Love Over Addiction Podcast with Susan

Hey there, it’s Michelle Lisa Anderson and I am so glad you joined me for the new Love Over Addiction podcast. This is a limited series podcast where you’ll be hearing the brave and courageous stories of women who are a member of our Secret Facebook Group. They are our sisters who have joined one of the online programs at and who raised their hands when I asked them if anyone would be willing to share her story.


Today, Susan will be sharing her story of loving a very successful, kind man who is an alcoholic. We will be discussing his health issues, what he did after rehab and if she drinks in front of him when they go out.


And even though this call starts out as an interview, by the end, they sometimes end up being a coaching call. Susan opened up to me about her issues with his family and how they are enablers. So not only does she have to deal with her husband’s issues, she’s now struggling with his family’s baggage and poor choices towards her.


In this episode I offer her practical tools that she can use that will help set boundaries with his family and, if implemented correctly, will bring her a world of peace. I even share the reason why difficult family members can be her greatest gift.


So make sure you hang in until the end. The Love Over Addiction podcast is much longer than our weekly Wife of An Alcoholic Podcast that’s filled with practical tips.


This special series took hours and hours of work, so if you find it helpful, and you know a woman who needs some answers, hope, and encouragement, please share this episode with her. We can hold hands and walk through this together. That’s what the Love Over Addiction movement is all about.


Are you ready to be inspired by Susan’s amazing story? I hope you are. Let’s get started.


Michelle: Thank you again so much for agreeing to share your experience with me. I’m very, very grateful.


Susan: Well, absolutely.


M: Where I like to start is by asking you how did you meet your husband, and when did you start to see red flags? When did you start to sort of get hints that there might be an issue with his drinking?


S: My husband and I went to high school together in a smaller town in Texas. We went to high school together in one of the little towns that everybody knows everyone. We were one of the couples and he was a great guy— smart, handsome, funny, football player. He and I dated all through high school, all through college and then went our separate ways for three years after college and really had no intention of getting back together. We were always still friends, but there were certain circumstances that led us to start communicating again, and we got back together and were married four months after that.

He has always been just really— it’s almost hard to remember my life without him because we’ve been together for so long. We got married and had a baby right away and then moved again. He is in sales, so we’ve moved quite a bit. The first time that I thought hmmm what is going on? with the drinking— our baby was born in October and my birthday is in November, so my mom came up to Chicago to stay with the baby so he and I could go out for my birthday, and he was drunk. I mean like slurring drunk before we went out. I was like “what in the world is going on?”

Every day I thought a lot about it, and I think that was my first red flag that something’s not right here. I remember telling my mother the next day “I’m worried about this.” My son is 25 now, so that was 25 years ago. My mother said, “I Can tell something’s not right, and I just hate to see you in this situation.” So we did have that conversation, but years went by. We were social people. We liked to go to parties and hang with our friends, and there was always beer and wine and all that around, and he was never inappropriate. I never had to tell him to stop drinking at a party. It was never anything like that.


M: So you’re saying he wasn’t like an angry drunk, or he wasn’t verbally abusive. So he did not change his personality when he started drinking or was it just more of the nice funny guy?


S: It was more of the nice funny guy except when we would have a happy occasion, like a birthday or Christmas or we’re going out for our anniversary. We’d get dressed and we’d come out of the bedroom and he was just like I said: slurring drunk. I am like “Why are you doing this? What is going on?”

We’d go out for our anniversary every time with him like that. I finally said, “You know what, we’re not going out for our anniversary anymore. I don’t know what it is, but I will not sit there with you in a restaurant and be so upset and just watch you slurring your words and lying and saying you hadn’t had anything.” That went on, but he would do that and then we might end up going months without another incident.


M: So when you said that to him, when you said, “I refuse to go out with you on these special occasions,” what was his response to you?


S: He didn’t really care. He just said, “Whatever.” He would just blow it off, and then the next holiday or the next occasion would come up and somehow he would talk me into or make it seem like, “Oh my gosh, I wouldn’t ever do that, never, never.”  Actually, he would make me think I was crazy and that I was remembering things the wrong way and that he had not done that— that I was you know misrepresenting the whole thing which was not true at all.


M: So he belittled what your experience and your feelings were?


S: Yes, very much so, very much so. Anyway, we skipped forward to just having kids in high school and all that. He had a very stressful, demanding job, and he had to travel a lot for his job. There were years where he would be gone Monday through Thursday. And like I said, he would come home on the weekends. We would go do our thing. He was never out of control at parties or with friends.

M: Has he ever shown you signs of anything else that he’s addicted to with drinking or drugs or pornography or infidelity? Is there any of that a going on in your marriage?


S: No, there is not. The only thing he is addicted to is tobacco and alcohol.


M: Do you drink in front of him still? Do you drink around him?


S: No no no. I don’t.


M: You don’t. You said, in the beginning, you went to parties and such, so have you always been a non-drinker? Or is this something you’ve adjusted?


S: No no no. I have always enjoyed my wine, and he knows that. I absolutely drank in front of him until just a while back when he had to go to rehab. Every now and then I would still drink in front of him because the rehab place— you go to a restaurant and it’s ok, so I did. But then things just got worse, so I changed my mind.


M: Tell me about rehab. What happened when he went to rehab? How did you get him there? Or how did he get there?


S: He got there. He was doing all that traveling, and I kept noticing he looked sick and dropped forty pounds for no reason. I said, “Something is wrong. You’re not healthy. Something is wrong.” He wouldn’t go to the doctor, and I’m a nurse, so I knew. I said, “Something is really wrong.”

He got let go from his job or laid off, not because of alcohol. It was because they did this massive layoff for the VPs in the company, and he just went downhill when I finally got him to go to the doctor. We didn’t have any life insurance because we didn’t work for that company anymore. I said, “We’ve got to get life insurance.” So he went and failed the life insurance screening, so I said, “You’ve got to go the doctor.” I found one, made the appointment, and he went and he was diagnosed with stage four Liver Cirrhosis.

M: Wow.


S: He had been drinking the entire time completely on the down low. Just in secret— in hiding. It was the most stunning thing I have ever— It’s hard to wrap my brain around.


M: So he was drinking at home and you didn’t know? He was hiding the alcohol in the closet?


S: Right, right. He was drinking yes, yes.


M: Especially when he was traveling. That makes sense.


S: Yes, yes.


M: He was gone four days a week.


S: I found it in the closet, I found it up in his office, everywhere.


M: So he had become a very high functioning alcoholic.


S: Yes


M: This is a very common issue. You said he got fired because they let go of VPs, so I’m thinking he is successful. Here he is, a successful man who travels for a living, so someone has to have his stuff together. He’s drinking in quantities so high that he’s caused himself stage four liver damage which is just amazing to think of. I can’t imagine how stunned you must have been.


S: Oh, it was. I said there are no words. It was devastating.


M: Did it scare him enough to get sober?


S: I don’t know, I really I can’t— that was January of 2016, and I said, “You need to go to rehab.” [He said] “No no no, I don’t. I don’t have to drink. I can just do this on my own.” That didn’t last long. So in February, he went to rehab because he was still drinking, and I said, “I’m not going to sit around and watch you drink and just die right in front of me.” Because he is very sick. He really is. We’ve got the Varices and the Cortel Hypertension and everything that goes with that kind of liver disease. So he went to rehab. Everything was going to be great. It was about two hours from where we live, so I could go and see him every weekend and the kids—


M: So he was inpatient rehab? It was inpatient?


S: Yes, yes it was for 28 days. He came back and, of course, made all the promises. We made all the plans, and the family did all this talking and counseling and therapy, and everything was going to be great, but he didn’t last very long. He was continuing to drink on the down low, and I knew it, so we would just go back and forth back and forth. I finally told him after he came back— it wasn’t long after that— that he could no longer be in the home if he was drinking. I had a 16-year-old daughter still at home, and she was traumatized by this because he acts so unstable now when he’s drinking. So I said, “You cannot drink.”


M: how does he act now?


S: Well right now, he is extremely unstable. He’s out of the house. He just got back from rehab last Thursday again, and he was drinking the day after, so I had to have him leave again. He’s serious, and it’s really just kind of a mess.


M: You know what’s interesting about your story, and I want to go back to your daughter in a minute, but what I think is really interesting is a lot of women think that if they can just get them to rehab, then the rehab is going to do all the work that they were trying to do the last several years, and then they’re going to come home fixed. But the problem with that is that whatever we’ve been doing at home trying to fix them, that’s pretty much more or less what a rehab does. Give or take some different tools obviously. And a lot more qualified people to do that job.

But the underlying reason why rehab fails, and it fails often— If you do some research, you can see that one time is usually not enough. I remember going to visit my ex-husband at a very fancy rehab place, and it was shocking to me. I sat down with all of his new friends there to eat lunch, and there were people there that had gone to 7, 14, 18 rehabs. That blew me away to think I just thought that one time is enough. Isn’t it enough?

But the reason why rehabs don’t work when they don’t work, sometimes they do, it’s not dependent necessarily on the rehabs. I’ve had people in our community whose husbands have gone and it’s $3,000 -$2,000 for a visit, and there have been women in our community whose husbands have gone and it’s $70,000 for a month.

There are varying success rates. I found that it’s not necessarily the rehab or the 12 steps or spiritual or whatever, it’s the intention of the man when they go. How truthful are they willing to be with one who helps them? How much are they really willing to lay down their lies and admit that they can’t ever go back to the ways things were? Often times, so many of those people go to rehab because they are guilted or threatened or strong-armed or court-ordered into those rehabs. So if that’s the case, you’re probably not going to have that heart change in that facility.


S: Right.


M: Does that make sense? I think it’s a really big issue for women like us, I think we think that’s the answer. If we could just get them there and then— and I hear so many times, including my husband and yours, they come home and it’s one day, one week, and then they’re back to their old ways. It’s a very common problem.


S: Yes, I agree. I have another factor in this too. He has a sister. His parents are both deceased, but he has a sister that is, in my opinion, very misguided and misplaced, and she thinks it is her job to direct him on what to do, and says, “He’s got to go to rehab again,” and “I’m calling my friend in Florida,” and “I’m getting him in there and I’m doing this,” and “This is what he’s got to do.”

So I am constantly fighting that battle. And I have not figured out, even though I listen so much to that program over and over and over, I still have not navigated my way through that and how to handle her. It is like trying to stop a freight train with a feather. It’s unbelievable. And that’s really how he—

M: So give me an example. Because I can help you right now. We can do it together right now. We’ll troubleshoot. Because I get the frustration of having family members that don’t respect your boundaries and your role as the wife. So let’s talk about that. Because that’s a great subject, and I’m sure lots of people can learn from this.


S: Yes. Ok


M: So give me an example of one of the ways that she takes on his recovery as her job.


S: She positions herself, no matter what happens, she positions herself in the middle of everything. If she is not updated and called and is not allowed to give me her advice, opinion, permission, then she’s just very irate and strong. She’s got a very strong personality. She’s kind of a strong person in this town, and as far as one example, I’m sure I could think of a thousand, but it’s such a force on a daily basis.


M: Does she check in with you every day?


S: Yes, she does.


M: And how does she check in with you?


S: Phone, texting, showing up at the front door.


M: So she lives locally?


S: Yes, she does.


M: What does your husband do when that happens?


S: Not much. They have a very codependent relationship with each other. And so he doesn’t think anything of it. He doesn’t. He actually thinks that she knows a lot more about this and is smarter and better and is nicer to him and loves him more than I ever could. So I fight that. You know what, there are way too many people in this marriage.


M: So you’re both battling for your husband’s attention and approval?


S: Yes, exactly.


M: It’s like he sets this up so that you two are in conflict over how to accomplish what he should be doing, which is the way that this disease is manipulating you.


S: Yes. And I’ll give you one short example of when he was in rehab. She called me and said, “I just want you to know that I can’t talk to my friend that works at the rehab. I can’t talk to him about my brother. I can’t because he didn’t put me on the HIPPA form.” I just sat there and went, “Well, uh…” and in my mind I’m thinking, thank God, but she had her friend bring that HIPPA form in while he was there and said, “I need to be updating your sister on how you’re doing, so will you put her on here?” Just stuff like that.


M: Ok.


S: She’s like, “I need to be on his HIPPA form so I can get all the information.” When that happened and that guy out of Florida was calling her, instead of me, I was like, “You know what, this has just gone off the rails.”

M: Ok. So do you want my advice?


S: Yes, I would love it.


M: Alright. I’m going to give it to you, and you might not like it. I’m just letting you know.


S: It doesn’t even matter whether I like it or not.


M: Ok, so here’s my best advice for you: I think that your sister-in-law is probably the greatest gift that ever happened to you as far as your husband’s addiction is concerned.


S: Okay…


M: You can’t take on addiction and your sister in law. And you shouldn’t, and you don’t have to. The reason why she’s the greatest gift for you is because she’s willing to take on all the responsibility that you shouldn’t. Let her deal with him entirely.


S: Ok.


M: If she was not in your life right now, I would be giving you this exact advice. You don’t need to talk to anybody at rehab. That’s his job. He can figure out his own recovery. You don’t need to be doing any paperwork or any kind of insurance forms. That’s his job. He has to own his recovery. You don’t need to update anybody, including him, on any doctors on any of your— I know you’re a nurse because it’s very hard for you to let go of all the medical needs here.


S: Yeah, I have done that. I have completely told him that that’s all his.


M: Yeah, good.


S: And that has helped some.

M: All of it is his. So tonight, I want you to make a list of everything that you are doing that “helps him in his recovery,” and then I want you to cross each thing off and say, “I will no longer be doing this.” And here’s the deal: you can assign it to her! Let her deal with it. Let her be the one because here’s the deal: she needs her own recovery, right?

Her parents are dead, she’s taking on this role that- and we don’t want to talk too much about her because she’s not a part of this conversation, but there’s some growth and recovery and healing that needs to come from her. She’s doing this because she’s anxious, because she feels over responsible because she’s taking on roles that don’t belong to her. That’s not your job to convince her of that. She’ll come to a point in her life where she’ll realize all the effort that she’s been making is not paying off at all. That the behavior will stop.


S: Right


M: But until that happens, there is nothing you can do to convince that woman to stop behaving like this.


S: Ok, that is something different. I’m not kidding. That’s good for me because I’ve been thinking of it the total opposite way.

M: Good. And here’s the deal: it’s not your job either. It’s neither one of your jobs. And this man is going to stay sick as long as you two keep this charade up. So, think of it as a play because you’re all playing these roles. Think of it as a play, a drama, and he’s up on stage and he’s behaving these terrible ways, and she walks on stage and she acts this certain way to him. What you’re going to do is you’re actually going to go backstage, take off your costume, grab your purse and your keys, and you’re going to say, “I’m leaving this theatre. I’m leaving this play. You all can carry on with this codependent relationship. I’m out.”

And then every time she comes— and you need to communicate this with her so that she’s no longer calling you because you’re not going to answer the phone. She’s no longer texting you because you’re going to block her. She’s going to be calling the person who she has the issue with which is her brother. If she wants an update, she can get it from him. If she shows up at your door, then if he’s there, let her in, by all means, say, “Come on in, he’s in the living room.”

And you know where you go? The bedroom. And you lock the door and you turn on the tv or you read a book or you grab your keys and you go to the grocery store or go to the mall or you make yourself busy. You stay completely out of this. You are removing yourself from this very sick, very dysfunctional triangular relationship. You’re the one who is going to get super healthy here. You can’t control whether he can, and you can’t control whether she can, but you definitely can control if you can.


S: Right


M: And as long as you’re still involved in this, you’re never going to get healthy. You’re never going— it’s not going to happen. Your recovery will not be complete. And you owe this to your daughter too. Because she needs to see from somebody, another grown woman, how to behave. And she will learn from you not to engage in dysfunctional behavior. She will learn how to exit codependent relationships.


S: Yeah.


M: And that’s the key. That’s your answer right there.


S: Ok.


M: Are you prepared to do that?


S: I am, I am.


M: It’s going to take courage because you’re going to have to be strong about it.


S: I may not even have to do much because she’s extremely angry with me because I didn’t call when he relapsed. I didn’t call her and tell her. I was like, I just can’t deal with her. And I have enough to deal with.

M: That’s why you have to fill her in on your plan. That’s why you have to have— and here’s how it works. Ok, Susan, it takes one time, one difficult conversation, and if you can’t have a conversation about it, put it in an email because sometimes bullies are too big of a bully and you just need to get it out on paper and send it to her.

But you need to tell her your plan. You need to say “I’m exhausted. I have to take care of my daughter because I’m her biggest advocate right now, and this drinking and all the shenanigans that are going on in the house is not acceptable, so I’m going to choose to take care of the one person that I know God gave me to care for. All my focus, all my energy, and all my attention is now going to go toward my daughter and the dynamic of our relationship. And if you would like to continue to pick up the pieces and play the caretaker role with your brother, I give you full access and full permission. But I am removing myself from this situation because it is no longer healthy to me, and it is having an extremely terrible effect on my daughter.”

Then you’re going to outline your boundary. You’re going to say “Here’s what’s going to happen from this point. I will no longer be updating you. Your brother’s health is your brother’s responsibility to communicate to you. I will be removing myself and be blocking your number from my cell phone and from any kind of text or any kind of communication. You can communicate as much as you like with him directly. Please feel free. You’re welcome to stop by our home any time you want to, and you can have a sit down with him and talk with him at any point in time. But I will not be in the room and nor will my daughter.”


S: Ok,  I’m you telling that is something new and different. And when you explain it and describe it, now it is the right way. I know it is. And that’s absolutely what I should do. I’ll now, all of a sudden, I can just exhale. Just thinking about doing that.


M: Yes, it’s a boundary. That’s how you know it’s right. That’s how you know it’s healthy for you. And that’s how you know it’s healthy for your daughter. Because you can exhale. Because it gives you the space to stop accepting the responsibility for things that are not your responsibility.


S: Right, right


M: You’re detaching from all of the dysfunction. And you’re getting your priorities straight. Which is not this drainage and suckage of addiction that’s going on between your sister-in-law and her brother. I can’t even imagine the amount of energy that takes from you. That you could be putting, and you should be putting, towards your daughter who is suffering and is traumatized. And putting energy into you! Into your self-care, into your recovery, and into your healing. That’s what needs to happen. One hundred percent of everything that you’ve been invested in this dynamic of a relationship needs to transfer completely over to you and your daughter.


S: That is so true, and I am going to absolutely work in that direction and follow that advice and follow that path because nothing else has worked so far. That’s got to be the way to do it.


M: It is.


S: And I’ll really communicate that with her and set those boundaries. He’s staying at her house now and everything so I really don’t have to deal with a whole lot of it.


M: Great


S: So because he’s out there where she would never let him, and then she did and I  was glad. I was like “Fine, go please.”


M: Yeah. And you can do the same for him too. You are allowed to. Now I know from reading your pre-interview questions, I believe if I’ve got this correct, that you would like reconciliation in your marriage. Is that correct? Is that your goal?


S: That is what I want. I’m not sure that’s going to be a possibility now because he physically— biochemically what he has done to his brain from all this drinking is he’s poisoned his brain. He really has and when your liver cannot detoxify all that alcohol, it goes straight to your brain. And so that’s why he acts so unstable and so erratically, and so I can’t live with it anymore. I really am in the process of— I’ve already seen an attorney. I haven’t made the decision yet because when I do it’s done and I’m moving forward, but I am positioning myself to do that.


M: Well, that’s very smart. Good for you.


S: When I say I want reconciliation, yes, I think when I typed that pre-interview thing, this was before he’d gone back to rehab and all that. And like I said, I won’t go through the whole same shenanigans again because he’s done some extremely unsafe and unstable things, so I can’t live like that and put my daughter in that position.


M: Thank you. Honestly, I think where you’re at right now is so healthy and so strong and you are on the tail end of your recovery. I’ve spoken to women who are just beginning or right in the middle and not quite sure, but I can hear from you and just know you are at the very end of the slump.


S: Really? That is so interesting for me to hear from you because I don’t know, I still feel like I’m just now sort of getting it. But maybe by the time you do it and read it and it sinks in a little bit more and a little bit more, so I do I think that’s interesting to hear. I really do.


M: Yeah, well it’s hard to have perspective on your own life when you’re in the middle of it. But I’m an outsider and I can look in, and I can hear and I know and I’ve been doing this for seven years now, so I can tell where women are in their stage of recovery. I can see if it’s the recovery swamp which it sure as heck feels like it.

And at the end, you’ve got about seven more strokes left and you are ready to start emerging. And I think when you start emerging out of the swamp because you’ve done the work, because you’ve listened to the program and you really have done the work, that you are going to be amazed at how beautifully and wonderfully new you look and you feel when you emerge out of that swamp. You will be a new woman. You and your daughter will have a fabulous and wonderful future for yourselves because you were willing to get in the swamp to begin with.

A lot of women stay outside and stick their head in the sand and don’t want to face the truth and don’t want to do the work and think that it’s all about getting him sober and if he just got sober it would be better. But you jumped in, and I’m so proud of you and I can tell that everything that you’ve done to this point is going to pay off. Really.


S: Wow. Thank you. I hope so. It’s very scary, and there’s a lot to take care of and deal with, but what’s the alternative? Living in this pain and this turmoil— it’s just not an option anymore.


M: I love. I think that’s so wise. What is the alternative? Is this really how you want to live the rest of your life? Is this how you want your kid to live the rest of her life? For some women, it is. For some women, they’re ok with it. And that’s why we never do judgment, and we never tell people to leave. But when you know that you can no longer do it, that it’s no longer an option for you, you’re right. The only way to get through it is to move forward.

So let’s talk about the fear around that. Because I think that’s really important. I remember when I filed for divorce— it’s funny because you think that you’ve gone through the most difficult part which is the addiction and that now that you’re exiting, you think, well, I’m leaving so, therefore, this should just be very simple and very quick and very easy to do. That’s usually not the case, usually.

S: Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to be the case at all. I really don’t. It’s going to be monumentally difficult. I feel it would be much easier to stay here and, I know it’s going to be extremely difficult in every aspect: emotionally, financially, as a mother, as a daughter, as a sister. In every aspect of my entire life, it’s going to be monumentally hard, but that’s what I’m trying to get prepared for.


M: Good. How are you getting prepared?


S: Like I said, I found an attorney that I really like who is a big advocate for women in my position, and I love her. I really do. And she told me, “This is your decision. All I’m going to do is,” she’s taken all the information and she said, “I’m just I’m here. I’m just going to wait. You let me know.” So I said, “I will.” And I have been putting some money away, so I’ve been doing that. It’s not anything whopping big.


M: Good for you.


S: It’s something that I can at least, maybe for just a little while, live on. I’ve worked part time my entire career, and I know that I am going to have to find something full time so I can get benefits, so anyway…Like I said, I pray a lot about it and I think— the best thing I think I have ever heard or read, it wasn’t even in the program, it was one of the podcasts that says, “What do you think God wants you to do?”

I bet I had listened to that. I had written the entire thing, and that helped me more than anything. It really did. Those are words of just absolute, I don’t know, genius. Somebody that has been there and knows what’s really important. And I just want to tell you: it has meant the world to me. It really has. That one podcast.


M: Thank you for sharing that with me. I’m so grateful. I love hearing that because that podcast is a labor of love, let me tell you. Doing that content every week takes up so much time.

S: I saw that and I thought, I don’t know how you do that. That is hard. I can only imagine. But everyone is just magical, it really is.


M: Thank you. But thank you for bringing that one specifically up. I appreciate that because it means the world to me to know that people are listening. Particularly with the podcasts, because you never know. You’re like, is anyone out there? I’m sure I’m talking to myself. So thank you for that. I’m really grateful. I love the feedback.


S: That is not the case. Not in my situation anyway, not the case at all. I wait. When I get an email that another one has come up, I’m like, oh, I can’t wait to open it!


M: Oh, thank you. Thank you for saying that. I really mean that. I wrote down everything that you’re doing, and everything that you’re doing is genius. Truly. If I were to coach you, this is exactly what I would tell you to do.


S: Right. Is there anything else you can think of that I should be doing?


M: Let’s talk about your finances a little bit because I think that’s an area that a lot of women are not familiar with.


S: Right


M: I just want to make sure you’re putting money away into a bank account that does not have his name on it, correct?


S: Correct, yes.


M: Also, have you done an itemized budget where you look through all of your potential expenses if you were to live on your own? So your daughter’s activities—


S: No, I have not done that. I have not, but it’s in my lawyer’s packet, and that’s one thing  I’ve got to sit down and do.


M: One piece of advice with that because that is something that your lawyer will— yeah, she asks for that. That’s great. Do one on your own first, and really as co— I hate using the word codependent for multiple reasons, but as women who love to please people, we tend to rip ourselves off when it comes to finances and think, oh I can make do with just this and I don’t really want to take that much money from him.

Obviously, I’m not telling you or advising you to be greedy, but be fair to yourself. Be fair to yourself.  Be realistic because the last thing you want to do is put yourself in a position where you’re working so hard and so much to make up the difference, that you can’t be the mother that you need to be to your daughter. Or you can’t afford the things that— I saw how much you’ve spent on this addiction with the beers, the alcohol, the rehabs, all of it.

I want you to keep that number in mind because here’s the issue: addiction still needs to be fed, right? Whether you leave or not, he’s going to continue to spend money on the alcohol and probably some legal issues. So you need to take that into consideration and go, “The money that I’m asking for, I’m not taking it away from this very responsible man who’s going to look at putting all his money into a Roth IRA.” That money you’re actually taking from addiction. From beers. From— does that make sense?


S: Yeah. No, that’s an interesting, good way to look at it I think.


M: Yeah, and of course a judge, or if you go to mediation, will have their own opinion about what is fair, but I do think that you need to take that into consideration because a lot of times we women, especially if we’re the ones that are leaving, feel guilty and therefore try to make up for it by overly giving or overly giving up too much.


S: Yeah, I could definitely see myself doing some of that, so I need to be definitely aware of that.


M: Yeah.


S: Like I said, he’s been unemployed, and he just now supposedly— I don’t even know that much about it. It happened right when he got home from rehab. He has a new job and all, so I don’t know how he will even do this job. Now that he does have a job and he’s going to be traveling again, it’s just insane, but I don’t feel the need as much to be charitable because he has a big earning potential.


M: Good. Have you discussed visitation with your daughter?


S: No, I haven’t. And that was something when I went to talk to my lawyer that she discussed with me, and I was floored. There’s a lot I don’t know about paternity law or any of that. I don’t know anything. And I’m going to have to somehow think about that and decide. I just thought, she sixteen she can pretty much really do what she wants, and my lawyer is like, “Yeah, not so much.” She explained to me what could happen, so I’m going to have to think about that.

M: Do you think he’s going to want to be around her? That sounds like a harsh question, but like a lot of times okay


S: Yeah, no


M: Do you really believe that?


S: Yes, I do. I think that he will very sporadically. He’s not going to want custody of her, or  I can not see that happening. But he will want to see her.


M: So what you can do there— and I’m sure you know this by now. I just have two helpful tips for you there. Then I know we need to wrap up. But I think this is super important.


S: Okay.


M: If you can prove that he has an alcohol or addiction problem, and you probably can do that because he’s been to rehab, or if he freely admits it, and you can have a something built into your parenting plan, For example, you can have a guardian ad litem or an approved person at all visitations that you select. So you can say “Ok, I might not need you to be there, but my mother will be there. Or my aunt, or a friend, and they’ll be court appointed people that will be a third party in that visitation to make sure that your daughter feels safe.


S: Ok.


M: Number two: you will always need to fight this hard. They will make him do some sort of breathalyzer test and you can have the results linked. I just found out about this from somebody else in our community in another interview I did. You can have him breathe into a breathalyzer before the visitation and have the results sent to you so that if he fails this test, your visitation is no bueno. Not going to happen.


S: Uh huh. Okay.


M: That assures your daughter that he is sober at least when he comes to pick her up or when he meets her. You can’t communicate to her. You can’t guarantee while he’s with her. The other thing I would suggest, and this is the most important thing is a lot of times, we as parents don’t want to run the risk of speaking poorly about our children’s fathers, and I never advise that ever. But what I do advise is it’s our job as their advocate to inform them and communicate to them and give them the tools they need during these visitations, and they have to figure out and navigate how to handle an alcoholic. Whether he’s sober or not.

That’s your job to educate her, so you need to run through scenarios with her before the visit and say, “Ok, if your father comes out and he’s slurring his words, you don’t get into a car with him and you refuse.” And you guys come up with her own boundaries, and you can say, “You can download the Uber app. I will gladly pay for it. You can call me, or you can call your friend. But you will not ever get in the car with him. If you even suspect that he’s been drinking, you will not get in the car with him. If during the visitation he starts to drink, you can call me, and I will pick you up. I will be there.”


S: Right.


M: You just need to walk through all the possible scenarios that can occur. You need to make it ok for her to feel she can call the police if she feels like her safety is in jeopardy. Because you’re talking about a man who has, like you referred to, serious brain damage. Addiction is tricky, and we think that it is not like— we think the men we love are not capable of half the things that they do. Because it’s not the man that’s doing it— it’s addiction.

And addiction has no boundaries. It will do anything. It doesn’t stop. It’s not reasonable. It has a  mind of its own and doesn’t go, well, yeah, ultimately that’s not fair, so I’m not going to do that. No, it’s greedy, it’s rotten. It’s evil. It’s going to take over whoever stands in its way. So you need to just do a very good job of educating your daughter of that. There are great therapists out there. I’m writing a program right now for kids, but it’s not ready.


S: Are you really? Oh, that is wonderful. That is awesome. I’m glad to hear that, I really am. I just started her in some therapy that has helped her tremendously she said.


M: Good.


S: So I’m so grateful for that. I found a good person, so I’m glad about that.


M: Smart mamma. Good job. She’s getting the therapy she needs to get the practical tools too. It’s both. Like an equal. Please keep me updated, and let me know how this is going for you. Are you a part of our LOA Facebook group too, for women that are separating or divorcing?


S; No, I don’t think I even know about that. I’m only in one, so I didn’t even know about the other one.


M: Yeah, we just started that about a month ago, and it’s just a special group for women that are in kinda a new stage where they’re looking for support during separation or during a divorce or back in the world dating again. Which is another, you know…


S: Oh, God, the thought of that makes me nauseous.

M: I hear you.


S: Ok, no that’s great.


M: So join that group.


S: Is there a special way to get on that?


M: Yes, just email my team,.Tell them that you’re in the beginning stages of divorce, you’ve spoken to a lawyer because you do need to be in the process. You can’t just be thinking about it. And then they will add you to the group. And I will see you in there.


S: Michelle, I cannot thank you enough for— this kind of turned into a coaching session I think more than— so I’m sorry about that.


M: Don’t be. I’m happy to help. I’m here for you. And I’m proud of you. I’m so proud of you for doing this work and making it this far. You just keep going, and I promise, I know you that you are doing everything right. So your future is going to be wonderful. I promise you, just keep moving forward. You’re on a great path.


S: Well, thank you very much. I really do appreciate it. I do and thank you for your help with his family. That is the one hurdle that I haven’t seemed to be able to get my brain around, and that was so helpful for me. So I appreciate that.


M: I’m so glad. I can’t wait to hear how it goes. Remember: you’re not crazy. You’re a strong woman, and you don’t need to be bullied. You don’t need to allow somebody else to bully you into this. So you can do it. I’m here for you.


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