Monday, January 21, 2008

The Fine Line Between Self-Control and Self-Abuse

O's relationship with her father is strained at best. At the beginning of November, O got a phone call from her step-grandmother, informing her that her dad and stepmother were splitting up. Again. Her dad didn't bother to call her about this for another month. Her step-grandmother, meanwhile, has kept in touch with O vial email and the occasional phone call. She's even made a couple of trips out here to take Olivia out to lunch and hang out for a couple of hours. Her father has made no such effort and aside from a five minute meeting to hand off some of O's diabetes supplies, it's been over a year since she's seen or spent any time with her father.

The run up to this break in relations was stormy and coincided with us moving about an hour away from him, when we bought our house two years ago. They saw each other infrequently during that time and it was usually fraught with tears and hollering matches. There was an idyll of about 6 weeks, when her father and stepmother split up the first time around, but they soon reconciled and O was out in the cold again. She had no desire to spend time with her stepmother and I wasn't exactly anxious either. K, the stepmother, had been needlessly cruel to O over the last year prior to the first break up, at one point even locking O in her bedroom when she thought O had been snotty towards her. Now, O can be snotty with the best of them, but locking her in her room is excessive. And dangerous, considering O has type 1 diabetes. Being locked in a room for a couple of hours, with no access to juice to treat a low, could have turned into a bad scene. Thankfully nothing happened, but still. Who the hell locks a kid in their room? Talk about epitomizing wicked stepmother.

Since her father and stepmother have split up again, O has been making an effort to talk to her father. He moved back in with his parents, so she calls there. Most of the time, her dad isn't home and so she chats with her grandparents for a bit and leaves a message for him to call her back. This rarely happens. She's disappointed, but resigned to the fact that her dad is like this.

This past weekend, she saw her step-grandmother again, for lunch. When O came home, she was a bit down and I asked her how things went. She told me that P, her step-grandmother, had finally told her why her dad and K split up - that it was all because of alcohol. That K was an alcoholic and that her dad was, too. That instead of paying the bills, they were spending all their money on beer and at the bars. And that her dad and K hadn't planned to split up, but when they got evicted from their apartment, her dad said they could live with his parents. On the day they were supposed to move in there, he told K that his parents didn't want her there. She moved in with her mother, but they still talk and still see each other.

I was sad for O, but not surprised. This is the same reason that he and I split, lo these many years ago. He drank away the rent money and got us evicted from three apartments in the space of 16 months. The third eviction was the final straw and I moved out and never looked back. He admitted at the time that he was spending the rent money at the bar and that he had a drinking problem. When I tried to get him some help, he didn't want to hear it. Since the marriage was on its last legs anyway, I didn't push too hard.

But it seems nothing has changed. He's still a drunk, he's still getting evicted from apartments and not paying his bills. But this time, he has his parents to fall back on and they keep letting him move in there, allowing him to spend all of his money on booze.

I talked to O about all of this and told her that's what broke up our marriage, too. She can't understand how he can prefer alcohol to her and I couldn't really help her because I could never understand how he could prefer it to the little family we had either. I know alcoholism is a sickness, but for some reason, I don't have the capacity to be forgiving about it. Maybe that's a failing on my part, but I honestly don't understand how you can wreck two marriages and your relationship with your only child and not realize that the booze is controlling you rather than the other way around.

I'm not quite sure what to do for O at this point. I don't know if Al-Anon would be helpful for her or not. I don't want her to make excuses for her father and I think she has every right to be furious with him, but I also don't want this to make her bitter. I don't want her walking around angry at the world because of her father's failings.

I could kill him, though. With pleasure. I don't deal well with this sort of thing. I find it to be weak, like he's looking for a crutch, an "Oh, I can't help myself, I'm an alcoholic." Not that he'll ever admit that. Nothing is ever his fault, it's always someone else's fault, someone's always out to get him, to screw him over, to throw him under the bus. He refuses to see that his actions have consequences and he refuses to take responsibility when he fucks up.

It's just a shame he can't see that he's also fucking up his daughter, causing her pain and creating irreparable rifts in an already-rocky relationship.


LJ said...

Big hugs to you both! The whole situation is sad. I know alcoholism. I have a near and dear(ha!) relative who is an alcoholic but he won't admit it. I can understand partly about the situation. Any advice I can offer you is perhaps look up some books on alcoholism for O to read so she can understand as best she can. Heck I don't even understand why people do things sometimes. I think surrounding her with the love and support is the best thing you can do for her. She won't be fucked up with you in her life!

meanderings said...

Alcoholism is rampant in my family - and for years, hidden. Your willingness to talk with Olivia about it will help her.

Anonymous said...


I understand - although my ex was a drug-addict. Honesty will help Olivia, and it sounds like you're doing just that....she'll get the love and respect she needs.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for you. I hear ya about the effects of alcoholism... not fun or good.

Maybe a program like Al-Anon would help O to better understand the disease and to hear from someone else other than mom that she is not the problem. It might give her a forum to express her feelings and hear others do the same.

Hugs to you both, especially that poor darling girl.


Anonymous said...

Maybe Al-Anon would be a good idea for O.
From experience, I know how hard it is to be mad at someone who is half of you. There are so many similarities between O's dad and mine.
When my parent's split because of his affair, he made my mom tell me. Next time I saw him, he says, "I know your mom told you but I don't want to talk about it." So we didn't, but he doesn't understand why I don't like his current wife. Go figure!The daughter he is raising now is 12 and wears a size 24W - I can't even guess what that is in pounds.

Anyway - some men are stupid! Keep letting O vent to you and do your best to stay impartial even when you know how stupid her father is being.

Zazzy said...

I've known some kids that did really well in Alateen. Better than Al-Anon for them since it's kids supporting kids. I'd suggest that you start attending Al-Anon. It will help you help O. They should also have good advice about Alateen or other age appropriate support groups in your area.