Posted: Monday, November 23, 2009 8:01 pm
Dear Annie: I am an addict in recovery. I moved out of state three years ago when I was seeking treatment and completed my program 15 months ago. I have successfully maintained employment for more than a year now.
My three children are still living back home with their grandparents, five states away. I lost custody because of my addiction. I tried returning home, but couldn’t find a job there. I am divorced, and their father is still active in his addiction, which leaves all responsibility for supporting the family on me.
I have allowed this situation to intimidate me to the point where I have stopped trying to regain custody. I justify this by saying as long as I am contributing financially, I’m doing all I can. But the reality is, I am becoming emotionally detached from my children and no longer desire to be the mother they deserve. The last time I became emotional, it set me back a few months.
I feel so helpless at this point. I have been actively pursuing another job closer to them, but have been unsuccessful.
Annie, what would you recommend in a situation like this? I don’t want to lose all I have worked so hard for. I spent two years in an in-patient treatment center to make sure I got my recovery right, and I feel as though I am losing it all anyway. — Guilty in Washington
Dear Guilty: It is overwhelming to deal with sobriety and custody at the same time. Take little steps. First reconnect with your children in whatever small way you can — visits, phone calls, pictures, e-mails and letters. You must relearn how to be part of their daily lives. Don’t expect the moon. This takes time. Continue to look for employment closer to them, but as long as the grandparents are willing to raise the children, allow them to do so until you are more comfortable with the responsibility. But please don’t give up on being a major presence in their lives, even from a distance.
Dear Annie: Over the summer, my children received invitations to two birthday parties. There has been a lot of drama within my family, and these invitations were not a priority. I’m ashamed to say I never RSVP’d that my children would not attend.
My children are returning to the same program next month. I’m sure I will have to face the parents at some point. What should I say to them? Should I wait for them to bring it up? Should I send gifts at this late date? I don’t want to go into a long explanation about my problems, but I also don’t want to be rude. Please help. — Embarrassed
Dear Embarrassed: You don’t need to send gifts, but you do need to apologize. When you see the parents, simply say, “I’m so sorry I never got back to you about Johnny’s birthday party. It was such a hectic time for me. Please accept my apologies.” And that will be the end of it.
Dear Annie: I had the same problem as “Not So Rich Mom,” whose grown, well-off children expect her to treat them to dinner all the time.
Here’s how I handle it: If someone says, “Let’s go out for dinner,” I say, “Are we splitting the bill, or are you treating everyone?” If I make the invitation, I offer to pay and will choose the restaurant, but I inform my children that they will have a separate bar tab because I don’t drink and they love expensive bottles of wine. If they want to pick the restaurant, the deal is off. I also announce that I am not paying for a week’s worth of doggie bags, so they should order only what they plan to eat.
This discussion must happen before getting into the car. Too many older folks get suckered into picking up expensive tabs out of habit or because no one else offers to pull out their credit card. A clear conversation can solve the awkwardness and unpleasant feelings. — California Nana
Dear Nana: Laying all the cards out on the table in advance certainly makes life much simpler.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger 11.23.09