Going through a divorce is hard enough but when dealing with an alcoholic or substance abusing ex can be quite traumatic. There are numerous ways to deal with such a situation and each one is different depending on individual circumstances. However, there are some main guidelines that can be helpful in most situations.
- Safety first! If you or your children are in any danger of physical harm seek help immediately. Call 911. Don’t second guess yourself and then regret when its too late. If you cannot get protection or help from family, friends or law enforcement then seek out protective shelters. Most areas have some kind of shelter available. These shelters deal with situations all the time and know what they are doing; you do not have to do this alone.
- If your alcoholic ex is verbally abusive, try to shield this from your children as much as possible. Sometimes you will have no control over this so make sure that you talk to your children and explain that mommy or daddy is ‘sick’ so that you can manage damage control. Sometimes a slap in the face can be less painful than hurtful words that will replay in their minds years. Remember, if they are young, they don’t know what alcoholism or drug addiction is. There will be much confusion for them why mommy or daddy is acting the way they are, and worse, when mommy or daddy don’t even’ remember’ acting that way. Encourage them to openly talk about anything they need to or ask any questions they may have. Be open, the worst thing you can do is ignore it or pretend there is nothing wrong (I.E. the elephant in the room). This is far more harmful and hurtful than any open discussions that you may have.
- Seek out support groups such as Alanon and Alateen. Unfortunately, you are neither the first nor the last family that will deal with this kind of situation. There is a lot of shame that goes along with these kinds of circumstances. Support groups, individual and/or family therapy are some of the tools that you can seek out.
- Don’t keep it a ‘family secret’. Alert significant people in your children’s lives so that they can be prepared with such a situation. An example of these are daycare providers, coaches, Ministers, teachers etc. When dealing with alcoholism or substance abuse there will more than likely be dysfunctional and irrational behavior and everyone in your children’s lives should be aware of this to better protect your children.
Whatever the individual circumstances, be aware that there is always help. As hopeless as your situation might seem, there are others who have been there and come out the other side. Don’t be afraid to seek and accept help. Many times dysfunctional behavior is passed down from generation to generation. It becomes the ‘norm’ and you or others may not even recognize the problem. If you recognize there’s a problem meet it head on, your children’s generations are depending on you.
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