Dear Barb – Divorcing Addiction

Dear Barb:

My wife and I recently divorced. We had been married for ten years and have one daughter who is fourteen years old. My wife has had addiction problems throughout our marriage. She comes from a family where addiction and substance abuse problems are rampant. Eventually it became too much for me, so my wife moved out. I gave her a large cash settlement and we share custody of our daughter. But I was worried because my wife has been sharing an apartment with her brother who has ongoing addiction problems. When I expressed my concern, she assured me everything was good, she wasn’t using drugs, and her brother doesn’t bring any drugs into the apartment when our daughter is there. Except this weekend my ex-wife admitted to me that she has been using cocaine and spent all the money that I gave her in the divorce settlement on drugs, plus she lost her job. She has to be out of her apartment by the end of the month and doesn’t know where to turn. I told her that until she admits to our daughter that she has a drug problem and makes arrangements to get help, I’m not letting our daughter go back there. In the mean time I know she wants me to help her out financially. I don’t want to but I don’t want my daughter to hate me for not helping her mother. I just don’t know what to do. Is it my responsibility to help out my ex? Thanks, Jeff.

Hi Jeff:

You are in a difficult situation. It’s very stressful to live with an addict and once children are involved it becomes even more complex. Your priority has to be the safety of your daughter. Your ex will promise many things but, as I’m sure you know, addicts rarely follow through on promises. I would advise you to contact Alcoholics Anonymous as I’m sure they will be able to direct you to the resources you need. Also they will most likely suggest you get your daughter involved in Alateen. Alateen provides support for young people who are dealing with someone’s addiction problem. The meetings give teens somewhere to go to discuss their feelings with others who are in similar situations. Addiction affects everyone! You don’t mention your daughter’s age, but you should seek legal advice to keep her safe. Perhaps supervised visits will be necessary if she is still young. Alateen also provides help for preteens and will be able to supply information to help your daughter cope her mother’s unpredictable behaviour. It’s imperative that you get your daughter help before your ex actually gets evicted from her apartment as that will be a confusing time for your daughter, because you don’t know where your ex will end up. It is not your responsibility to help your ex financially. That’s just enabling her behaviour. You may be able to help her find a treatment center, or if she is still under your work benefits, investigate which benefits she would qualify for as your ex. Remember this addiction problem belongs to your ex wife, not to you. Best of Luck Jeff.

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