I have 9 kids. That’s something I haven’t talked about for two reasons:
- I didn’t want to bring them shame on the Internet
- I don’t want to admit how bad I messed up my family.
You’re probably thinking, “That’s a lot of kids.” So, let me explain that big number. They are all from one marriage. They range from 2 yrs old to 19 yrs old. The first 4 were biological and other 5 were adopted. For 15 years my x-wife and I were active in foster care – maybe 100 placements over that time. We adopted the ones who never left, after several years in our home they were already a part of the family. I love them all (even if I’m not showing it lately).
Walking out on them is something that brings me guilt everyday.
Now that I’m in recovery I’m trying to make things better. I’m accepting that I can never “make things right” completely. Fixing the marriage isn’t an option, but I am making efforts to be present in other ways.
That’s me outside their house – my old house.
I came back to the USA to visit them, but it wasn’t easy. I keep crying and wanting to run away from the pain I’ve caused. Then I remember that it’s for them, not me. Here is what I’ve been trying to say to them, the older kids get more details depending on what they can handle.
My Talking Points
- None of this is your fault.
- None of this is your mom’s fault.
- I love you, even if I live somewhere else.
- Your dad had a big problem with drinking alcohol.
- I’ve stopped drinking, I’m getting help, and I’m getting better.
- Things will still be different. I don’t know what happens next.
- I can see how this been especially hard on you.
- I want to be in your life.
- We can talk as much as you want.
- Do you have any questions? You can always ask me questions.
The children are dealing with much more than my addiction. They are trying to understand why their parents are not together and why their dad moved to a different country. I don’t imagine their pain or confusion can go away in one conversation, but I think talking will help them begin to process things.
With the oldest three (ages 19, 16, 14), things went very well. We had some good conversations and I think they are beginning to understand.
I’m not anywhere near the “making amends” of step 8 – I’m just a dad trying to connect with the kids he abandoned.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
How to talk to your child about alcoholism?
Maybe it’s my generation, but I can’t do anything without searching for some help on Google first. Here are a few helpful tips I found.
I really liked the approach and the information from the Maintaining Miracles blog
Remember you do not have to get into the specific details unless you feel it is appropriate. Personally, I tell my daughter she is my guardian angel because she saved my life and made mommy a good person. My son is told he is my blessing for staying clean and loving sobriety.
I’m finding that THE FIX always has something helpful:
Asking the child how he or she feels can be helpful; “Mommy is having a hard day today, how are you doing?” Young children can find adult behaviors confusing, or they may want to provide comfort, or they may get angry. Helping the child express their feelings: “I know you get angry when Daddy is out of control. I do too. And I think Daddy maybe too.” “We need to be sure you’re OK even when Daddy isn’t.” Or: “We need to go be with Grandma to be safe until Mommy can be safer to be around” is a good place to start. The goal is to create a safe place for the child to talk about and process her or his feelings, rather than internalize or deny them.
Christina Mcghee deals with both addiction and divorce in her article:
Acknowledge your children’s feelings about the problem and reassure them it’s okay to talk about it. Although it’s hard to see your children hurting, remember that supporting children’s feelings and being a good listener can go a long way with kids. When you seek to understand instead of solve your child’s problem, you are reinforcing some very important concepts. First, you’re sending a strong message that you view them as capable and competent at handling tough situations. Second, when they are facing a challenging or difficult time, talking about the problem let’s them know it’s okay to seek support from others. Lastly, you are underscoring that you respect their feelings and there’s no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed about a parent’s addiction.
This was on the alcohol rehab blog:
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics use the 7Cs to explain the situation to children of alcoholics:
* I didn’t cause it.
* I can’t cure it.
* I can’t control it.
* I can take better care of myself, by communicating my feelings, making healthy choices and celebrating myself.
The Hazelden Betty Ford website offered this advice.
Leave it with love: Not all conversations will go perfectly, but they can end on a hopeful note. Even if your adult child gets angry, remind him or her of your love and concern and reiterate your willingness to be there when he or she is ready.
I found this helpful article on Huff Post Parents:
Let go of guilt. Many parents in recovery struggle with guilt about letting their kids or family down. Learning to let go of this is crucial in order to move on and become the parent you want to be. “Have some empathy for yourself for why you did what you did,” Meeks says. “It’s a process. Know that every day you take care of yourself, you are a healthier model for your kids.”
I reached out to my friends on Twitter for advice and appreciated much of what they said.
Question for my #recoveryPosse. How did you explain your addiction and Recovery to your kids?
— Sober Tony (@sobertony) April 6, 2017
our relationship is wonderful now, but it was a long process that took a lot of work on my part. Trudged the steps.
— susanroeder (@susanroeder) April 7, 2017
But he does understand that I had a problem. He likes having his dad actually present. And we do things together now that we never did b4
— Damien (@soberboots) April 8, 2017
Among other things, explained that alcoholism runs in our family, bc I think it's important for them to know.
— AnotherJen (@PotataHed) April 7, 2017
My son is 16 too. I've quit quietly much like I drank. If it had been different, I would have been completely honest. No other choice.
— Susanne Blumer (@susanneblumer) April 7, 2017
As honestly as possible for their ages. I told mine that my brain doesn't work quite right. It tells me I need things that are bad for me.
— shea tucker (@sheatucker2) April 7, 2017