Q&A: Drunk Daddy

This is the post that's been stopping me from posting this week. I couldn't get past it, but still don't know exactly what to say.

Amy writes:

"I have been searching your siteand could not find advice or feedback on how to deal with Alcoholism in the home. My spouse is an alcoholic. I, as a first time mom, am finding the stress of juggling the sucking vortex of sleep disturbances/teething while watching the clock from 4:30 till 5:00pm(is he coming home from work or is he stopping for a "quickie" at the usual watering hole?) with the vigilance of a death row inmate wating for a stay/phone call from the governor before the lethal injection to be altogether too much for me. I am attending a weekly Al-anon meeting, and thank God I can bring the baby along. I stay at home and have been unable to get a sitter, let alone pay for one. We are living on one income and it is just not making it.  Also, I have a weekly family therapy session, and I have been taking the baby there too. It's a blessing that our insurance for mental heath care does not require a co-pay! And I can go up to 52 sessions a year! Whoo-hoo, cause I need 'em, I really do. Not only is motherhood kicking my ass, but feeling something like a single parent was something I hadn't bargained for.

    I say SOMETHING LIKE, because I am not faced with leaving my baby with a childcare provider or family member while going to work/school. Ugh. Hats off to you ladies and gents who are doing this alone! My mom did it with five kids and when I ask her for advice, she simply states, "honey, I can't even remember the Vietnam War. How am I supposed to remember how I fed/dressed/diapered 5 kids on a police cadet's salary in the sixities?

    So what to do, what to do. I feel like I cannot leave the baby in his care and get out of the house alone for a spell, which I need to do DESPARATELY-even if it is running errands on the Mommy Clock. That's if he even makes it home at a reasonable hour. By reasonable, I mean 7:30pm, for the whole bedtime routine. If he does make it home, he usually is pretty buzzed or completely innebriated, so much so that I cringe when he picks up the baby and walks around the house with him. Not like he's ever dropped him, but it still makes me nervous. So husband might spend 1/2 hour with baby a day, sometimes, and then he generally passes out in front of the TV. Husbands says he fell asleep, but I know better. Anyway, he's gonna do what he's gonna do, while I am concentrating on everything else that needs to be done, with safety first on my mind.

    I sent a few questions your way this week regarding sleep and routine, etc., etc., and I feel my husband's behavior (not spending time with our child, walking funny, talking funny when he is home) is contributing to Grumpy's overall development, bar none the loosey-gooseyness of our ever deteriorating schedule.

I am trying to get husband involved, with bath time and feeding (we are in our first week of cereal 2x a day) but he can't be here at any given time after work hours.

Should I give up, or will pressing the importance of the routine issue become a routine in itself? He won't change diapers sober, but he dotes on the baby after a few beers, let me tell you. Help! I feel like I am searching for the tv remote in the bedcovers at night without waking the baby in bed with me, and all I have to search with is a single foot and a dim light at the end of the hall.

    How can a girl find a free sitter? What are sitters charging nowadays? Who can you trust? My son, 6 months old, is going through that clingy,teething,no-sleep stage; so in a way, I feel the idea of handing him over to someone else is an impossible dream, and therefore a moot point.What options do I have? My sanity is involved here. I am nursing him round the clock, and daddy won't give a the baby a bottle, unless he's been drinking, and even that takes timing. Shit. This truely sucks.  

    If you choose to consider posting this, please, you have my thanks. However, once I send this email, I will delete it from my sent messages. I just don't want any more confrontation from husband. It's hard enough getting to a weekly meeting; he's so defensive and in denial."

Oh, girl. I'm just so sorry. This email is sucking the fight out of me just reading it, so I can't imagine how it must be to be living it.

First, get a free web-based email address from gmail.com or yahoo.com or hotmail.com that's just yours. Don't let him know  you have it, and clear the browsing history of your browser before he comes home. Then email me back.

Now, here's what I want you to know, even if you can't do anything about it right now: This is not your fault, and you are built for something better than living in fear of someone in the throes of a disease he can't control and is denying. You are meant for something more, Something far better, and something that makes use of who you are and what you can be. And your son deserves far better than he's getting right now, too. You're going to have to leave. Even if you can't do it now, you know it. When you're ready to, you will. Thousands of women have done it and are doing it, so you can, too. And we'll be right here to help you.

And it's not safe for him to be in charge of your baby. When he's sober he might be a wonderful guy. But alcoholism changes people and makes them behave in ways that are not rational. Until he gets into recovery, you cannot trust him with your son. And there is nothing you can do to get him out of denial and into recovery. Your job is to protect your son and yourself. You are the family unit at this point, because your husband is allowing himself to be absent and dangerous. Asking for or trying to get help and responsibility from him is simply not an option, because he's deep into this illness and just can't be trusted.

It sounds like what you need right now is a friend with a child who can trade some babysitting with you. You can leave your child with her for a few hours and then she can leave her child with you for a few hours. (But please please don't take her child while your husband is home--his active alcoholism makes it an unsafe situation.)

I don't have personal experience with Al-Anon or AA, but from my outsider's perspective I wonder if you could approach anyone in your group to ask for some help. It sounds like the alcoholism is making *you* feel ashamed and is limiting your social contacts, and that's tragic. You need all the support you can get right now. Can someone who's been (or is in) either Al-Anon or AA comment about whether she could approach other people in the group, or if that's not something that's done? It just seems to me like those are people with whom Amy wouldn't have to pretend that everything is OK.

This post is dedicated to the memory of D.E., who died yesterday at the age of 37 from complications of alcoholism.

Does anyone have any words of support or advice for Amy? Any women who've gotten out of alcoholic situations? Any people who grew up in alcoholic homes? Any women who are crying reading this like I'm crying typing it?