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The Vine: March 26, 2014

Submitted by on March 26, 2014 – 2:16 PM26 Comments

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My ex-husband and I have been divorced for 12 years, and I have custody of our 13-year-old son.

I am remarried, and my son visits his father somewhat irregularly, but often enough that they have a close relationship. He has his dad on a pedestal, and I'm careful to remain neutral-to-positive when I talk about him.

His father is about $30K behind in child support, due largely to the fact that he is unable to keep a job. He has been evicted from more than 10 apartments in the last 12 years, and is currently homeless. When my son visits him now, he stays at my former mother-in-law's house. My son knows his dad drinks, but doesn't tie the alcohol to Dad's other problems. My ex always has an excuse for why he lost his apartment, job, girlfriend, etc. and my son just believes him.

I am still close to my former in-laws, who have completely written off my ex, and only see him when my son is visiting, because he has stolen money from them, lied to them, etc. so many times that they've just given up. They're going to start going to Al-Anon meetings and have suggested that I take my son to Alateen meetings, but to do so, I'd have to say, "Hey, your dad's an alcoholic," and I don't know if that's my place to do so. We have candid talks in our family about addiction, and he's very aware of what an alcoholic is, but certainly does not see his dad as one (and his dad does not see himself as one).

I don't know if it's my place or my right to "out" someone as an alcoholic to his child, but at the same time, it's also MY child, and he has the right to understand this part of his familial history, and at 13, we're not that far off from the age of curiosity about alcohol. I harbor a lot of resentment towards my ex (that's why I provided the context about the child-support arrears, so you'll know I'm not exactly objective) so I'm having trouble approaching it from an unbiased perspective. While I'm well past the baggage that caused the divorce in the first place, I'm already biting my tongue when I hear about what a great dad he is and how Dad just bought whatever expensive thing that I know is going to be in a pawn shop in three weeks.

So I'm struggling with making a good decision about the appropriateness of an "I think we should talk about what's going on with Dad and why he's been going through a rough time lately with jobs and stuff" talk, and would be grateful for any advice you have, and any advice or experience from your readers. Thank you!

Watching Intervention on Amazon Instant Video Isn't Working

Dear Watching,

Your son probably knows. Kids know this stuff; they can sense things, disturbances in the Force, ways grown-ups smell and speak that don't line up quite the way they should. Kids don't always have names for these things they sense, or strategies for managing the emotions they feel in response, and that's the sticking point, from where I sit — no, you don't want to sell out your ex, because whatever he has or hasn't done, he's your son's father, and in the end, people of all ages have to learn things for themselves about their parents' imperfections, so on the one hand, it seems like leaving it alone while making it clear you're there to listen is the best strategy.

But on the other hand, having an alcoholic parent can feel profoundly isolating to a child. Whatever the booze mutates the parent into — physically abusive, persistently flaky, broke, sick, socially inappropriate, a dim sum of these — the offspring often ends up feeling as if he's the only one who got the shit end in the parent department. He's embarrassed; he's hurt and disappointed; he's furious; he's exhausted from constantly trying to anticipate which parent he's dealing with this time, and/or managing the drunk one. Everyone else's family seems delightfully, unreachably normal, while his is broken, and in the absence of any other explanation, often a child will conclude that he's the problem or catalyst, because this is the only part of the situation he can control — the part where, somehow, he sucks.

It's likely less intense for Son given that he doesn't live with Dad and isn't cycling through these emotions on a daily or weekly basis, but he has picked up that Something Isn't Right — maybe from his grandparents, too — and while he may in fact still believe that his father hung the moon (or not want to let go of that belief), he may also say these things for your benefit, because if he doesn't say it out loud it isn't real, or for whatever other reason. Naming bad things is usually a relief but it never seems that way beforehand; maybe that's what's going on.

Allllll this by way of saying that, if he is aware of his father's disease and is struggling with it, you should say something, because he shouldn't have to feel alone with it on top of the other bullshit it creates for him…but you also occupy a unique (and annoying) position in that he may not consider you a safe space for talking about this particular issue. I think a good start is to tell him that you're always there for him whatever he'd like to talk about — but you know that, if he has things he wants to talk through about Dad, he might feel weird, in which case you're happy to bring him to a meeting he might find interesting, or an adolescent therapist. Because what's important isn't so much that he knows his father has a problem with alcohol, but if he does know, how he can set good boundaries and not feel like it's a secret or shameful to himself in some way.

And you ask how his visits go, and you occasionally check in with Dad's parents to see what they're seeing (if you have that relationship with them), and if he seems fine or he's looking at you all "why are we talking about this, freakshow," you drop it and come back to it in a few months.

But he probably already knows. Your job, then, is to make sure he's not trying to carry it around all by himself, and if there does come a point where you have to put that ahead of the diplomacy you usually practice re: Dad, well, that's more important and it'll work out.

Good luck. It's a tightrope; let us know how you're crossing, if you can.

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26 Comments »

  • Angharad says:

    I agree with Sars that your son likely knows that something's going on with his dad, even if he doesn't know exactly what. I obviously don't know the whole story regarding custody and visitation, but given that they see each other irregularly, it seems like your son might be trying to protect that time with his dad. Like if he acknowledges that his dad has these issues, they won't get to spend as much time together. I did similar stuff as a kid after my parents divorced, and there weren't any serious issues to deal with. It seemed like pretending everything was great with each parent would mean fewer complications and fewer questions. And because I didn't get to see either parent quite as often or as simply as I would have liked, I protected my time with both of them.

    I'm not saying that your son is actually doing this, but if you do decide to discuss his dad's issues consider making sure he knows that talking about it won't negatively impact the time he gets to spend with his dad. He doesn't have to put up that front just to continue having that relationship.

  • LSol says:

    As a person who grew up with an alcoholic parent, and from the experience of sitting in many, many Al-Anon meetings, I know that sometimes not talking about the problem sends the message We Don't Talk About That. You're coming from the most appropriate place in not discussing the father's negatives, but it doesn't quite fit the situation.

    I agree with what Sars said – open the door to talk. You might also want to send the invitation of "sometimes there are things we don't know how to talk about because they just don't fit" and also "I've always wanted to be fair with you when it came to your dad," so he knows the not talking hasn't been because this is a taboo topic, it just wasn't your place to start that conversation.

    Good luck, and good on you and your former in-laws for wanting to address this early for your son. Having an alcoholic/addict parent – even if that parent isn't the primary custodial parent – can really mess with a kid, and leave some lasting mess.

  • Kristin says:

    You're such a good mother. This is a hard situation, and I think you're doing your best to do what's right for your son. I, too, am the child of an alcoholic, but I was much older when the evictions and such started, and it was confusing and unsettling.

    I think it might be good for you and your in-laws to take your son to an Al-Anon meeting together; you may not think you personally need it, but this man is still in your life because of your son, and his behavior does affect you. Plus, your son will see that it's not so bad to talk about these feelings and it doesn't mean he loves his dad any less or is betraying him in any way. That's an important thing that Al-Anon can help with.

    Lastly, your son needs to know he should never get in the car with his father when he's drinking. You probably already know that and are on top of it, but it will help your son to know that you're willing to be the bad guy who makes that rule, so he doesn't have to feel bad about saying no to his dad on that topic.

    I wish you and your family the best.

  • attica says:

    When my parents divorced (in my tweens), my mom was like you in that she never bad-mouthed my dad to me. Reality was, though, that dad behaved badly in dozens of ways that I felt I couldn't vent about, or even just bounce off of her. My relationship with my dad decayed on its own, but it wouldn't have felt quite so lonely if I had somebody at home to talk honestly to. It took me three years of paralyzing self-consciousness before I got to the point of being okay with How Things Were.

    For whatever that-all is worth.

    Good luck to you, Watching.

  • B says:

    Just wanted to say, I think it is possible the kid doesn't know. I was around the same age when my parents split and my dad started going to AA (many years sober now), and I had no idea that he had had an alcohol problem. (I still don't know, and don't want to know really, what the details of that time were.)

    Maybe I was an unusually oblivious kid, or my dad was much better at hiding it, or he was just all-around much more functional than Watching's ex. I still think the advice stands, and she needs to talk to the kid, especially since this is an active problem. But, I wouldn't approach with the assumption that the kid knows.

  • ferretrick says:

    I definitely agree that your kid already knows his dad has problems, even if he wouldn't actually call him an alcoholic yet. Sometimes kids (and adults) get a distorted picture from movies/TV that alcoholics are always or near always, falling down drunk or recovering from passing out the night before. If your ex is somewhat functional and sobers up for his visits with his son and his son hasn't seen him drunk, he might not connect the loss of jobs/apartments/girlfriends/etc. with drinking yet. He will soon though, and that's why you should have the talk now. Because he knows SOMETHING is wrong.

    I think another point you should definitely emphasize when you have the talk is that you aren't asking him to choose sides or saying it to slag his dad. Make sure he knows you aren't telling him because you want him to stop seeing his dad-you just want him to know you are a safe space to go to to talk about problems. Emphasize that he's old enough to start understanding some things, and make it about his new maturity.

    And I think you are doing well not taking it personally, but know that when he goes on about how great his dad is it really doesn't mean anything. It's very common for teenagers of divorce to romanticize the relationship with the non-custodial parent, especially when visits are rare or short. The limited contact allows all that time to be fun time and the non-custodial parent doesn't have to lay down many (or any) rules. I'd see it all the time in teaching-a kid would come in bristling because Mom's rules were so unfair and so on and they were going to live with Dad. And occasionally, Dad actually did take the kid for like a week. But as soon as the initial fun was over and Dad actually started imposing rules and discipline, kid would want to go back to Mom. It's just immaturity, not really that the kid thinks Dad is so awesome.

    I think you've done an admirable job so far in keeping neutral, but as your son is grows and matures, honesty will be more important than neutrality. Good luck to you and your son.

  • Suzy says:

    Divorced parents who don't bad-mouth their ex-spouses earn collateral with their kids. Maybe it's time to cash in some of that collateral by bringing the alcohol issue up with your son. You have credibility if you've not been, for example, complaining to your son about his dad's delinquency with child support. So, if you talk about dad's consequences from alcohol use (or really any hypothetical person's consequences, come to think of it), it may not be received as just blah blah blah complaining about dad AGAIN for the love of Pete!
    Good luck to you! What you do now really has the chance of helping your kiddo a lot.

  • Maria says:

    I'm sure it's hard from the perspective of feeling like you are bursting the bubble of his childhood. I'm certain your son is already thinking about this, but I'll bet he isn't saying anything out of loyalty, especially if he doesn't feel like his dad has let him down (yet).

    First I would get schooled on what the Al-Anon situation is in your area, times, places, resources, etc. Maybe even check out a meeting to get support for talking to your son before you do it. I think you can use support.

    Then I would pick my moment, preferably when you are doing something side by side with him or riding in the car–so you don't have to stare each other down. Ask him what he thinks is going on with his dad, like why he doesn't have a place of his own any more. See what he says, and go from there. I feel certain that he has thoughts about it all.

    Agree totally with the others who say you are a good mom. It's not fair that you have to bat clean-up on this, but I am completely sure that you are used to doing whatever it takes for him.

  • JC says:

    Not having been in such a position, I don't have much to add in terms of advice, but I want to give major props to the letter writer for being so thoughtful and caring in this situation. I had plenty of childhood friends who went through scorched-earth-type divorces, in which the topic of how to handle the kids quickly fell to the very bottom of the list of things to do. I think a lot of them would have been better off with a parent as thoughtful as you appear to be.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I agree with other posters that you are a terrific parent! But our society is so harsh and crazy about addiction issues it sometimes feels like there's only two choices: total cutting off/ridicule or never talking about the problem.

    Your son's known you as the primary parent, if I'm reading your timeline correctly, all his life. He's never really known his dad as a parent–that is, a consistent adult who helps, guides, and keeps him from careening off cliffs. And while your efforts in not badmouthing his father are admirable, he's not six anymore. There is middle ground between "your father is just the best and I'll never say different" and "your father is a worthless drunken sot."

    "Your dad has a problem. Sometimes it's better then others, but he has a problem with alcohol. It doesn't mean he doesn't love you or care about you, but it does mean he's going to act in ways that you don't understand sometimes, that seem scary or bewildering. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. If you want to talk, I am here. I will never badmouth your dad, but I will believe what you tell me. If you ever need me to come get you, or you think your dad might do something dangerous like drink and drive, you are to call me RIGHT AWAY. You will never be in trouble for taking care of yourself."

    Al-Anon will be good not just for his parents but for you as well. Maybe take him with you to a meeting, ask what he thinks about looking into Alateen. He's old enough to start making a few of these decisions. That doesn't mean he's always going to make the right ones–he might cry or blow up or give everybody the silent treatment, but all of that is to be expected. Just make sure you keep providing the safe place as you have been doing and he will always land near you.

  • Anonymous For This says:

    My mother has a serious mental illness that really took off when I was in 4th grade. It wasn't addiction oriented, but it was equally disruptive to our family life and my father's solution was to just ship me and my sister off to our aunt's house. Then we would return home and not talk about it. Something would happen again. Off we went to our Aunt's house, and then we didn't talk about it some more.

    Looking back, I wish someone had sat me down and explained to me that my mother was sick. I wish someone had said the word "bipolar" to me before I graduated high school. Because not talking about the problem didn't make it go away. It made things worse. A lot worse.

    Your son's situation is different because he doesn't have to live with the chaos every day, but I think he would benefit from you acknowledging that his father is sick and you're not sure if he's ever going to get better.

    I think Sars is right in that you need to give your son room to drive the conversation, but I feel that it's up to adults to be blunt with kids about addictions and mental illness. And if your son feels uncomfortable about you being the adult to explain it to him, then by all means explore the therapist route.

    From my experience, not acknowledging mental illness does kids no favors. It just teaches them that it's something they should hide or ignore because everyone else in their family is doing it. I say lay it all out to your son sooner rather than later because the longer you wait, the more you'll risk him getting pissed about you NOT telling him. It took me a while to acknowledge that my Dad thought he was doing the best he could not to let Mom's illness interrupt my childhood. But I think my childhood would have been a whole lot happier had he and my mother found the courage to be straight with me about it.

    Just my two cents…

  • Barb says:

    i think you should follow Jen S.'s suggestion, almost to the word. But i would add "he has a problem, many doctors consider it a disease. There are times when your father is not in control of himself."

    mostly, i think this should be discussed because of the driving issue, but also so the child has some words to go with the possible strange or inconsistent behavior.

  • OneoftheJanes says:

    I'm another voting on the side of telling. For one, I was definitely one of the kids who wouldn't have figured anything out; for another, I was raised by parents who believed in leaving it to me to bring stuff up, and the result was that I felt I, rather than they, carried the responsibility for ensuring I had the emotional information I needed. I think especially in this situation there is, as mentioned above, a risk that your son won't bring it up because he believes you don't want to talk about it.

  • Mingles' Mommy says:

    I have a family member who is a bi-polar alcoholic. He destroyed his marriage (although to be fair, it turns out his ex is no prize either), has also lost multiple jobs over the years, and has a minimal relationship with his now-teenage daughter. When he does see her, he tells her how terrible everyone else is and how everything is everyone else's fault. He buys her expensive presents (that end up being paid for by other people because he can't even pay his own bills).

    You're doing a way better job than my niece's mother is doing, that's for sure. In hindsight, I wish someone had taken my niece to Alateen at some point. If her mother had cared enough to do it (or, frankly, ANYTHING that would have helped my niece develop good emotional health, as opposed to doing absolutely nothing – she's always been too busy partying with her friends or chasing new boyfriends who dump her), things might have been different for my niece. As it stands, she's confused, distant, angry, depressed and incredibly unhappy.

    You sound like a terrific mom. The fact that you've worked so hard to stay neutral when talking to your son says so much about the kind of person you are. Personally, I think Alateen is a good idea. You can explain that your ex has this issue, but it doesn't mean he doesn't love your son, and that you just want your son to know that he has a lot of support and love and he's not alone.

    Best wishes to both of you.

  • Cora says:

    I'd add one thing: while there are many reactions your son could have when you tell him, best to prepare yourself for the "But why did you tell me?" question. You can honestly say that you thought about it for a long time, and decided to tell him for such-and-such reasons. You probably know this from your own parenting experience anyway, but it's always a good thing for kids to see the process of consciously making a difficult decision. It's the opposite of "because I said so." Having reasons you can articulate — especially ones which clearly demonstrate that you have his best interests in mind — will make the decision a whole lot easier to understand, even if your kid doesn't agree.

  • Dsayko says:

    In addition to the wonderful advice posted above, I would also add that you need to have the conversation if for no other reason than your son needs to know that he has a family history of alcoholism. At 13, he's inching closer to the time of parties and drinking, and he has to know about this part of his family's medical history so he can make informed choices.

  • Sharon says:

    You're very good to be so concerned with not bad-mouthing your ex. However, it is not really bad-mouthing him to state a fact to your son. Your ex is an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a disease. If your ex had cancer, or hepatitis, and these diseases interfered with him being a proper parent, would you hide that from your son? There are definitely ways to bring up the situation with your son without turning it into a slag-fest against your ex.

    And I agree with the others that your son likely knows, or at least can tell something is different, and that by bringing it up, you will be relieving him of a great burdern.

    Good luck!

  • Nikki says:

    Not a lot of people are giving you direct advice here, so I will: talk to your son. Do it gently and in an age-appropriate way; in other words, everything you say should still be neutral-to-positive in this conversation.

    You can say something like "You've noticed Dad's troubles/bad luck, and we're sad about this, but he struggles with alcohol. I want you to feel comfortable talking about this if you need." It's a REALLY good idea to have the grandparents present, because your son knows they love his father.

    Come from a place of concern for the Dad, for the relationship he has with your son, and for "how to cope" with this reality.

  • The Mom says:

    Thank you all for the great advice. Sars, you're right. My kid is incredibly sensitive and surely knows things aren't right with Dad, but by not saying it out loud, he can make it not real.

    Angharad, you bring up a great point that I hadn't considered, because I'm totally the mom that says "if Jared's punching you at recess, you're not going to play with him after school" so of course I'm unintentionally sending the message that if things aren't going right at Grandma's house with Dad, you're not going there anymore, and I need to fix that.

    Sharon, I agree with you about the health risks and that's why I'm finding it even more important now, when he's so much closer to the age when he could be experimenting with alcohol and needs to understand the risks, not in an abstract way, but in an "I am at a very high risk of developing alcoholism myself" way

    If I can throw out one last question to this awesome, supportive group – when I do have this conversation with my son, what, if any, is my obligation to his father (who does not see himself as an alcoholic) to let him know I've told my son he's got a drinking problem, especially if we do take the additional step of going to Alateen meetings or something? I'm concerned that my son will get the "why are you going to those stupid meetings, don't listen to your mom, etc." type of blowback and I don't want to him to get blindsided.

  • c8h10n4o2 says:

    I would vote for telling him in the form of a conversation. I lived with my Borderline functional alcoholic mother and didn't say anything to my dad until I was in college because I was protecting HIM in my mind. I knew it would upset him and that he would feel guilty about what I had been going through. (I was pretty right, actually.) Your son may have a bit of that going on as well.

    Also, my little brother (step) has an alcoholic dad who isn't very functional and sounds a lot like your ex. He wound up being his dad's caretaker in a really dysfunctional way for a very long time. When he was in college and grad school he had to live in 1 BR apartments because his homeless dad was on his sofa drinking vodka and occasionally working at a drugstore collecting shopping carts. He used his pay from his high school job to pay his dad's utilities. He's a great person, but he doesn't easily stand up for himself. Dealing with it earlier might have kept him from being so overly accomodating for others.

  • Ang. says:

    I'm late to the party, but I wanted to chime in because my dad is an alcoholic. He's a very high-functioning alcoholic, and he's been very successful in his work, which is probably why I didn't realize what he is (plus, when you're a kid, the only "normal" you know is what you were born into). I didn't recognize his other problems as being related to the alcoholism, either, nor did I realize how damaging it was to be raised by an alcoholic and the continuing effects this has had for me until I was … let's just say well into adulthood. Your son isn't being raised fulltime by his dad, which may mean that he won't suffer some of the effects, but that may also account for why he's recognizing so early that something is a little off with his dad. This is good. But I think you must talk with him, and you must use the word—alcoholic. Having a name for what is happening and an explanation for what he sort-of-but-not-really already knows will help your son as he grows up. Also, if you haven't already, you might do a little reading on Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA): there are some good books out there that explain some of the issues that these people deal with, and maybe if you're aware of that now, you can head it off (with a therapist) if you see these tendencies in your own son. Again, though, since he isn't being raised by his dad, and since he has such a great mom, I bet he will be fine, moving forward. But he needs to know the word and understand what it means. I'm still trying to navigate this issue and to reconcile the love I feel for my dad with all of this other shit. I think your son will fare better, beginning from an early age, and with your help.

  • Mary says:

    I like Jen S. 1.0's approach. The specific words "alcoholic" and "addiction" are so loaded that, whilst I totally believe you and agree that that's what your ex is, I would put it on the table but not affix it firmly to your ex when you talk to your son. "He has a problem with drinking" and "Your father is a problematic drinker" are both good for this situation. Maybe, "Your grandparents would describe your father as an alcoholic" or "Some people would definitely say he's an alcoholic".

    I think you can make a space where it's OK to talk about Dad's drinking, and specific behaviours that are associated with drinking (being unrealiable, being angry, manipulating people – whatever it is that he does and that your son is affected by). I definitely think you can make sure your son knows that organisations like Alateen and Al-Anon (for when he's older) exist and are there for people who live with or are affected by alcohol. But I think I would give him a lot of autonomy in deciding whether he wants to apply the word "alcoholic" and "addiction" to his father. That is a heavy load to carry, with a lot of immediate cultural associations, ("My dad is an alcoholic. This means he is like Celebrity A, or a character in Film B. This means he is XYZ. This means PQST is going to happen to him unless he GHI.")

    So I would suggest trying to create a middle ground where it's OK to say, "I hate the way Dad drinks" or "Dad's no fun when he's drinking" or "I wish Dad wouldn't do XYZ, which is probably related to drinking" rather than specifically saying "Your dad is an alcoholic." If he does engage with Alateen or other resources around drinking then it's very, very likely that he'll come to that conclusion himself, but I think it would be easier to have that realisation at his own pace, based on behaviours and activities that he has observed and his understanding of them, than to get it all at once as a bombshell from you.

    Masses of luck. Hard situation, but you sound like you're being very thoughtful about how to deal with it.

  • Kathleen says:

    Please talk with your son about this. There is a huge difference between kids who figure out that there is a problem in the family and it's NOT them and kids who know that there is a problem in the family, but don't know what it is.

    If it is at all possible to lead him in the direction of figuring this out himself, that might be useful. Whenever something goes wrong, just asking "was your dad drinking?" or "had he been drinking the night before?" can clearly point him in that direction.

    I agree "Problems with Alcohol" might be an easier phrase to start with. And no I don't think you need to give your ex a heads up about this. You know better than I do of course, but especially if you start this conversation with you son slowly and just keep it going for a month of so, he's going to be looking at his dad in a whole new way. And he may decide not to tell his dad about meetings right away and I would support that too. Good luck, this is hard.

  • Meg says:

    I've been trying to figure out how to phrase both my advice and my experience in this matter, because it still hurts to think about my own history with it. Short : I shielded my younger brother from our mother's alcoholism from a very young age, our father decided to tell him, "your mother's an alcoholic, your sister didn't want you to know & experience it," and the resulting storm was Bad. Still is. None of the four of us acted in healthy ways and the lack of communication about the disease just made it that much worse.

    As your son's other parent, it would be good to tell your ex you're planning to have this conversation with your son. As an alcoholic refusing to acknowledge his disease, I can't see how that heads-up would go well for your son. I would suggest asking a professional — psychologist, pediatrician, someone — how to handle it with your ex.

    Good luck and know that all of us out here in the inter webs are pulling for you.

  • Jen says:

    As a child of an alcoholic, I respectfully disagree with the people advising "Watching" not to say the word alcoholic. My advice is: definitely use that word when talking to your son. Using euphemisms and shying away from the truth is similar to not talking about it at all, and the only space it allows is for a sickening shame to seep in and grow.

    If you don't use the word "alcoholic," it will be that much easier for your son to think, "Well, he's not an alcoholic — even Mom didn't call him that — so it's not that bad. I don't need to go to Ala-Teen or anything. He just drinks a lot; plenty of people do that." And it's going to take him that much longer to figure out why the whole situation feels so awful.

    I also believe that not calling this it what it will confuse your kid about the difference between normal and unhealthy relationships with alcohol. It's not true that people who drink hold traits of "being unreliable, being angry, manipulating people." Those are traits of *alcoholics*.

    Use the word. Don't afraid of the stigma it puts on your husband –that's just a byproduct of shame. Your son needs clear, direct communication.

  • Jane says:

    Alateen changed my life, full stop. The feelings I had when I realized there were OTHERS out there who had the same weird stuff going on in their homes was indescribable. Being a child of an alcoholic can be super isolating ("everyone else's family is normal, why is mine like this?") so that connection to others was huge in lifting my shame.

    And I think you should use the label. I think kids sometimes need us to connect the dots and give it a name so it's really clear. He already sees the sharp contrast between how you live and how his dad lives so he knows what's up to a degree, but I'd vote for name it/claim it and maybe also mentioning any recovering alcoholics you may both know ( with their permission) so he understands it's a spectrum and not always worst case scenario.

    Good luck, you sound like a great and caring mom! Your son is super lucky to have YOU.

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