How can I best deal with an alcoholic (and make pressing decisions) ?
February 13, 2015 5:31 PM   Subscribe

Seeking words of wisdom & experience, advice, reality checks, really anything that can help me gain some clarity or peace of mind. Lots of text, apologies in advance.

I’m feeling totally overwhelmed and almost paralyzed in making decisions which I feel like greatly impact both me and my son in regards to his father. Struggling to find answers to things like: What’s best for me? What’s best for my son? How do I deal with my son’s addict father? And most pressing, should I relocate? I don’t know if it will be overwhelming to compile this into a single post, but figured it can’t hurt and ANY help is appreciated...

Factors in my decision/details: I have a 9 month old baby with a “recovering” alcoholic that relapsed after several years sober while I was pregnant. It took him hitting some very low lows, which involved a lot of verbal and emotional abuse towards me during his belligerent episodes, and me making plans to leave, before he agreed to and completed rehab last fall. He began taking Antabuse at discharge and remained sober for a couple months. Fast forward to now, and he is drinking a lot again. My impression is that he is a very severe case (usage peaks at a 750 ml bottle of vodka in a day without so much as stumbling) and is likely just an “addict” and impulsive type, as he is showing some addictive aspects in areas like sex as well. He admits he struggles to stay faithful when drinking, and has cheated before.

Despite all this, somehow, he maintains a good job and he still seems to remain a loving, calm, playful, and nurturing father towards our son so far. He also was similar with me when he was sober. However, with daily drinking, he can be quite awful to me, no less than 50-60% of the time. It honestly seems like he targets me when drinking, and when this happens, we have agreed that he will leave and stay elsewhere as I don't want to deal with that, or have my son witness this.

This week (unprompted) he said that if he can’t get himself sober within 1 week, he would go to rehab again and would accept whatever consequences I gave him, including making him give up parental rights to our son and the 2 of us moving away from him. We discussed how unless things are “rock bottom” and I give him severe consequences, he doesn’t think he can get sober.

Our lease is up in 1 month. My family has made me the offer for me to come live with them rent-free for a while. They all felt I would be better off living near family instead of isolated in an unstable situation. This would require me moving several states away to a state that I don’t like as much, but do have several family members as support.

Brief comparisons if even more detail is helpful:
--- Here- son can see dad, lifestyle, weather, and outdoor activities is much more appealing than home state, supportive friends, no family, great job that is fulfilling and offers me a chance to work part-time while being a stay-at-home mom the rest of the time
--- There ("Home")- several states away, immediate and extended family, limited friendships, SMALL town, no job opportunities close to town, son’s father says he would be moving there ASAP to help raise our son, but not sure if this would be followed through with

I have been attending therapy and Al-Anon and am trying to achieve a balance of being supportive, but not enabling. I recognize I tend to be overly forgiving, and haven't held him to strict consequences often. I'm just really at a loss of what to do here. I don’t want to go totally overboard with details, so only other things I’ll add are that we have been together about 3 years, and as far as our son- he appears to be thriving and not impacted by any of this, yet.

This is my first post, so please forgive me if I’m not following standard format or what not. I really struggled with knowing what was the appropriate amount of detail, but I think this should paint a clear picture. Have really loved reading everyone's thoughts with other questions. Thanks!
posted by aggielc to Human Relations (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We discussed how unless things are “rock bottom” and I give him severe consequences, he doesn’t think he can get sober.

Why is he putting the responsibility of his sobriety on you?

Take door #2, move to where you and your baby have support from family, get your head clear of this guy. Once you have your feet back under you emotionally, then you'll be in a better place to plan your next steps. You don't have to stay in your home town forever.

son’s father says he would be moving there ASAP to help raise our son
Whatever. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. Don't pencil him into any of your plans, you'll be much happier.
posted by jamaro at 5:44 PM on February 13, 2015 [9 favorites]

Move away. Stay with your folks. Get a new job someplace you want to settle down permanently.

Signing away parental rights sounds like he's trying to get out of paying child support? The rest of it sounds like he is done with the marriage.

Get a lawyer. Secure child support. Your children deserve this.
posted by jbenben at 5:48 PM on February 13, 2015 [14 favorites]

I just got my 4-year Al-Anon chip. I'm really glad to hear that you are going to Al-Anon meetings and would encourage you to ask people in your fellowship for some perspective as well. In general, Al-Anon suggests that new members not make major decisions for the first 6 months they are in the fellowship, but we don't always have that choice. Your personal safety and the safety of your child is paramount. I am just wondering if there is some middle ground so that you don't have to relocate if you don't want to. Perhaps you could try a trial separation where he lives elsewhere for awhile and you work on taking care of yourself and figuring out just how much of his behaviour while drunk you are willing to accept (and I mean that in an entirely neutral, non-judgemental way).

Also, I am struck by this: We discussed how unless things are “rock bottom” and I give him severe consequences, he doesn’t think he can get sober. One of the most important concepts in Al-Anon is the idea of "loving detachment", which asks us to not intervene if a crisis is the natural outcome of an alcoholic's behaviour and not to create a crisis ourselves.

I mention this because it is not your job to get your partner sober. The responsibility to become sober is his responsibility. He has to do if for himself. Also, it's okay not to know what to do right now. If the house isn't burning down, then you have more time than you think. One of the things An-Anons say is "don't just do something, sit there." I understand that the situation is uncomfortable, but sometimes I just have to sit with discomfort for awhile, talk to the other person involved in the situation, talk to other people in the fellowship, talk to my therapist, etc., and just let it mull awhile until my confusion fades into resolve.

That used to be impossible for me but now I have faith that if I don't know what to do yet, it means it's not time to decide. Please don't let any anxiety or fear or sense of urgency that your partner or family members may feel trigger you into making a decision that you are not ready to make.
posted by Bella Donna at 5:49 PM on February 13, 2015 [16 favorites]

I think a trial separation would be a good thing. Some time and space apart will allow each of you to gain perspective about what you want, experience what it's like to live without the stress/guilt/anger in your living space, and for each of you to simply take responsibility for your own lives.

Given the fact that you have a job and more opportunities where you are, and given the fact that you're not entirely sure what your next step should be, I would not make a drastic move to another state.

Stay in your current state, see if your family will come out and stay with you for a short while to help you transition. Sign a one-year lease and if at the end of the year (or even before, breaking a lease isn't the end of the world), you feel moving home would be better you can do that.

You should seek legal advice to understand what kind of child support your husband should provide during a separation.
posted by brookeb at 6:01 PM on February 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

If your child's father continue to drink and treat you horribly it will negatively impact your son's life.

If your son lives with an alcoholic who continues to drink it will damage his life, his self-esteem, and his entire worldview.

The above sounds dramatic but I believe it to be true. I grew up with an alcoholic father who treated my mother poorly. I would say this kind of upbringing ruins a child. Can a person be ruined? I don't know but I was ruined for a long while and it took a lot of work to become unruined. I had all of the characteristics of growing up in an alcoholic home.

As you go forward in raising your son think about his mental well being and happiness. Surround your son, as best you can, with adults who are emotionally mature and well-adjusted. Adults who are secure in their selves who are good role models and can offer your son things that his father (while drinking) cannot.

Whether you stay in state or out of state, protect your son and set boundaries. The father should not be able to take part in parenting the child unless he is sober and is taking responsibility for his recovery. A drunk father is not a real father. Alcoholics have nothing to offer. They cannot parent. They cannot extend love. They are truly interested in others. They want people to feel sorry for them. They like to blame others and feel bad about others and themselves. They suffer from self hatred, have loads of shame and guilt, and are self-absorbed because self-loathing and self-absorption is part of the disease. You do not want a shame ridden, self-loathing, self-absorbed person around your child. He will pass that shame onto him.

Maybe he can't help but not to drink but that doesn't mean you have to have your son around him if he's drinking and not taking his recover seriously -- that means AA and/or therapy.

You may know all of this already, but I wanted to share my perspective. Good luck and best wishes to you and your son.
posted by Fairchild at 6:03 PM on February 13, 2015 [7 favorites]

To clarify:

We discussed how unless things are “rock bottom” and I give him severe consequences, he doesn’t think he can get sober...

With the direct quote from him-
"I know I haven't been able to get sober before unless I was devastated because things were so terrible. If I'm not sober or in rehab in 1 week, give me whatever consequences you think you need to. If you feel that I have to sign away my rights or you have to move away with him, then ok. I know this can't be good or safe for you right now."

2) While we haven't gotten married by official ceremony, it might be approaching common law status.
posted by aggielc at 6:12 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

We discussed how unless things are “rock bottom” and I give him severe consequences, he doesn’t think he can get sober.

This is nonsense. You are not the reason he drinks, and you will not be the reason he gets sober. You don't have to take care of him, even if he is living with you. I know that's hard to do, but it is possible.

Deciding to do nothing is a perfectly acceptable decision. Were I you would I would see if I could sign a month-to-month lease, kick this guy to the curb, and see how life goes for a couple of months.

Are finances the motivation in moving back with your parents? To me, that's a huge part of the decision.
posted by lyssabee at 6:15 PM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]

Unless the two of you have agreed that you are married and have held yourself out as married publicly, you are not common-law married, and cannot be. And even if you have done those things, there are only nine states in which common-law marriage is recognized. IANYL, but it seems unlikely that you are legally bound to this person in any way, other than as co-parents of a child in common.

You need to leave him. For yourself, and for your son, you need to leave him. You need to not have any contact with him unless and until he is sober, and you need to have legal advice so that a lawyer can make sure that you can protect your son from him unless and until he is sober. Those are the responsibilities you have to your son, and that appears to be what's best for you, too.

Now, would you rather be a single parent in a place you like and where you have a job, but where you don't have family? Or would you rather be a single parent with your family, but in a place you like less and have fewer employment prospects? I think I'd pick the former, but that needs to be your decision. And you don't necessarily need to decide everything all at once. If you kick him out and go month-to-month on your lease and then hate it, you can always move home later. If you move home and can't find a job, you can move away again later once you feel more stable. None of your choices is permanent. Understanding that, hopefully, makes this feel a little less overwhelming.

The only wrong decision here is staying with a person who hurts you and your child. All of the other decisions you make are fixable and workable and imperfect, but they're your decisions to make. And it's clear that you love your son, so whatever you do, he will always grow up knowing that you put his welfare first and that you took good care of him the best way you knew how to at any given time. That's what matters most. The other stuff is just details.
posted by decathecting at 6:26 PM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]

You're asking good questions, and it seems like you are already doing healthy things to keep your head and heart straight in this awful situation. It also seems like you've thought through your options and maybe need to look at separating the two questions of staying and remaining. Whether to stay in the relationship is one question. Moving back to your family is a separate question. As to the latter: live where you are most comfortable, and most able to be yourself. Moving home doesn't fix the problem of your child's father. Live where you are in the best situation to deal with that problem. Distance doesn't fix these things...

And, Fairchild summed up my other thoughts very well. I too was raised by an alcoholic (several of them, actually) and it wasn't pretty. Having the touchstone of one sane, sober relative was possibly my salvation. Be that for your son. Do not let him know his father as a drunk. Whether that means limited, supervised interaction, means no interaction, means something else, you'll have to discover with time. Also, don't hide this from your son. He needs to understand that his father has a sickness, if he understands that he may not take it personally.

I'm afraid there is no right answer here, it's more a matter of choosing the path on which you're best able to create a healthy home for yourself and your child. If your partner can't find a path to health for himself, he shouldn't be vilified for it, but he also shouldn't be allowed to hurt you or your child any more than can be helped.
posted by AliceBlue at 6:28 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

You're not alone if you have supportive friends. You also have Al-Anon and therapy for support. The job situation isn't necessarily replicable. Going back might mean even more upheaval and distress; beyond that, you'd feel trapped. It doesn't sound like it's a choice you'd be making so much as a reaction - to your partner's problems, your family's invitation. You currently have a good setup overall, and you seem to like where you are. I would stay, and arrange visits with family.

I agree with others that your son will soon pick up subtler things than you can imagine. Even now, atmosphere matters. You're probably used to a lot of things your partner does. So is your child, already.

What's best for you and your baby? Separation from your partner, unless and until he's good and dry.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:52 PM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

My mom is an alcoholic, coming back and forth from it over and over. I wrote her out of my life for an extended period of time because of it. I've also dated someone who had an alcoholic parent. My mid-late teens and early 20s were essentially spent mopping up my life from dealing with two parents who needed treatment, and then mopping up myself. I was in to my 20s before i felt like i had really hit the groove and had my life going and could you know, get on with it. My ex, at least in my opinion, is messed up in a lot of the ways she's is because of her alcoholic parent.

As i was reading this, i kept thinking "wow, these people are being really harsh, she says he's being a decent dad!" and then i realized... well... that's basically the kind of stuff i would tell myself.

Those people are right.

If he can't stay sober, he needs to be kept at a distance. That's not to say he can't have a relationship with his father later if he stays sober, or even with him as he is as a drunk once he's in to his teens and old enough to get it... but yea, dealing with my drunk ass mom when i was young enough for it to be upsetting but not old enough to really get it did me absolutely no good.

Personally, i'd support staying where you can easily get a job and support yourself rather than moving in to a potential black hole with family... but that doesn't mean he should be around all the time, or that he gets to show up whenever he wants. I think you need to separate in a structured way here, with plans to allow him back in if he has an extended period of sobriety... and severe consequences if he falls off the wagon along the lines of "ok, now you need to be sober for X original period of time plus Y".

It's not your responsibility or problem to keep him sober, yea, but it's absolutely ok to be a gatekeeper to your own life and say "you can't be around if you're going to be doing this". And also "you can't be around if you're going to be like this, and i'll tell you if and when you can ever come back".

The second one is hard to say, but i'm happy i did it when i did.
posted by emptythought at 6:55 PM on February 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

My family has made me the offer for me to come live with them rent-free for a while. They all felt I would be better off living near family instead of isolated in an unstable situation.

Do this. His sobriety is his responsibility, not yours. Your child comes first.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:52 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

We discussed how unless things are “rock bottom” and I give him severe consequences, he doesn’t think he can get sober.

I am sorry, this sounds difficult. I had an alcoholic parent who was verbally and emotionally abusive and I wish my other parent had hit the road at some earlier point. As you walk this path you will get very familiar with this "I need you to help me set boundaries because I'm unable to do this myself!" which is, I'm certain, what he thinks but is an unfair burden to place on you and, flat out, not your job. I was a kid when my parent told me it was MY job to help him be sober and ... yik, that's a terrible thing to do to a kid. Alcoholics may or may not be addicts or have a disease or whatever, but one of the general issues is this sloppy messy way they get their fucked up life all messily and stickily all over other people. After a while you start to notice it, you'll be able to pick out the problem drinkers among your friends even when they are not drinking because so much of this "You have to save me!" talk is so sadly typical.

My suggestion: Go live with your family and get a support network going assuming you get along with them okay (If you have drunk family members, I no longer suggest this). Tell this guy you will talk to him after he's made some progress with rehab but he's got to walk that path alone. In an ideal world he can step back into your son's life (and maybe even yours) later, but not now. Your responsibility towards your son is to be the bullshit filter so your son sees people treating each other decently and setting and enforcing good boundaries. Get a fresh start for a brief period of time and pursue legal separation (I, too, though that "signing away parental rights" might be code for "I'm not going to pay child support" don't fall for that one) and spend some time getting your head straight and adoring your baby boy.

Until this man can get his shit straight, you need to be making plans for you and you son and letting him fend for himself a bit more. I know it feels like a bad thing to do, like you're kicking someone when they're down, but this (again!) is part of the long sad story that kids of drunks get familiar with. Again I am sorry, you really seem to be taking the right steps and thinking about this clearly and I wish you the best. I wound up okay, your son will wind up okay.
posted by jessamyn at 7:53 PM on February 13, 2015 [15 favorites]

My first instinct was to go where you have supportive family, but I worry for you with the idea of a small town and nothing else but the family. Can you afford your current apartment without his financial contribution? Can you afford your current apartment and hire some extra care support? I am thinking along the idea of regular daily help from or sittercity, or perhaps a young person that lives nearby. I really like the idea of you inquiring about going month-to-month on your current place because what I really think you need is a little time to get organized, see what comes next. I do not think you have enough information yet to made an informed decision and that may be one reason everything seems so difficult. A month or two to figure out finances and possible moves, either to a different place in your current city, or a bigger move back to your family. If you can't go month-to-month there, I would look for a temporary place to give yourself some time to find an appropriate home, with the understanding that I know this is a difficult balancing act when you have an infant.

With all that being said, I do think if you stay in your current city you should be looking for a new place for you and your child. A new place for your new circumstances could be just what you need to move forward. Once you start thinking about what is best for you and your child it will be easier for you start thinking about what location is best for you considering where you work and the care/schooling for your child. You can think about what those new finances look like, with the idea that father should be paying child support, but not count on it for your daily life. And a clean start might help you create the boundaries you will need to set to have a healthy relationship. Boundaries like the father can not visit his son while drunk.

It gets mentioned a lot here on Ask, but I am going to say it again, boundaries are for you to decide on and enforce. It is not something you leave up to him, you have to decide on your rules and the consequences, it's hard, but on the up side figuring out appropriate rules and consequences is a great life skill, especially for a parent.
posted by dawg-proud at 8:03 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

supportive friends, no family, great job that is fulfilling and offers me a chance to work part-time while being a stay-at-home mom the rest of the time friendships, SMALL town, no job opportunities close to town, son’s father says he would be moving there ASAP to help raise our son...

Please DO NOT feel like your only two options are the ones being presented to you by your father and your ex: staying in your abusive relationship OR moving back to your home state away from your life, supportive career, and friends.

Separate from your abusive partner, get in touch with lawyers for custody of your son, get a restraining order against him if you have to. If he wants to sign away his parental rights, do it, regardless of whether it has an impact (it won't) on his drinking. Don't let him make you feel responsible for his sobriety, and don't let him force you out of your home into a situation where you'll be socially and economically trapped and where he plans to follow you anyway.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 8:07 PM on February 13, 2015 [13 favorites]

I can't help with the alcoholism part, but I wouldn't leave a flexible job I liked and friends just to live with family for awhile. You're not "isolated in an unstable situation." Why not just ask him to move out, or move out yourself, start talking to him and to an attorney about child support, and get support from your supportive friends?
posted by salvia at 8:10 PM on February 13, 2015 [10 favorites]

he can be quite awful to me, no less than 50-60% of the time

You have a 9 month old baby, and he can be quite awful? This stuck out. No man should be quite awful to his partner, and especially not with a baby. What if he got mad and hit you and you couldn't care for your child?

Listen: I have been in some bad spots before, but not with little kids. When my kids were little, it was all hunky dory. You need to get yourself and that baby away now, take your family up on the offer. Tell yourself it's temporary, whatever, but look at your baby and make the decision. There is no decision. That little baby does not have a say in it, there is no baby AA or whatever, that little baby is helpless. He is a helpless being. What you decide right now, is it for your partner's whining or is it for that little helpless baby? It has to be for him. You have to leave and take advantage of whatever support your family is giving you, for the baby and for yourself, because you are caring for that child.

You can bounce back from living in a small town. I've done it. But the first thing is to make yourself and your child safe from this constant crisis mode and trying to deal with this guy. Let him deal with it and sock him for all the child support you can get. I have no sympathy for him and neither should you.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:19 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have no experience trying to raise a child of an alcoholic, but I do have experience dating and being in love with one. The abuse you are experiencing is unacceptable in its own right, aside from the drinking. My alkie was never rotten to me--mostly to himself. I am not usually as ready to be on the DTMFA bandwagon as some others on here, but this sounds like a case for it if I've ever heard one. If he was awful to you while you were *pregnant with his child* to me that's the deal-breaker of all deal-breakers. I don't think you should give him any more chances.

As at least one other person already mentioned, the stuff he said about getting himself sober within 1 week is irrelevant. It's just words. His words provably have not meant anything in the past and they very well won't this time. I don't think his words should figure into your actual practical decisions at all.

I don't think I would move based on your description of the pros and cons, but I feel a lot less strongly about that. It just sounds like there are more pros to staying in the geo area you are in, at least for now, but separate from your child's father.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 8:19 PM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

P.S. reading your update, OP, just makes things look worse. He sounds like a little child who believes you are Mommy and should be responsible for whether he gets well or not. You ARE NOT responsible for him. You are responsible for yourself and your real actual child. Don't willingly take on the role he is trying to assign to you.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 8:22 PM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

When he says, "Give me whatever consequences you think you need to," the subtext is, "because I would like to give you the illusion of control." It sounds like he is only willing to respect your boundaries if it they what he has already suggested: his going back to rehab, and you moving back with your family to an isolated area. What do you think he'd do if you set a different boundary? Like, "Regardless of whether you can get yourself sober in one week, I want you to check into inpatient rehab by Thursday, and stay there for at least one month. When you are discharged, I'd like you to move to a halfway house for at least six months instead of coming home. We can discuss visitation at that time." Consider the consequences of setting a boundary he is not expecting. I'm glad you're in Al-Anon because you can talk to people who have been there! This is a good opportunity to chat with your sponsor about appropriate boundary-setting and how it tends to dovetail into control, and how tricky the two are to disentangle. Best wishes to you, your son, and even your partner. Y'all have a tough road ahead.
posted by juniperesque at 8:46 PM on February 13, 2015 [9 favorites]

Getting sober in one week does you no good. You need a partner who can maintain sobriety. Basically in a best case scenario this man is of no practical use to you for at least a year. In the meantime you have a child to support. If possible I say only go home for the length of your maternity leave then go back to work or school or whatever you need to do to build a life going forward as a single parent. Don't let him sign away his financial responsibility to your child if you can, you need that money!

He's either going to get sober or die at that level of drinking. Best case scenario it'll take him years to sober up and become emotionally whole.
posted by fshgrl at 10:32 PM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

You can bounce back from living in a small town.

It's possible, but it's like climbing a molasses-covered mountain. Losing career momentum and contacts, or having to switch fields (especially under duress), is extremely risky in the current environment. There's definitely no guarantee that you could bounce back into another fulfilling job with a flexible schedule, OP. I don't see how caring for a baby while living with family in a small town, isolated from people your age, and having to commute to another town for work that you may not enjoy, would improve your quality of life.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:43 AM on February 14, 2015 [7 favorites]

For the moment, look at your pros and cons and totally disregard the abusive alcoholic sitting in the corner, attempting to manipulate you and the situation.

You like where you live, have a good and flex-hour job. Supportive friends. You have an established presence in a supportive Al-Anon group. You could be happy and self-sustaining where you are vs. starting all over in a place you don't much like.

Your partner needs to move out and pursue his own recovery. Repeat after me: This is not my responsibility!

I think you could also benefit from a consultation with a family law attorney. You say your baby's Dad is functional and maintains a good job. He should be contributing to his child's support, not surrendering parental rights and expecting visitation and participation in the child's daily life! I believe he is a tad confused ... That is called having your cake and eating it too. And, in my book, would be a big " oh, hell no!"

Please slow down and think of what is best , short and long term, for you and your child . And worry not at all about the big dude. Seems to me that he will land on his feet, without your help. Your attention should be on yourself and your child. Best of luck to you, sincerely.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 12:57 AM on February 14, 2015 [7 favorites]

If your current situation is stable and cushy and the only unstable element is your alcoholic partner, it's a no-brainer to remove this single unstable element and otherwise carry on as you are.

Nthing get a lawyer.

Nthing that his alcoholic father is already negatively affecting your child. You don't want to be that person who stays together for the sake of the children and assures everybody "of course the children know nothing about it". I say children, plural, because if you stay with him you will have more children and you will carry on as you are now, and you will become calcified to living in hope and rejoicing at the progress every time he moves an inch (only to move two inches back, of course).
posted by tel3path at 4:06 AM on February 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I know I haven't been able to get sober before unless I was devastated because things were so terrible

He knows he's making things terrible for you and your child, but that's not enough motivation for him (and it rarely is with addicts). He's only going to try to change if things get terrible FOR HIM. Think about what that means.

Like many of the folks above, I encourage you to separate but try to find a way to stay where you are now. It sounds like a better location for you to create a stable, successful life for you and your child in the long run.
posted by drlith at 4:50 AM on February 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

Here's what I'd do:

1. Separate and go to the court now for a child support order. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. (or rather, do.) If you're not married, you absolutely need to do this. You probably don't need a lawyer for this either.

2. Keep your job, stay where you are. If you like it and you have supportive friends, you're in a good place.

3. If you like your apartment, stay there, have him move out. He needs to support you and your son.

4. If you can find a less expensive apartment for the two of you, do that.

5. Stop considering your partner in your decision making process. Do what's best for you and your child.

Take control of your life without regard for what happens with your partner. At this point, he's hit rock bottom, he's not factoring into your plans anymore. Do what makes you happy and what's in the best interest for your child. How blissful will it be when you don't have to worry about him, or his health, or how awful he might be to you?

Getting and staying sober is your partner's job, not yours. Make any decisions now based upon YOUR needs and those of your child.

But really, don't move if you don't want to. Good friends are as good as family.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 AM on February 14, 2015 [12 favorites]

a lot of verbal and emotional abuse.... during his belligerent episodes

He can be quite awful to me, no less than 50-60% of the time. It honestly seems like he targets me when drinking

So, clearly less than half the time you spend with him is acceptable --- not even quality time, just merely not awful? More than half your time with him is rotten? Yikes.

unless.... I give him severe consequences, he doesn't think he can get sober

His sobriety is up to him, not you: either he wants to get (and stay) sober for himself, or he doesn't want to sober up in the first place. You are not now and have never been responsible for his drinking.

And regarding common law married status or not: in most states, it doesn't make one bit of difference how long you've lived together, what counts is if you have called yourselves Mr. & Mrs. for a specified number of years. Not 'soulmates' or anything like that, but whether you have presented yourselves to the world as Mr. & Mrs.: have you filed taxes, gotten leases, named each other as spouses on your health insurance at work and all the rest of it as Mr. & Mrs.?
posted by easily confused at 6:59 AM on February 14, 2015

I'd just like to add that, at 9 months, your son is sweet, loving, and basically compliant, and still an adorable, wriggling little sack of joy and basic needs, for the most part.

Once your child becomes his own, complicated and mercurial person, with his own thoughts and desires and implacable, ever-shifting WANTS, without the requisite rationality to modulate his emotional responses, it's a whole different parenting ballgame. This starts happening anywhere between, oh, 16? 18? months and continues on forever until he's an old man.

In my experience, alcoholics are all about control. When your son is not easily controlled, you may see both an uptick in your husband's drinking, and a shift from tolerant, indulgent father to...something else. I'm also going to guess that you do most of the decision-making in your household because your husband's first priority is himself, his mood and his emotional responses to things. This is not unlike a toddler. So, when your son grows out of his infancy into his toddlerhood, you will then be effectively parenting and making decisions for two toddlers, one of whom has no reasonable excuse for his behavior.

Toddlers need firm, fair boundaries. So do alcoholics. It would be best for you to learn how to set these now while you have this little window of opportunity, rather than when your husband starts vying, toddler-like, for dominance in your increasingly chaotic household, and your son needs your calm, neutral, focused and attentive parenting more than ever.

Here- son can see dad, lifestyle, weather, and outdoor activities is much more appealing than home state, supportive friends, no family, great job that is fulfilling and offers me a chance to work part-time while being a stay-at-home mom the rest of the time

This, right here, is the pertinent info. You have established all these things. You. Again, as your son gets older, being able to walk out your front door and have myriad resources for yourself and your kid is invaluable. Being established and valued at a job is invaluable. Having flexibility and colleagues and superiors who care for you - invaluable. Friends - invaluable. Here's my suggestion:

- Start making financial plans to separate your finances from your husband.

- Talk to an attorney about the practical considerations involved in separation and divorce.

- Don't isolate. Isolation during times like this is the worst thing you can do. Your family means well, but you have an established network of practical and emotional resources where you are. Plus, pulling your son out of his environment for an unknown period of time is going to be really hard on both of you.

- If your family is willing to have you live with them, perhaps some family might be willing to travel to be with you for a few weeks if you separate from your husband.

- What's your childcare situation like? Start looking into how much more you could budget per month for more care. Do you have a less expensive option, for example, a group daycare vs. babysitter, or a share situation with another family? What about free daycare options, like through churches or social organizations?

- How much time off have you accrued through work? Is there a possibility of an unpaid leave if things get rough?

- Start saving money.

- Ask your husband to move out. You and your son don't need to move out. He needs to move.

- Make sure any shared savings or investments are protected.

Lastly, it's not your job to set limits on your husband's behavior. It's your job to set personal boundaries and stick to them. No more bargaining with him; I think you know that's just chasing your tail. You and your son deserve, and can have, more.

Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 7:02 AM on February 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

If the damage that an abusive belligerent alcoholic parent wreaks on a child were visible this would be an easier decision for you to make. Don't wait until the child is old enough to be a recipient as well as an observer. I am speaking as a mother who did not protect her children from an alcoholic father. Be strong and don't live with regret.
posted by InkaLomax at 8:08 AM on February 14, 2015 [9 favorites]

Incredibly appreciative of all of these thoughtful responses so far. To follow-up with questions I've seen in responses-

1) I might not be able to afford to live on my own here long-term, as is. I could afford my own place for around 6 months with current income + savings if I continue to keep my expenses low. Right now, the dad pays our rent, utilities, food. After around 6 months, I would need to return to full-time work + child support, find another affordable shared living situation, etc.

2) I have to move regardless as we live in a guest apartment of someone that is moving this spring. Most likely, rent will increase as we have a great deal right now.

3) Right now, our son is not in any daycare and does not have a sitter. A benefit to moving home is that between my parents, sister, aunt, I’d probably have more help. They all work full-time, but have said they’d love to help as much as they could.
posted by aggielc at 12:24 PM on February 14, 2015

You know your situation better than we. If the money works out better by going home, do that. It doesn't have to be forever.

There are parts of this situation that are going to suck, and perhaps moving back to the homestead might be part of that. Are lodgings there cheaper? Will you be able to get a full-time job there? Can you pop the little one into day care at a reasonable rate? If so, money will make that decision for you.

Don't hang out in your current area for 6 months hoping that your partner gets his shit together. If he doesn't you lose your cushion and then where will you be?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:15 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

You are absolutely not in charge of his alcoholism, rehab, behavior. Tell him you love him, you hope he will stop drinking and work on his issues, but you will not tie any sort of consequences to his rehab. You will do what you think is best for your child and yourself. Addicts can get all convoluted. Addicts don't tell the truth very well. Pay attention to his behavior, not words, and decide where the best place for you is. No matter what he thinks he is offering, the law requires that parents support their kids. Document his drinking and abusive behavior in case he challenges custody, unlikely, but stuff can happen. If you leave the state with your child, talk to a lawyer. You may be better off getting a custody order and support order.

This is hard, especially with a baby. But you sound like you have your head on straight, so stay centered, and take care of yourself.
posted by theora55 at 3:06 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Given your child's age I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to go stay at your folks for a bit. There would be a lot of help and you can figure out your next plan. And career wise it wouldn't be so strange for you to not be working right now with a little one.

Find out what the process is for Child support and visitation in your state. Go visit at least one divorce lawyer. Basically nowadays other than alimony and court fees, and in some jurisdictions shared property, couples with a child separating is essentially the same as a divorce in a lot of practical matters.
It will be hard for you to make your next moves until you know what your financial situation will be (with the added child support) and the legalities of taking your child to another state.
<3 and hugs
posted by k8t at 9:15 PM on February 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

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