Dear Annie: My husband and I separated two years ago. Ultimately, we divorced about a year ago due to his rising alcohol and drug abuse, which led to him being violent. I did what I could for years to get him help, offering counseling together, rehabs and anything else that would be beneficial to him to deal with his addictions.
Once the children became the target and witnessed one incident of abuse where he attacked me, I called his parents for support and help. They agreed to have him move in with his mom, so she could oversee his visitation with the kids to ensure their safety.
This past weekend, when it was time for me to drop the children off, I called and found that he was at the bar, obviously intoxicated, and he started yelling obscenities at me through the phone because I told him it was not acceptable for him to be doing this when he knew he was supposed to have the children. Long story short, he apologized the next day and when he was sober, I brought them over. When I went to tuck in my daughter that night, it came out that his mother was questioning her about my personal relationships and telling her not to tell me. My daughter, who is five, was very conflicted and upset because she felt like she’s been asked to keep secrets from me, but she doesn’t want to break the confidence of her grandmother.
Since my ex lives with his mother and does not have the financial or emotional stability to be on his own, I don’t know what to do. I’m not comfortable with him coming to my home considering the past. I don’t want to withhold my children from him, but I also don’t want them to be manipulated by his mother.
What should I do?
— Miffed by the Manipulation
Dear Miffed: Trust your instincts as a mama. You’ve tried so hard to make it work with your ex, and I commend that. But as long as he’s actively drinking and/or using other drugs, it’s not safe to entrust your children to his care.
Begin documenting these incidents as well as you can, saving any relevant text message conversations and emails. Talk to your lawyer about options for adjusting the terms of custody and visitation, perhaps with an understanding that you will revisit the issue if your ex-husband seeks treatment for alcoholism. I also encourage you to check out a support group such as Al-Anon Family Groups or SMART Recovery Family & Friends, if you haven’t already.