Single mom seeks help

Every now and then a reader emails me a question that I could not possibly give an unbiased answer to. And so, with her permission, I am passing her email off to all of you – hoping that you may have some advice for a single mom in quite a predicament.


Hi Crissi,

I have been divorced from my sons’ father for 8 years. They are now 14 and 9. During our marriage, he was physically abusive to me and addicted to drugs and alcohol. After our divorce, he continued using drugs and abusing alcohol. The courts still mandated that we share legal and physical custody. It finally came to a head 4 years ago when he got drunk with the kids in his care, the police were involved, and he brandished a weapon on the cops. Needless to say, he was arrested. I was awarded full legal and physical custody, and he was not allowed visitation for 2 years. After that time was up, the kids were reintroduced to a relationship with their father through court-ordered supervised visitation, eventually turning back into unsupervised visitation. While I had my suspicions that he was still using, I had no proof. And it seemed like the kids were doing well in his care. It has been two years now since he re-entered the kids lives. Just two weeks ago, he got drunk again and attacked his own mother. He was arrested and is now in a yearlong rehab program. It was admitted that he never stopped using. And it’s apparent that he hasn’t changed, either.

My question is, what do I do? My personal feelings are that I want him out of our lives forever. I’m angry that he lied over and over, and that he has never taken responsibility for his addictions. I’m angry that we all worked so hard for this reunification to work, and now my kids may have to go through it all over again. And I have no faith that the rehab will do him any good this time. He tried several different programs the last time around, and lied about his progress. And I’m afraid he’ll do it again But I understand that I need to separate my personal feelings from what is best for our kids. My 14 year old son wants nothing to do with him. My 9 year old son cries and misses his dad. I just want my kids to have a predictable life they can depend on without the rollercoaster their father keeps putting them through. But I’m having a hard time seeing past my own resentments to come up with a solution towards future visitation. He’s been in rehab for 2 weeks now, and is already calling to talk to the kids. And I haven’t been able to answer the phone because I don’t know what to say.


-Confused Single Mom


11 thoughts on “Single mom seeks help

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  1. I’m so saddened to hear that your kids are suffering. I know that it is stressful to be in that situation.

    Addiction is very powerful and hard to understand. If he cannot help himself and is unable to successfully complete treatment maybe you could attend Al Anon to help you learn to cope with his and your kids’ struggles. Do you think that if you were fully educated on the addiction cycle you would have the tools and confidence to support your children through their difficult transition? I’m not implying that you are uneducated about drug and alcohol addiction- it’s merely a suggestion.

    Being a pathological liar is often a coping mechanism that addicts employ to be able to maintain their lifestyle. It not only enables them to keep using or drinking but in their minds it justifies the behavior.

    In my opinion the best thing that you can do is be honest with your children. Teach them what you can about the situation and let them form opinions about their father. Of course if you fear for their safety or well being, by all means take the necessary actions.

    Strangers or not, you have support without judgment here. I wish you the best of luck.

  2. Such a horrible situation for your kids and yourself… addiction is an ugly thing; it ruins lives everyday and unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight. My father is an addict — I am 27 now, with 2 children of my own, and my whole life I’ve dealt with the demons that haunt me. He caused me so much pain.. over and over.. because of his drinking and using. My brother and I loved him so much; seemed we’d never feel resentment towards him.. until we realized the truth — and by then, the damage had been done. Not only had he caused severe emotional issues & insecurities with ourselves and others, but put us in very dangerous situations that ended up with very rotten outcomes…

    Instead of using myself and “drowning the pain”, I’ve been able to use it to make my life better, for myself and those around me. Your children, honestly, will be much better without him until (when/if) he can prove to you with years of sobriety to be a fit parent.. until then, I wouldn’t trust my heart,life&soul (my children) with someone that is completely incompetent.

    Best of luck to you. Be strong. Tell your boys to be strong.

  3. My daughter has not seen her biological father in more than 7 years. My job as a parent is to keep her safe and protect her, and I have told her that when she is an adult she is free to visit him and see who she wants. Until then, any contact is bad for her. She is loved and feels safe. That’s all she needs.

  4. One thing I know about children and their relationship with their father is that you cannot deny them the opportunity to know them, see them and be with them. They will become adults all too soon and will ask why they weren’t afforded the right. Be careful, but don’t assume feelings for your children. A child’s love is unknown and un-measured. Be well.

  5. I am the child of (long-divorced) addicts. I have grown up with both elements of parental addiction and absence.
    Your reality is that there is no best answer, you have no “best” options. There is no way to predict how an individual will react, as you see your sons have differing reactions (age probably plays a role here). The only good solution, their father healthy and involved, is not an option. But you must understand this:
    *Your job is not to facilitate destructive relationships”
    You know your sons need stability, your younger son doesn’t realize (of course) why his father isn’t a stable force in his life. It is still beyond his comprehension. There is nothing you can do to change this. You need to take his concerns and feelings very seriously (show him that you do!). He needs to know that it is not just okay, but it is required he love his father even though his father has an uncontrollable, damaging illness. I think the most harm you can do is to try to convince your sons to feel the way you do. But your younger cannot determine for himself if this relationship is worth the high cost. You have to do that. My advice: if possible get legal action to permit very limited, controlled, supervised visitations. If visitation is unfeasible, ensure your sons have (controlled) means to contact him, and that he can contact them. Do not block them; they will only see you as the block. You cannot prevent their father from letting them down, but it can be contained instead of becoming consuming. Contain expectations, you have an idea of what your ex is reasonably capable of even if your sons think the world of him. Be honest with your children, Hallmark answers (“it’s not your fault and you aren’t a bad person because your father is”) or avoiding the issue are not good behaviors. Children place great hope on beloved parents and will endure a great amount of abuse will still holding onto that hope. Remember they cannot see your point of view.

  6. I understand your confusion. But you are the childrens’ strength and stability. That’s why you have sole physical and sole legal custody. The state’s family code encourages “frequent and continuing contact” for the non-custodial parent, but it’s not an absolute. I would advise supervised visits. It allows your children to visit with their father safely. Any other arrangement could be detrimental to your children and you must protect them. When they are older as adults, they will understand why it had to be that way.

    I truly wish you and your children the best, and good luck.

  7. I agree with Colette! The father of my children puts his own needs and demands first, ignoring what his behavior does to others. Your children are old enough to make their own choices regarding their relationship with their dad. Help them to see the consequences of the choices their dad has made, enabling them to choose differently when they are adults. Your ex has chosen this as his life, and it’s not fair to put children through the cycles of addiction. Addiction is a grown-up problem.

  8. I’m a little confused about this. Is this a news article? It was my understanding that the Blog was to discuss the local news and politics.
    My heart does go out to these children. Unfortunately I don’t feel the same for the mother. I think as women we need to take more time and be more particular about who will have the most important job in our lives….fathering our children.
    We have had birth control since the 60’s. This allows us time to really get to know a partner and find out if they are father material. What’s his family like? Does he have a temper? Does he finish projects after starting them? Does he blame others for his shortcomings? Does he have lifelong friends? Was he abused? And many more questions that I don’t have time to cover.
    I would bet that there were many clues before the kids were born. Women need to quit thinking they have got to have a man, and quit thinking they have to take in the “under dog” and fix him. When you live independently and enjoy being by yourself, that’s when the right one comes along.
    There’s no better way to love your children than by choosing the best possible set of genes for them.
    You cannot control your own background, but you can give your future children a better chance by giving them a father who had the best resume.
    I chose to love my children by not having them. My family situation wasn’t what I’d want to give to someone I loved….
    And let’s get some interesting blogs.
    Why not our Cotati gal whose going to Australia with Oprah & Travolta? That’s what I’d like to see. Not commenting on someone’s poor choices.

  9. Granny, welcome to this site! While it seems like this blog should be about the news or politics since its on the Press Democrat, it is actually about neither. It’s about parenting – through stories from my family, stories from other people’s family, and occasionally stories from the media if they are of interest to families. I’m thrilled for the Cotati gal (though, so sorry about the taxes she’s about to endure from a “free” trip), but I’m not going to write about her. Luckily, there are reporters at the Press Democrat who will, and have.

    I appreciate your honest answer to this situation, though I do want to remind you that the woman who wrote this to me is reading this as well. And lambasting her for her past “bad decisions” doesn’t help the situation at hand. But on that same note, the very things you brought up are most definitely the things that women need to look at when choosing a mate that will be fathering her children – so that something like this WON’T happen.

    Everyone gave such thoughtful answers. It saddens me that there are some readers who are going through this, either with their children’s parent, or through their own parents. Thank you everyone for taking the time and helping this mother out. I knew I could count on all my readers!

  10. I believe the answer is simple – get full physical custody again. an absent parent is better than a bad parent. the boys get the love, nurturing and whatever else they need from you and your family or even his family, but when a man is willing to attack his own mother, he is capable of hurting anyone at any time.
    Also pick up the phone and say to him, “I’m afraid your actions have forced the current circumstances and I will be seeking full custody again for the well being of our children.” then hang up. if your oldest wants nothing to do with him take that as your sign. the youngest will be old enough one day to understand but sounds like they have already had enough of the roller coaster. time to get off Mom. I would be saying this even if the parent in question was the mother. Parents that potentially can be abusive, lie, abuse any type of substance are leading by example and either will hurt your children or “make it ok” for your children to exhibit the same behaviors. Your job is to put the kids first, don’t worry about your feelings or their dad’s. Perhaps this isn’t very forgiving or Christian of me, but as a mom you have to go with your gut instinct it won’t lead your astray, stop thinking so much and just do.

    This newspaper blog is not well organized. There’s no information to let a person know that there are different categories of blogs. In other words…it says “single mom needs help”, then it transfers you to this wine country mom site where there’s suppose to be no judging.
    However it is blended in with all the blogs. When I want to be part of a Pet blog, I need to go to” Pet.” So for those of us who just want to give our opinion on news stories and community interests , we get pulled in to something we didn’t ask for.
    Whether you believe in what I said or not: it is the truth. Sometimes being honest and not patting someone on the back for bad choices is the kind thing to do. After all: this bad decision will cost our State a lot of money in incarceration, in not only the father, but possibly the children down the road.
    If you don’t want to be treated like a typical blog that judges: then ask the PD to put you in a different catagory like a help & support site

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