Childhood memories are tricky things. You may not remember a trip you took as a child, but you probably remember going to the emergency room for stitches. You have surely forgotten thousands of days you spent in the classroom, but you may remember the day a teacher yelled at you. Childhood experiences that have the greatest impact are those that have a lot of feelings attached to them. Living with a parent who struggles with alcoholism can be a highly emotional experience. Perhaps that is why these childhood experiences are so powerful and long-lasting.
When it comes to parenting, who wouldn’t like to have a few super powers? How about X-ray vision so you could look through walls and see if your child is really doing homework? Telekinesis would be very helpful when it’s time to straighten up the house! Here’s the good news: Parents may not have super powers, but they have more power than they think they do. And if you are a parent in recovery, you are far stronger than you were as a person struggling with alcoholism. You just have to learn how to nurture and use your power.
Divorce and custody disputes are traumatic no matter what. Even the most amicable of relationships can be fraught with frustration and a period of adjustment that can affect the family. Adding a party who struggles with alcoholism only exacerbates the problem. Sometimes, what is worse is having one parent accuse the other of alcohol abuse without cause. These allegations can make it very difficult for parents to work together and trust each other in raising their children.
Jean had recently asked her husband to leave their home because of his alcohol abuse. When she was making up her son’s bed, she found the phrase, “I miss my dad,” carved into a hidden spot on the bed frame. Alyssa was an active 10-year-old who loved ballet. After her parents separated, she refused to go to dance class. A family counselor suggested that Alyssa was punishing her mother by giving up ballet, which she saw as something her mother wanted her to do. When parents separate, regardless of the reasons, children’s lives are impacted.
It could be the primary reason behind the divorce. Or it could be how your former spouse has decided to cope with the separation. Either way, co-parenting with someone struggling with alcoholism might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. But even when you accept that your husband or wife has a problem, you still have real concerns for the safety of your children when they’re with them.