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Protecting children from their father (addiction issues)

twicefooled posted 6/8/2021 08:22 AM

QUESTION: how do I both protect and support my teenagers from their addict father?

We've been away from my exh for 7yrs now. When we left, the children were 6yrs old and 9yrs old. He had been struggling against drugs for the last 6yrs of our marriage (right after our youngest was born), so approximately the last 15yrs total. His drugs of choice started with alcohol and cocaine, and he's since graduated to meth and opiodes.

Now the children are 17yrs old and 14yrs old. Their father is more "off the wagon" than "on the wagon" This pandemic has been increasingly difficult on us all and their father is no different. He has always refused help, because the reasons for his addiction is everyone else He also lives a 5 minute walk from us.

He hasn't reached out to the children, or seen them, since November 2020. He's reached out to me, but only because he's wanted me to take him back since the day I left. I last heard from him on my birthday in April (he didn't say "happy birthday" he wanted to know if any mail arrived here - he has never lived at this address, I figured it was a ploy for him to communicate with me. I let the text go and didn't respond.

This has weighed heavily on both of the children. My 17yr old was having suicidal thoughts 2 yrs ago that landed him in the hospital for a week and he's been in intensive outpatient therapy ever since.

My daughter has a therapist and the therapist called me yesterday (after their session) to tell me that my daughter has been engaging in cutting herself

Issues for both of them stem from their father. Beyond counselling and being "there" for them, how do I protect them? They've asked that I let their father know that they don't want to hear from him until he gets clean. I will always do whatever is needed to help them, but sending their dad this text may wake the beast and bring down a whole lot more suffering on the 3 of us.

Do I "poke the bear" and send him the text? Or do I leave it the way it is and address it if/when he reaches out again? You would think after so many years I would know what to do, but I'm really struggling today

Catwoman posted 6/8/2021 08:48 AM

I would wait until (if) he raises the issue, and then let him know at that time.

I think what might be helpful is to see if you and your children and their counselors could develop a strategy for what would happen if their dad wants to see them. Giving them agency and power might go a long way towards them being able to deal with their dad and his issues. Enabling them to draw the boundaries that make sense for them and working with them as a team might help them feel more empowered in this instance.

Just a thought. You have professionals engaged--I think that working this out with their help might be the best thing to do.

Cat

twicefooled posted 6/8/2021 08:55 AM

Cat, thank you for that. I had really poor boundaries when it came to their dad for the first few years and feel the need to "fix" this for the children because I feel like this is partly my fault (for picking their dad). I'm working through this in therapy. I've done everything for my little family for so long alone that I forget to let other people (ie their therapy team) also help us.

Teens are tough!!!

AnnieOakley posted 6/8/2021 10:16 AM

I too think it is important to all work together w their therapist.

Since they have asked you for this line to be drawn in the sand, if it is not recommended by the therapist they both should definitely be involved and understand the reasons why, able to ask questions, next steps, etc.

I can’t imagine how difficult this is, they are so strong yet fragile too.

Karmafan posted 6/8/2021 10:52 AM

Do I "poke the bear" and send him the text? Or do I leave it the way it is and address it if/when he reaches out again? You would think after so many years I would know what to do, but I'm really struggling today .

To be honest, since he hasn’t been in contact with the kids anyway, I would wait for his next move. He’s obviously not in a good place and sending that text might tip him over the edge….a risk not worth taking, considering the magnitude of what you are dealing with right now. In a way, he’s doing the work for you by staying away…….take advantage for now.

About your kids, I am so so sorry. I am the mother of two teenagers and they both had counselling over their cheating, alcoholic father. My son was 9 when his dad left and had panic attacks for years. He had counselling and is doing much better now. My daughter had a delayed reaction and became severely depressed two years ago and is still in counselling. It sucks to be a single mom, especially when you see your kids suffering because of someone else’s actions and you can’t do much about it

Stronger boundaries are definitely the way forward, but I understand how uncomfortable it must be to live so near him. But he’s giving you ammunition by not seeing the kids, and you can throw it in his face when he sobers up and decides he wants to be father of the year. Do you have sole custody of your children? Does he get visitation rights? Can you try and get them revoked? This might be the perfect time for it!

[This message edited by Karmafan at 10:54 AM, June 8th (Tuesday)]

Cooley2here posted 6/8/2021 22:55 PM

Explain to your children something I heard a doctor say. Drugs hijack the brain. Specifically the part that makes rational decisions. The body is designed to keep us healthy by feeding, clothing, protecting itself. Once on drugs none of that matters. Hence the very visible aging of meth addicts. The rage of alcoholics etc. You need to keep reinforcing that they need to look at this as if a monster invaded their father and took over his personality. Neither you nor them can fix him and they need to let go of that hope. Sometimes in order to save yourself you need to let go of the rope. He is drowning but you three don’t have to if you choose not to.

twicefooled posted 6/9/2021 07:59 AM

Sometimes in order to save yourself you need to let go of the rope. He is drowning but you three don’t have to if you choose not to.

This was exactly the rational I used to leave with the children. We were all drowning because of the actions of one, we were all in therapy except the one causing the issues. It's the one decision I've made in life that I'm 10000000000000000000000% certain that it was the right one. It's the residual issues that I thought I had a handle on.

This board has been a lifeline. Thank you all <3

OwningItNow posted 6/9/2021 09:40 AM

About three years ago I encountered a young person in my job. She was clearly up and down on different days, and when I finally asked she said it was her dad's addiction issues. Her struggle amounted to:

1. If you loved me (if I was worth loving) you would quit. So this is my fault because I am not enough for you to quit.

2. I don't want you to contact me with your poisonous victim routine, but I obsessively worry about your safety when I don't hear from you.

3. I want my father. I can't give up the hope for a father.

4. I blame myself because I want my father. I can't blame him fully because I really, really want my father fixed, so I feel more comfortable believing the problem--and fix--are in myself.

5. I love my sibling and know they want our father, too. I hate to see my sibling's pain and want to take it away.

It is the ultimate Pick Me dance from an immature, underdeveloped mind with no life experience. It broke my heart to hear her pain as it poured out. I obviously insisted this girl find professional help as the layers were far beyond anything I could help her process through friendship and support.

Are your children's therapists specialists in family trauma? Is there such a thing? Maybe finding more specialized care--on top of these comforting therapists--would help them? And I find that young people really, really benefit from peer groups going through similar issues. (My kids have benefited from this.) I guess to know that there are others just like them is its own special kind of validation and support.

I am so very sorry, twicefooled. You are doing great getting your kids the help and direction they need. What a great parent you are. I wish you all the best in this battle. I think their maturing will also be on your side. The next few years will enable them to grow and comprehend things in new and better ways. Just hang on.

Fof9303 posted 6/9/2021 11:35 AM

I am so sorry that you are in this terrible predicament and caught in between with your children and your ex. Have you guys tried family counseling together? I would definitely want to seek a counselor's advice on the way to proceed with this and whether or not you should "poke the bear" I can only imagine how difficult this is for you and how you desperately want to protect your children. I feel for you and will pray for you.

twicefooled posted 6/9/2021 11:54 AM

Owningitnow, thank you for your insight you explained it perfectly.

My son's therapist specializes in trauma and my daughter's new therapist specializes in teen girls. Their dad never wanted to participate in therapy, but the children and I were in a support group together years ago when we first left. My ex has offered to come to therapy but only AFTER he lost us. He won't stay clean and I feel that family therapy WITH him can't end well and won't be helpful to us right now.

I also appreciate your kind words, I'm doing my best.

Fof9303, thank you for your thoughts <3

The1stWife posted 6/9/2021 12:29 PM

I think asking him to attend family therapy clean and sober is a requirement.

You need to protect your children from him while he is an addict - you are exactly right and doing an excellent job on that front.

Just remind your kids their dad cannot be helped by anyone except himself.

twicefooled posted 6/10/2021 11:03 AM

The1stWife, thank you for reaffirming my decision. I think it's wise to offer family therapy WITH him but only once he is clean and sober. Since my kiddos are now teens, and temptation for drugs and alcohol are there, we talk a LOT about addiction and their genetic disposition towards it. But I'm also careful to remind them that they are NOT their father, that he has made a series of bad choices in his life, and that they can choose to lead a life more like mine (the OTHER half of their genetics).

Here where I am, we have been in our third lockdown since March 2020. My kiddos have done virtual school much longer than they were in person. I recognize that having a pandemic on TOP of these already stressful issues isn't fun for anyone, so I'm trying to be patient with us and recognize that survival is more important than other things at the moment.

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