I didn't even want these kids!

My alcoholic cokehead husband said, Let's raise a brood! Then we split up

Published September 21, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Hi Cary,

I read your column religiously. Now I am going to tell you my problem.

I am a mom of three teenagers, and divorced. I never even wanted to be a mom, but my ex had wanted kids. He was addicted to alcohol and cocaine, and although heartbroken that I left him, he is not at all a parent.

So, for the last few years, I have been single parenting, and finishing my degree. Here is the problem. At school, I get straight A's. But my first work experiences have not gone well. I think I have ADD -- inattentive. I am sure I have something -- maybe SCT -- sluggish cognitive tempo.

I am so aware of my deficiencies -- my tiredness, my slowness in understanding what is going on.

Half a year ago, my son had an accident. He is not quite the same since. He "hates" me. He is verbally abusive and is sometimes physically threatening. I lose my temper and threaten him that he can live with his dad. He doesn't want to, although he thinks his dad is a "good" parent. His dad does not want him, actually.

My oldest daughter, is depressed and currently not enrolled in any school. I think my son's accident has affected her but I want her to learn from it -- learn to be true to herself, learn that all the pressures of high school really aren't that important. She is going to shadow at a high school in a few days, when she is ready.

Here is my question. What do you do when you are in your 40s, and you figure out you may have a problem, a learning disability? You have tried your whole life to cover up from being different, and then you fail, and your children probably inherited your problems?

All my life people have been saying, "You should have been a blond," meaning I am an airhead, and I am not, I just don't understand things as quickly as others.

I may not be making sense. I have had a few glasses of wine, and am crying. I get child support, and alimony -- thing are OK but tight financially. I just wonder how I can have a good life, make my challenges a strength, etc., and how to help my kids have a good life -- although they seem to have inherited all my weaknesses?


A Tired Mom of Three

Dear Tired Mom of Three,

It makes sense that for the last few years you have been learning skills that will help you make a living and support your children. But your ADD and the conflicts you are having with your children signal that now it is time to learn a program for coping with life. It is time to make the transition from learning vocational skills to learning personal coping skills.

There is no one solution or diagnosis. Rather, you need a general program for responding to adversity. If you can bring yourself to accept some continuing support then I predict your chances of getting through the next few years in reasonably happy and whole form will increase.

Originally formulated by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and set down in "The Big Book," the 12 Steps of AA have been adapted to various other life situations in which it becomes clear that our own agency is insufficient. Since your ex-husband was addicted to alcohol and cocaine, I suggest you look into Al-Anon.

Al-Anon is set up on the principles of AA but aimed at helping those around the alcoholic whose lives have been affected. Participants tell me that it helps them deal with situations beyond their control. My understanding is that it teaches one to set boundaries and let go.

As I say, there is no quick solution. Though your problems are acute, they share two characteristics with the problems we all have: They keep changing, and they are beyond your control. That is why a broad approach to coping day-to-day, such as the one espoused by Al-Anon, could be helpful to you.

It's also likely that if you have felt less than capable in your job and your relations with others, the patience you find in Al-Anon people will give you comfort. If people around you are intolerant and quick to judge or dismiss what you say, then it will be reassuring to find people who will hear you out.

It may be that greater involvement of professionals is also warranted. It may turn out that medications will help. I'm not an expert in those areas. I just think that if you can get a little regular support and comfort, you will be better able to make decisions about school and doctors. And you might sleep better.

Having a program for daily living will provide the inner peace and serenity needed to deal with crises.

It won't completely fix anything. But it will improve everything.

By Cary Tennis

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