This morning I have spent two hours in a child protection conference. One of the parents is deeply addicted to alcohol. This was one of the most painful conferences I have ever attended. Both parents are deeply in denial about the risks posed to the children as a result of alcohol; one is permenantly drunk and the other so co-dependent they are not able to take any steps to do what need to be done to protect the children.
The alcoholic parent is an educated, attractive, articulate empathic person. Everything bad that is happening to them, involvement of social services, removal of their parental responsibility, separation form their children, admission under section to a psychiatric ward, arrest, police caution, frequent admissions to hospital with vomiting blood, liver failure, and shortly death, is entirely and completed attributable to drinking alcohol. And they will NOT seek help. Will NOT engage. Will not consider residential detox. Wail and rail and moan about what is happening to them, but will not, cannot, accept responsibility to change themselves. My comment at the end “I know you love your children, but sadly at the moment you love drinking more” was brutal, but accurate.
I’m a bit fragile myself at the moment, and this is horribly close to the bone.
I have been in my profession long enough to know that I can advise, support, offer guidance – but until people are willing to listen it’s all to no avail, but this is one of the hardest things I have ever had to watch.
Thank god, or thank a higher power, or thank luck that I am not in that persons position. That I retained insight sufficient to call a halt before any of these awful consequences came to me.
And what of the codependent one ? Actually I’ve been there too. My ex husband was / is a drug addict and alcoholic. I turned a blind eye to his drug taking for far too long – deflected from actually dealing with it by fear, denial, cowardice and optimism. Only when his aggression, paranoia and hostility spilled over into actual violence, physical and emotional did I act. And I always had the financial and practical wherewithal to deal with the fall out.
All the while I drank, to escape from the brutal reality that I couldn’t change him, couldn’t make him want to change, and that the responsibility for acting came down to me. The consequences, for myself and my children were my responsibility. As a drinker I was never an aggressive drunk; more a sloppy, sleepy, oversharing , over emotional, impetuous drunk. I don’t doubt that I have done harm,but it was easy to minimise when compared with the other adult who lived with us.
And now I live with a man who does not work, is super critical of my children to the point that last night we all sat in our separate spaces with no communication at all. Because the kids don’t want to be shouted at. He won’t change. I need to “grow a pair” and change what I’m not happy with.
The dangers of codependency have been displayed to me this morning. I know what is happening inside my own life – only I can change it. I’ve taken the first step by getting sober. Now I need to be strong for my kids.