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Explaining alcoholism (abusive) to children?

(18 Posts)
dget Fri 01-May-20 05:48:25

How do you explain alcoholism to a teenager? I have three kids aged eight to 14. Their father is alcoholic and has been for many years. He will not drink for three to six months then drink himself into a stupor for days or weeks, stop, repeat. When the children were younger it was easier to hide it from them, but the 14 year old boy is asking questions and none of this is helped by confinement and no school. My husband’s been drunk pretty much every day for three weeks now. At the start he would just drink in the evening but for the past day or two he been drinking from bed and is not part of the daily routine at all. Because it’s been impossible to hide the situation I told the 14 that sometimes his father drinks too much, he’s not a bad person, it is a type of illness, an addiction. He then wanted to know why we aren’t sleeping in the same room. I said that when he drinks too much, sometimes he says mean and rude things or is very noisy and it’s better for us to sleep apart because I need rest. I know I will be asked for more information. I don’t know what to say. Also, how honest should I be? His father is verbally and emotionally abusive to me (but not the children) when he is drunk. He tells me I’m a failure, a bad mother, bad wife, useless, and that everything is my fault etc. He’ll go out of his way to say very hurtful things and will attempt to gaslight me. I’ve been to Alanon when we used to live in a different country, so I try to practice what I learned there, basically detachment. About two weeks ago, he was physically violent to me. I’m lucky he didn’t break my ribs. This was also my fault apparently. I just try to stay out of his way now. To be honest, the marriage is hanging on by a thread. There are other issues such as his long standing disinterest in working and my growing sense that he is using me financially, or at the very least he is over-entitled and not pulling his weight. But I’m tiptoeing around because I know it’s a dangerous time, the wrong moment, to say he needs to leave. He’s already made it clear he will not leave anyhow, and he knows I’m reluctant to put the kids through a break up. But I’m so tired of the emotional disruption he causes and frankly, the way I end up being responsible for everything from the usual care of children and all related admin to being, as he would say: a failure who causes his/our problems and provoked him. But to return to the reason I posted this: How to explain any of this to the children, bearing in mind whatever I tell the 14 year old will be discussed with his 11 year old brother? (PS. For context, I do not live in the UK or Ireland. We are in a different part of the EU.) Sorry for the long post. Thanks for your advice.

OP’s posts: |
StrictlyAFemaleFemale Fri 01-May-20 06:10:23

First question for tte dc when you do discuss it: tell me what you already know. I think everything youve already said is really good actually.

Please call the police about the physical assault.

Your marriage isnt hanging by a thread, its already over. You cant come back from that. You will always be on eggshells wondering if tonight is goingto be the next time. Please ring womens aid for advice about how to go about getting him out.

DianaT1969 Fri 01-May-20 06:17:39

You really shouldn't be there with your children. Explaining it to them doesn't stop them viewing or hearing the abuse towards you. This will be their template to relationships and life. I think you knew that when you posted. Any advice here on how to explain it to them only cements your view that it is OK to stay with him (because they've had the facts explained). Not so.

AnnaNimmity Fri 01-May-20 06:57:22

You shouldn't be explaining it to them, you should be leaving him.

You need to protect the children - both his alcholism and his abusive behaviour will be damaging them irrevocably.

EdwinaMay Fri 01-May-20 07:14:59

Al-ateen is aimed at teenagers. He should be able to access that online, I think there are forums etc.
You need to let him talk about it with you and to explain what he asks. Don't make it something you prefer not to discuss and want to hide from others. That's not good for him, having a BIG bad secret in his home.

AlwaysCheddar Fri 01-May-20 07:53:46

Just because he aims the abuse at you doesn’t mean he’s not abusing your kids. They will see and hear it. Kick him out.

LittleCabbage Fri 01-May-20 08:00:41

I mean this gently - you are missing the point, and need to leave. You cannot explain alcoholism in a way that helps your kids to understand why you are staying, because there is no good reason to stay. Your kids will be damaged by this long term if you do not leave.

stairgates Fri 01-May-20 08:05:20

Maybe OP has nowhere to go, its not as easy as just walking out the front door. Hostels are usually full especially I bet at the minute.

Namelessinseattle Fri 01-May-20 08:17:34

My aunt was in rehab when I was a child either 11/12 and when she came out she stayed with us for a week or two and explained to me what being an alcoholic meant. It was one of the best life lessons I ever got. It taught me to have a healthy respect/caution towards alcohol but not demonise it either. I'd defo explain but the bigger issue is that you're letting the kids live with an abusive alcoholic.

Right now you are justifying his behaviour because he's an alcoholic, hes not a bad man alcohol is making him do it. You're basically telling your teen that someone who is drunk is not responsible for their actions the alcohol is.

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 01-May-20 08:18:19

Your marriage was not merely hanging by a thread and you also need to get off the merry go around called denial. Your marriage was and is already over due to the abuse meted out along with his alcoholism. You have and are basically playing the usual roles associated with such spouses too; those of enabler, provoker (because you never forget) and codependent. Your household is not a stable one nor is their home a sanctuary for your children or you.

You have a choice re this man, they do not. And there is another thorny issue here too, one that you have not likely considered. If you did remain with this man for your own reasons, your children will in all likelihood become estranged from you as adults and will not want to see you let alone visit. They will accuse you of being weak and putting him before them. This is really no legacy to be leaving them.

What did you learn about relationships when you were growing up?. Did you see a parent drink heavily too?.

Your eldest son has seen and heard more than enough already along with your reactions to same. What do you want to teach him, let alone your other kids here, about relationships and what are they learning here; alcoholism is not called the "family disease" without good reason. You are as caught up in your H's alcoholism too and it has affected you markedly. Your own recovery from all this will only properly start when you and your abusive H are completely apart.

You should also seek legal advice asap with a view to ending your marriage.

Dozer Fri 01-May-20 08:21:35

Please seek RL help from a women’s organisation and consider leaving.

There is lots of good information online for children of alcoholics. Al Anon might be able to advise on that too.

pointythings Fri 01-May-20 08:26:56

Your reluctance to put your children through a breakup is damaging to your children, and to you. Your husband has been violent - that has to be the end. It's difficult in lockdown, but start putting your ducks in a row. If your children are teens, they will have a strong say in whether or not they want contact post divorce. He may not want to leave, but ultimately he will have to.

And if he hits you again, call the police. Mine never hit me, he 'just' threatened to kill me, but I called the police nevertheless and did not allow him back. Yours has already escalated into violence; you can't let this continue.

You're way, way past needing explanations here.

dget Fri 01-May-20 08:27:18

Unfortunately you have hit the nail on the head, we do not have any where to go. We live in southern Europe, we moved here just two years ago after I was made redundant. The redundancy package allowed me to purchase a house, which is in both our names. My work was very pressured and after two decades in a tough industry I was glad, once I got over the initial shock, to take stop being the only earner. The plan was that he would get work instead. He didn't. And now he keeps saying I am a "failed [insert job title]" who never achieved anything because i was made redundant. I need to figure out a way to get him to leave .... the thing is, if I start bringing that up now he will likely drink even more/go ballistic. I need a strategic survival plan (or something) to survive the month in lockdown. I hear what everyone is saying about damage to children even if I can't see that damage now. But I can't leave the 'family home' - it would be massively upsetting for the children, it's not fair that I would have to leave it after paying for it, and moving out with the children is an expense that would be financial ruinous. I need to get through the next six weeks and at that point get him to leave. I haven't told my family any of this because it would worry them when they can't do anything about it. His own family are in the same boat and are even less interested. Overall, I feel a general sense of shame. The usual stigma women in abusive marriages feel and a deep sense of personal shame that I find myself in this situation.

OP’s posts: |
ProfChaos Fri 01-May-20 08:28:34

Call the police! He is physically and emotionally abusive and a danger to you.

Have him forcibly removed and arrested.

miccymaccy Fri 01-May-20 08:30:45

In the best possible way I wouldn't worry about the financial ruin, I'd be more worried about ruining my kids lives emotionally growing up like that. That's what's going to have the biggest impact on their ability to be happy, form healthy relationships with good people, have good self worth etc - you can't put a price on that

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 01-May-20 08:54:33

I would think your H feels no shame whatsoever. He has felt entitled to act as he does and feels neither guilt or shame. Your feelings of guilt and shame here are entirely misplaced, this is all on him.

What is the legal situation like for women in your country with regards to divorce, this is something I would be seriously looking into now. He has and continues to be a millstone around your neck. He is also not above projecting what is really his own self onto you, if anyone has failed here it is he and now he has further descended into alcoholism.

This home is no family home for your children; its really an unstable and chaotic environment and is therefore no sanctuary for them or you for that matter. He has been violent before and will likely be violent again; he is a ticking timebomb.

He will continue to drag you down with him as long as you and he remain together.

LittleCabbage Fri 01-May-20 12:34:51

Your living situation sounds difficult and I have every sympathy for you (not pity, but sympathy). Can you start looking into your legal rights whilst in lockdown? Surely if he is abusive (whether verbally, physically etc), the law of the land can force him to move out? Can you start speaking to a family lawyer via telephone or email whilst he is upstairs? And start keeping a diary of events as evidence of his behaviour?

LittleCabbage Fri 01-May-20 12:36:28

(In my post earlier when I said to leave, I meant the relationship, not your house. I think most posters here probably mean the same).

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