So before I begin I'd like to thank Amanda and Brandon for allowing me to talk about what has been a part of their lives for a few years, and will forever be a part of their lives because it involves their dad whom they love so much.
My ex-husband Dave, the kids' dad, is an alcoholic. Since our separation nearly four years ago, he has struggled in unimaginable ways, and Amanda and Brandon have watched him every step of the way. To say that it's been difficult for everyone involved is a serious understatement. It's been Hell.
I used to blog about his troubles, letting out my anger, speaking my mind. When we moved up to Cody about a year and a half ago, I was emotionally exhausted and I chose to no longer spend my energy writing about something I had absolutely no control over. Being in a new city and state allowed us to move forward with our lives without his addiction continually drowning us, and it allowed Dave to heal on his own.
For a year and a half Dave maintained his sobriety, every day either calling or Skyping with the kids. They were so happy for him, so encouraged that he was doing so well in his recovery. A month ago he relapsed, and while I do appreciate that he was honest about it with the kids, it didn't diminish the disappointment, the anger, and the sadness that they felt as a result.
They cried, they felt betrayed, they felt so incredibly disappointed. Brandon was quick to forgive and carried on every day, moving forward in spite of the relapse. Amanda was so angry with him she chose to not speak with him. She composed a note and read it to him, explaining her feelings and outright telling him that she would not be talking with him, and that she was unsure for how long.
Amanda looked to me for guidance, she asked for my help in understanding when her silence with her dad should be broken, and when she should again talk to him. I was at a complete loss and truly had no answers for her, so I recommended she wait until we could get some help from a clinic I had heard about, that maybe they could provide her with the answers and guidance she was looking for.
As soon as I could, I registered the kids for the Betty Ford Colorado Children's Program which is held in Denver every month (there are also similar programs in Colorado Springs, California, and Texas). We recently had the privilege of attending this clinic and I have to say, it was absolutely amazing.
The four-day clinic taught Amanda and Brandon that for one thing, they are not alone. It was almost like an immediate bond was formed, an instant family-like connection with other kids who are going through the same thing with members of their own families. It provided them with education about addiction; it helped them to learn that they are not responsible for anyone's addiction; they learned about what addicts go through and how difficult it is to suffer from addiction.
All they were taught was at a child's level of understanding, with the use of drawing, writing and sharing personal stories, and playing games. The first two days were just for the kids, and at the end of each day Amanda and Brandon excitedly told me about what they did and learned, and how much fun they had. The last two days were spent with both the kids and adults attending and working together.
Since Amanda was still at odds about what to do with her dad, we chose to not have him participate. After the first day of the adult participation, we all understood the importance of him being there and wished he had attended with us. That evening she nervously decided it was time to speak with her dad, and they shared some time alone talking while Brandon and I went off together. After they talked we all went out to eat and enjoyed a nice dinner together as a family. Unfortunately Dave couldn't take off work to attend the last day, but the kids no doubtedly filled him in all they could when they spent time with him that night.
Addiction is so incredibly hard to deal with whether you are the addict or a family member of the addict. I want nothing more than to have Dave remain sober and continue to work on his treatment and recovery, and for the kids and I to continue in our education and understanding of his addiction so that if he does relapse again, we can all be better prepared to deal with the setback.
To anyone out there in the wide world of the internet who is going through a similar situation, know that you are not alone and that there is help. If you need someone to talk to, whether you are an adult or a child, please let me know. I am always open to helping anyone who has a loved one struggling with addiction, and I am positive my kids would be more than willing to share their story with any children who are also struggling.
Before I close, I'd like to thank David, Josie, and Lindsey, the leaders in the clinic and who did an outstanding job with all of the children and adults. We all learned so much and will forever value what they taught us.
From the bottoms of our hearts, thank you.
And to Amanda and Brandon, you are truly my heroes. You are examples of resilience, strength, and the purest love. I am so impressed with your compassion, honesty, respect, and maturity. Every day I wonder how I got so lucky to have you as my children, and every day I am grateful beyond words that I have you both in my life. I love you. I love you. I love you.