daunted by the prospect of being my sons only responsible parent through to age 18 and I'm now a single dad and its hard.

I have tried to shield my son from the worst aspects but he know his Mum has a problem with booze. He's a wonderful child and has been amazing the way he's dealt with everything that's happened. I don't know what to say to him about his Mum longterm though as she is in such deep denial.
He really loves his Mum and she loves him but how can I ever trust her with him again?

How can she not even admit she's an alcoholic after what it has cost her? She has lost her home, husband and now it's looking like her child as well and its just so desperately sad.

Is there anyone on here who has turned their life around from a point as low as where she has gotten to?

Tortoiseonthehalfshell Thu 12-Jun-14 04:17:13

Hey, I'm sorry to hear all of this. I don't know if she'll turn things around. People certainly do. But nothing you do or don't do can influence it.

You sound like you've done everything you can to protect your son, and you just need to keep doing that. A very good friend of mine is facing the same thing - drug addicted non-custodial parent, court order, etc - and has told her daughter that Daddy has an illness that means that he can't help take care of her, but it doesn't mean that he doesn't love her. And it's better when Mum and Dad don't talk together because they make each other cross.

Have you thought about or gone to Al-Anon? That might provide some support and guidance for you as you go through this.

meandcoffeeequalhappy Thu 12-Jun-14 07:02:05

I have met people who have turned their lives around, but I doubt that one day she will suddenly sober up and take on the role of parent to your child. If she even goes down that route it is a long one. And it doesn't sound like she has reached her rock bottom. I think children can and should be told the truth, in an age appropriate manner. Another thing you child may be old enough for is alateen. I have met so many children of alcoholics and some still were affected by it as adults. I think that helping them get support is not a bad thing. Particularly as your DC has been left without a good relationship with his mother because of all of this.

EhricLovesTheBhrothers Thu 12-Jun-14 07:52:50

Have you got anything like alateen where you are?

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 12-Jun-14 08:53:05

Alcoholics often remain in denial of their problems and alcohol is truly a cruel mistress.

Alcoholism is also very much a family disease and I think it would help you an awful lot to talk to Al-anon if you have not already done so (they operate in many countries). Many people end up enabling or being codependent in such relationships, you still seem very responsible for her. Its not your fault that she is where is she now.

Your son could also be helped by Alateen.

It is to your credit indeed that you are now separated from your wife; she is an alcoholic and her primary relationship is with drink. NOTHING else matters to these people, her thoughts are mainly about where the next drink is going to come from. She could well go onto lose absolutely everything and still choose to drink afterwards, hitting her own rock bottom does not mean she will stop drinking. She may well love her son but at present at least she loves alcohol more and prioritises that over everything and everyone else.

I note you are in Australia; if she is breaking court orders the authorities need to be made aware of this now. Your son simply must not be put at any risk here due to her alcoholism.

The 3cs re alcoholism are ones you will do well to remember:-
You did not cause this
You cannot control this
You cannot cure this

Al-anon's Australia pages:-

Quitelikely Thu 12-Jun-14 08:58:58

When I read this, I thought WOW what an amazing father. You have obviously done everything you can to protect your son. I honestly believe for the moment that telephone contact is the way to go. Or supervised contact say out for a visit to the park or a local attraction where maybe your ex can hold it together for a short burst of time maybe??

Have you asked your son what he would like to do with regards to his mum? Ill take it that he knows she is poorly?

shey02 Thu 12-Jun-14 09:16:24

It's a bit out of my depth this OP, but just wanted to send some hugs to you. What a great dad you are and such tough situations you've had to deal with. It's normal to worry about the future, can you do it on your own, will you be enough for your children/child? But to be honest it sounds like you are doing really well in the face of a very dark situation.

Sadly, actual physical one on one contact seems like it will be unsafe. Supervised visits/telephone, etc. would be the way to go, but if the supervised visits are impinged by the alcohol, I would put a stop to them, better that your son does not see her like that. Stay strong.

singledadinoz Fri 13-Jun-14 12:54:43

Thankyou for your responses and kind words.
Attilla, I don't feel responsible for her in a personal one on one way any more she has done too much crazy stuff and I got the message eventually: let her go.
It's more a feeling of wanting to save her from complete degradation because she's my sons mum and he shouldn't have to deal with something that heavy.
Although I have to admit I checked myself just now when I typed 'save her'!!
The courts are aware of whats happened as are the police.
I have got him some one on one counselling through Catholic Care who have some fantastic programs in Oz for families dealing with addicts and I am seeing a counselor there too.

My ex had a complete what I can only describe as a mental health episode 3 days after I left and I ended up in casualty with her, she got seen by the duty psychiatrist she was in such a state. After talking to her for 30 mins he saw me and after discussing things for a few minutes he said something I'll never forget:

'You did 100% the right thing leaving because now we only have 1 sick person to deal with if you'd stayed it would have been three. Your son (ten at the time ) is just young enough that his personality won't have been warped by what he's lived with but past the age of 10-11 people are damaged in a much more permanent way if they live with someone like that'.

Fair dinkum, I could have kissed the bloke. I just thought wow what an amazing affirmation you just gave me.
And if I ever have the chance I'll pass on that advice, in fact I've just passed it on in this post! So if you're thinking about leaving or staying a partner with similar issues, take my advice and that psychiatrist's and go. Get the fuck out as soon as you can and drop that weight, I will never forget that feeling of peace the first night I slept in my new house. It was on an old air bed in a bare room but trust me that really, really didn't matter.

Squeegle Fri 13-Jun-14 18:57:10

Well done singledad, and thanks for sharing. Hopefully that will reassure those dealing with alcoholic other halves, that leaving really is the best thing for the kids.

paxtecum Fri 13-Jun-14 19:46:56

My friend's son is an alcoholic.
He was in a rehab place for six months, then in a flat provided by the rehab charity and still supported by the charity.

Out of the 15 that were in the rehab only one is still dry.

Most of them are homeless and in a worse state than when then went into rehab.

Best wishes to you and your son.

Celynfour Fri 13-Jun-14 20:00:04

I'm coming through this too.
My dh walked out 18monyhs ago. He told me he was going to rehab as 'he cldnt keep putting me through it'.
He's now living with another woman (she was a colleague and surprise surprise she lives very close to the 'rehab')
We have three children. I haven't let him see them without me as he was clearly still drinking heavily. Lately he seems a little better but I am still reluctant to allow prolonged contact . He maintains 'he doesn't have a drink problem'.
I will never really know.
Even after 18months I am often at a loss as what is the right course of action.
My eldest is 11. I don't think she has any idea.
I wish you all the best.

Stumbelina Fri 13-Jun-14 20:27:35

Singledad, believe it or not letting going of your ex is the best thing you could do for her. It may help her reach a rock bottom and seek help. On the other hand it may not and something far worse could happen but either way there is nothing you can do to help her now. As the child of an alcoholic I saw my mother help my father out of many a scrap only for him to keep drinking and become more and more deranged. Eventually she threw him out and after a while he got sober. Without her help he realised just how miserable life had become and that he had finally destroyed everything good in his life.

I am not saying that she will get sober as nobody knows why some alcoholics do and some don't but as a sober alcoholic myself I know I had to reach a place of total desperation before I would change. Letting her go will help her on her way there. It seems cruel but it really is the best way.

I feel for your son and you, I know the sadness and confusion that come with alcoholism and it is painful stuff but you sound like you are a loving father who will try to make up for things. Consistency, boundaries and lots of love are really helpful to children of alcoholics and as was suggested previously Al-anon and Ala-teen are invaluable in unpicking the mess left by alcoholism and for providing a support network of people who understand.

I and my dad have been sober a long time now and we really do have good lives thanks to the Fellowships of AA and Al-anon. There is hope. Best wishes.

Haggisfish Fri 13-Jun-14 20:49:07

My mum has managed to stop being an abusive alcoholic. In her case it was related to a crap mother and husband destroying her self confidence. She has distanced herself from both of them and has found a new confidence and purpose. It has left its scars on me and my ds but we are all very close and full of admiration for my mum.

Haggisfish Fri 13-Jun-14 20:50:00

However, my mum was always very clear how much she loved us.

captainproton Fri 13-Jun-14 21:19:05

Singledadinoz, I read your OP and I have been that child with that mother and it is scary how similar our stories are.

I was in my 20s when my father finally had the courage to leave. My god she had become so abusive and so in denial it was awful.

My childhood was ruined. It took years to get over it, or as over it as best you can.

My mother did not turn her life around. She hit rock bottom and floundered around there for a few years. Trying to help her was pointless and heart-breaking. The more we tried to help her the more violent she got. It didn't matter how much I begged, pleaded, wished for her to sort her life she just wouldn't. No contact was the only option.

The hardest thing to deal with was knowing your mum loves booze more than you. And to witness your mother at rock bottom still in denial and swearing on my life she never drunk really really hurts.

I was 29 when my mother died, my uncles would not let me see her body or where she was living. They said I wouldn't recognise her, and that I was best remembering her how she was. They had stopped telling me about all the hospital admissions and arrests some months before and now I am so grateful that I never saw her at her absolute lowest.

So I would protect your son as much as possible. Don't rule out contact forever, but be clear that she needs to have turned her life around, and properly too, it takes months if not years.

She could always write to your son and send birthday/christmas cards. Perhaps your son could too. I did ask my mum to do this for me and sadly she never did. She just never got it together enough. That was big indicator of what state she was in.

Squeegle Fri 13-Jun-14 23:34:05

I'm sorry captain proton, that sounds hard. Thanks for sharing

captainproton Sat 14-Jun-14 01:07:04

It was hard, and it situations like this its easy to always focus on doing everything you can to 'help' the alcoholic. When really its the children that suffer and get forgotten.

It's awful witnessing a parent at rock bottom. When an alcoholic hits rock bottom it's a merry-go-round of homelessness, mixing with unsavoury types, nights in cells, nights in hospital slowly detoxing before being released to do it all again. I was an adult I can't imagine how a child feels. There is the inevitable guilt you feel for not being able to fix it. I would do everything I could to protect my children from going through that.

It may seem cruel to limit contact but Imo the lesser of 2 evils.

Llareggub Sat 14-Jun-14 01:15:03

My exH is an alcoholic and as far as I am aware he has been sober for around a year, maybe a little less. He has been in and out of rehab for a few years now and I did what you did.

We are 2 years post separation but although he is now sober the behaviour hasn't really changed for the better. He seems to have completely detached from the parental role and frequently changes planned contact times even though it is only one day a fortnight. He hardly ever calls.

I think the years of drinking and recovery have made him very selfish. He was told to put himself first and by George he does. His children appear to be of little importance to them but of course he claims to love them more than anything.

All I can say is detach, detach, detach. It's tough on your own but blimey if I can do it, you can too!

captainproton Sat 14-Jun-14 01:19:21

Singledadinoz, what I wrote is fairly bleak. And I hope I haven't upset you too much (or anyone else for that matter).

My sister and I confronted the likely outcome of her addiction shortly after we went no contact. It had an air of inevitability about it that no one else in our family was willing to believe. They were in denial. Her death hit them harder I think. Where as we knew the extent of her denial and unwillingness to admit she ever drank probably meant she'd never seek help.

I hope the worst never happens to your ex. But if it does, allowing yourself to acknowledge that it could happen and seek support from counselling/ support groups now can really help if it does happen.

captainproton Sat 14-Jun-14 01:24:30

Liareggub, what you write is so true. They become very selfish. I've heard that it's often the case for recovering or recovered alcoholics to be like that.

There is a lack of remorse and unwillingness to acknowledge your loved ones have been through hell and back.

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