Parenting is hard. Single parenting is rough. Parenting in the face of addiction is mind-numbing. Addiction doesn’t care where you live, what you drive, or how many children you have. It finds it’s way into every occupation and profession. I am a physician assistant and a mom. Both of these roles could never have prepared me for what I have faced in the past several years. Still, I ask myself how did we as a family get here?
Alcohol didn’t play a big role in the early years of our marriage. My ex-husband never drank due to occupational responsibilities and I was a two-drink maximum if I even drank at all. As our marriage progressed and work responsibilities for my ex-husband continued to increase, alcohol became the easy way to unwind and become more comfortable in social settings. I watched his alcohol consumption increase and slowly creep into our home life and then daily drinking became the norm.
Using my professional background as a reference I knew what was happening but this couldn’t be happening at our home.
I would make gentle comments when out in social settings as to the amount he was drinking. The comments were met with replies of how “unfun” I was and that I was “mad” even though I hadn’t even raised my voice. Invites to social events didn’t include me since I didn’t like his “friends”. I recall being pregnant and him being dropped off by his “friends” after an evening out. I made it my responsibility to tuck him in bed with Gatorade and a careful watch of his phone for work calls. Looking back this was the worst thing I could have ever done.
I have learned one thing with both therapy and passing time. The family of the addict is just as ill as the addict. The red flags were numerous and obvious. They all fell upon a blind eye. The night that still tears at my heart included a conversation of his jealousy of my drinking style. He wanted to be okay with only drinking two glasses of wine and going home. The signs were all there and I knew it. I was just as sick and in denial as well. But was it really that bad?
The impact this life was having on our children was the push I needed.
They remember being given $100 bills when their daddy would come home from the casino after a night out. At the time, they were all under the age of ten. They still have these $100 bills and long discussions have followed as to how and why they have them in their possession. Our oldest son came home after working with the DARE program at school. He very frankly told me he thought his dad was an alcoholic. Luckily, my back was turned to him at the time as the tears streamed down my face and a sense of relief washed over me. I wasn’t the only one watching this train careen out of control. He calmly stated the behaviors he had witnessed first hand. He was correct and knew exactly what was unfolding right in front of our eyes.
Unfortunately, our family quickly fell apart.
Much of what the children and I witnessed firsthand was discredited or dismissed as being fictitious. This is not uncommon in families where addiction is present. The children live with me primarily and have visitation with their father. Therapy and time have helped them to cope with what they have experienced.
As we all have learned, addiction doesn’t have an easy cure. It’s an ever-evolving disease that waxes and wanes with only one person able to truly alter the course. I pray for my family and all of those families struggling with addiction. May we all have the courage to face each day and reach the positive resolution we all deserve.