wife struggling with detachment

difficult child has been out of the house just over 7 weeks now. wife is completely on board with detachment, in theory, and in big ways (witness, her refusing to pay "one red cent" of difficult child's $500 bill at a rehab center), but she is having a hard time not being overly involved in difficult child's life in smaller ways.

wife drives out to where difficult child is living with her girlfriend, 30+ miles round trip, about twice a week. She buys difficult child lunch and several packs of cigs, drives her to the drugstore and grocery store, pays the nominal copay for her medications, helps out with the groceries, and gives her cash, in small amounts, to be sure, but still, it adds up to a lot very quickly. She makes dates with difficult child to see easy child 1, as a reward to try to bribe her not to drink.

One of those dates with difficult child was supposed to be tomorrow. According to the plan, wife and easy child 1 would pick up difficult child and proceed to wife's doctor's appointment, where difficult child would entertain easy child 1 in the waiting room while wife saw the doctor. Afterwards they would grab lunch. Then, as it usually goes, wife would most likely slip difficult child $10 or $15 and buy her a couple packs of smokes before dropping her off and naming a day and time for the next meeting, "if she will not drink between now and then."

Another thing is that Erica, that's the girl that difficult child lives with, calls wife to report each and every time difficult child messes up. There have been at least five times over seven weeks so that's pretty frequent.

So tonight difficult child is really pulling a doozy. She was out with Erica's 6-year-old daughter in Erica's truck "at the park" -- that is what the little girl was instructed to tell her mother. In fact difficult child wanted to make some money by hustling strangers at a gas station with a sob story about her and her little daughter needing gas money to get home. Well they ran into this man difficult child knew, a relapsed alcoholic from her AA group, with a hard luck tale of his own. She invited him into the truck with the little girl (this guy reportedly has done time for assault) and drove back to Erica's, where she dropped the child off and announced that she was taking the guy somewhere and then would be back. That was at 6 p.m. It is now 1:30 a.m. and no sign of difficult child or the truck, but Erica has called around difficult child's network and heard they were spotted, both drunk, trying to cadge some money off of a former boyfriend of difficult child's outside an AA meeting at 9. Erica reported her truck stolen but the police said since she had been letting difficult child drive it for some time, it couldn't be considered stolen. They said they would keep an eye out on suspicion of DWI.

SOOOO anyway, wife spends most of the evening hearing all of the above in several long bouts on the phone speculating with Erica minute by minute about what might be happening with difficult child. At one point she was all set to drive out to one spot where they thought difficult child was at and look for the truck.

wife doesn't need me pointing out that she is way too engaged in difficult child's life, she is very aware of that herself, and pretty sensitive about it. Therefore I generally refrain from preaching much. But I had to say something. As calmly as I could (which is to say, not very) I asked why she thought she had to head out "in the middle of the night, looking for trouble". We had a pretty heated discussion. I told her that it was insane to keep taking these calls, and trying to manage difficult child at a distance by stringing her along with small rewards. I said they both had to stop making promises to easy child 1 that difficult child couldn't keep. She said we owed it to Erica to help her find her truck. I said, why is it our job? Erica let herself into this with her eyes wide open. I said, Erica talks tough but is enabling difficult child to the hilt, and you're helping. She admitted as much and we ended up with a renewed understanding, I believe. It is still very hard for both of us to give up having to know everything difficult child is doing all the time.

OK, well this post is much longer than I intended. I'd try to cut it down but it is nearly 3 and I need some sleep. If you stuck with me all the way to the end, congratulations on your stamina and thanks for taking the time. It is nice to have a place to write about things where people understand and care.

hearts and roses

Mind Reader
{{{HWGA}}} Well, you know you're right, wife is enabling difficult child along with Erica and it is a perfect example of codependent behavior. I'm sure your wife knows all the coda stuff, right? Can you take out the books and leave them around for her - as a not so subtle hint that she needs to remind herself what detaching is all about? Besides it being sooo danged difficult, it's painful as well. It's painful to watch the difficult child go back down that horrible path again. Do you think you could pursuade wife to hit up an alanon meeting?

I'm so sorry HWGA. I hope that difficult child is okay today and you were able to get at least a couple hours sleep. Please post and let us all know how things turned out. Hugs~


No real answers to life..
Okay, I hate to be so blunt, but.......until she realizes that everything she gives to difficult child will go toward alcohol your wife will not change things. Any amount of money will end up for booze. She may even sell the cigs for booze. The alcohol has a bigger control on difficult child than wife. If your difficult child had to get food rather than receive gifts from wife she might be diverted from alcohol, at least for a time......Just tell your wife that she is "in essence" giving difficult child alcohol.......
Your wife is probably thinking she still has some effect or can influence difficult child to stop.....SHE IS WRONG......difficult child has given control over to alcohol. Nothing and I repeat nothing wife does will change difficult child. Until wife faces that fact she will be spinning her wheels wondering what she (wife) can do to "help" difficult child and there is NOTHING to do until difficult child figures out she needs to change.......The hardest thing to do is nothing......
Hoping for her sake that wife can pull back from "helping" mode because she will take on blame if something happens to difficult child......it is undeserved blame because difficult child is making her own choices as sad as they are....
It will take time before your wife accepts SHE cannot change things, just as it will take time before difficult child will change......hoping you both can hold it together until that time arrives........thinking of you and your family as you travel this road........


New Member
Yes, WhyMeMom has it exactly right. It is so hard to give up the illusion of control or that you can help in some way but it sure feels like a burden has been lifted from your shoulders once you do! It is a tough job to be in charge of the world!

I'm sorry for all you are going through, hope wife can stop the enabling soon.


Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful

I'd see if maybe, while wife is agreeable, you can catch an Al-anon meeting or ten together. It's easy when you love someone, most especially a child, to convince yourself that you're "helping" when you're not. Mostly because it kills us to feel powerless to fix what is distroying our child. Maybe hearing it with her own ears from someone other than you will run the point home a bit better.

As a mother though, I'd have to say this stunt of using her friend's daughter and placing her in danger......well, that'd be it for me. Everyone has a line (whether they know it or not) and that's mine. Stepgfg discovered it the hard way.

Hang in there. (hugs)


I think with your daughter's diagnosis's it is fine for your spouse to want to keep an eye out on her and even to keep in contact with her roommate on a limited basis. However, your daughter is of an age where she needs to be held accountable for her actions and she certainly doesn't need a mother overly involved.

In addition, mom herself should have such a complete and healthy life that the desire to want to overly intervene should be limited. I would encourage your wife to explore her own intererests. Hobbies, work opportunities, interests, etc. She might want to limit visiting her daughter to once a week and see what she might add to her own personal life experience to fill in the void. I would also limit the amount of time she spends talking with the roommmate...or make a deal with the rommmate that she only calls when difficult child is doing something of a serious nature that might require intervention. It doesn't seem appropriate that there would be long drawn out conversations.

I think it is healthy that you and your spouse help out with any medical needs, i.e. doctor and prescription medications for the time being, but of course, other things difficult child should be looking to be fully responsible for. Any monies given for the doctor or medication, should be made out directly for these purposes. If you want to give your daughter money for some reason, it might be best to do it in the form of a gift certificate for the time being if she is still using.

Your wife (and you) can not keep up the energy and emotional strain it takes to be so fully involved in the life of an adult difficult child. I too like the idea of you and your wife attending meetings like Al Anon or Families Anonymous. More than likely your wife would not want to attend, but if you find the meeting and go with her, it could be more motivating.


Well-Known Member
I'm glad that you and wife seem to be getting on the same page. No more money. No more involving easy child 1 in bribery for appropriate behaviors. No more fixing Erica's (or the next schmuck's) problems with difficult child.
Oh goodness. wife called just now. There were two messages left on voice mail overnight.

First was Erica - difficult child brought her truck back about 3 a.m. (just when I was clicking submit on the opening post, then). She still had the guy with her and was belligerent and claimed to have only had two beers. There was something about "four squad cars are here". As Erica was leaving this message she discovered that the driver's side of the truck was "all jacked up" and she couldn't get the door open -- started crying hysterically and saying she was going to kill difficult child then clicked off.

Next message was sometime later, from difficult child (so I guess we can conclude that Erica did not, in fact, kill her). difficult child is at a Super 8 motel somewhere. An old sponsor had picked her up and was taking care of her. She said she realized she'd never speak with us again and please kiss easy child 1 goodbye from her.

wife can't reach either of them this morning. No telling what today will bring in the way of further revelations.

Thanks for all the great comments and suggestions.

Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful
Sending major ((((hugs)))) for you and wife. I'm sure you're both worried sick.

But she's with an old sponser, so maybe that's a good thing. Maybe sponser will be able to reach her. Fingers crossed and saying a heavy duty prayer this is so.


Worlds Best Nana
"She said she realized she'd never speak with us again and please kiss easy child 1 goodbye from her."

I assume this is because you told her if she got trashed again she was cut off, right? Good. Follow through. Don't frantically try and find her. She's a big girl, she'll survive. And when she sobers up she will be in contact with you - be prepared to say "no".

Good luck on the detachment skills to you and wife - you're going to need them!

And to ride Genny's coattails, difficult child said what she said to gain sympathy. "Oh, poor me, I bet mean ol' mommy and daddy won't even let me see my kid".

I hope wife can detach more.
difficult child said what she said to gain sympathy. "Oh, poor me, I bet mean ol' mommy and daddy won't even let me see my kid".

Last year, between detox and rehab, difficult child wrote a long, rambling, nearly incoherent account of her previous relapse. One thing that stuck with me was a reference to in the past using easy child 1 as an excuse to get a ticket back home. Heck, that's why she moved to Chicago with us 5 years ago, "to be near her baby." More like to be near mom's wallet, I'm thinking.
I must say, that wife is definitely gaining ground in the detachment department. Right now, anger is acting as a powerful detachment booster:
  • difficult child called yesterday. She was in her "remorseful and compliant" persona, as per the usual script, and was intending to recount the events of Monday with heavy emphasis on her own helplessness and inability to control her behavior (this is a recurrent theme: "look at how pathetic I am, I can't even stop myself from doing these horrible things"). She started, "I can't believe what I did last night..." wife cut her off with "I can. You got drunk. I don't want to hear about it," and hung up.
  • wife got one of easy child 1's friend's mothers to keep easy child 1 while wife was at the doctor's office, thus easily coping with a situation that previously she might have "needed" difficult child for.
  • Later on difficult child called to ask wife to ask me to go get her stuff from Erica's and haul it back to our house and store it in the garage for her until she could get it. wife told her no way.
  • Finally, wife has not been calling around, trying to find out who difficult child is with, or where. The phone has been blissfully quiet since yesterday afternoon.
It occurs to me, that at this moment I am actually more engaged in the situation than wife, seeing as how I am here posting about it -- fortunately, posting at CD doesn't count against you, it's a good thing, helps one stay detached.

We'll need to watch carefully for slipping back into old patterns when the events of this week fade from immediate memory. For now, though, we are on the right track.


Well-Known Member
Hoorah for wife! She's doing great, and so are you! wife showed easy child 1 how to detach from her mom, and she really needs to know how to do that.

Good luck, and I'm sorry you have to go through this. Again. Sigh...

Big hugs to easy child 1.


call 911........call 911
HWGA (okay first did you see mustangs post about VC BC? there were mermaid whips or something very cool pics - know you like sea life)

As far as the drama that plays out in difficult child's life? If you break it down and disect it (really going for the scientist theme aren't I?) it boils down to:

a/ I am a drunk - well yes you are
b/ I am so pathetic - well yes you are
c/ I NEED you to - um where is the independence in I NEED?
d/ I WANT - um again - if followed by YOU meaning I want
you? It's usually followed by MONEY, MONEY FOR GAS, MONEY FOR CIGARETTES, MONEY FOR FOOD, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. What we do NOT hear is I want to go to the psychiatrist, I want to go to AA, I want to stay away from booze, I want to do this on my own but I am scared, I want a new life, I want things that I CAN have if I apply myself. None of the latter involve MONEY if she is really serious she can do it on her own right down to finding food. I have given Dude a list of all the soup kitchens - he was not amused. It told him don't throw the list away. There is always a meal available to him here - ALWAYS but NOTHING else as long as I have to endure I WANT/I NEED.
e/ Agree to disagree about difficult child. Don't allow her to drive a wedge between you and wife. Yell out like we do - NEUTRAL corners!!!! And walk away when you have had a time or and hour to think. Then sit and allow HER to say her peace without interruption and then you get the same in kind.

There is also - I think in some people the unconscious want to keep tabs on our children. It's hard enough when they are normal and not doing dumb stuff to back off and let them drive, live, breathe without us sticking the parental mirror under their noses to see if they are alive. It's even MORE of a crutch with our children. Because 7 outta 4 times (love the odds there huh?) they are going to do some boneheaded thing to get themselves into MORE trouble and as parents WE (WE WE WE ) try to avoid this for them instead of letting them fall. DF tells me that I'm still not quite able to pull out the safety net - in all situations but I'm doing consideraby better at not "INTERFERING" (giving money, rides, doing things) and oddly enough - the thing that is bringing him closer to us IS the fact that when he ran/sowed oats or barley - and got it all mostly out of his system (not having money or moms help to buy clothes makes you a player in the same outfits a lot and that is NOT cool) so now I'm getting a little attention. Absence makes the heart grow fonder - and now I get calls asking me what I'm doing. As if he cared. Well maybe he does - I havent' called HIm in over 6 months. I just let him run to the end of his rope, and now by all accounts I'm still Mom but I'm like sideview mirror Mom.

Things in the mirror are not always as bad as they appear.

Hugs - Hang in there.


Well-Known Member
It is good that wife is letting her anger fuel her abillity to detach. However, when the anger subsides - what then? She REALLY needs to see that this IS the ONLY way to help difficult child. This is the only answer that is appropriate in the parenting handbook at this time. This is HOW to help difficult child.

That is what she has to realize next.


Well-Known Member
Hopefully, after the anger wears off, there will be some movement - forward or backwards - on difficult child's part that will ensure wife that detaching was and is the way to go. Fingers crossed.
A little over a week now since we last heard from difficult child. wife is still remaining strong in not obsessing over where difficult child is and what she is doing.

If past experience is any guide, we will not hear from difficult child for a couple more weeks or months. When we do it will be because of a major crisis- hospitalization or arrest. I've been thinking about what we should and should not be prepared to do.

Things we will do:
  • Emergency intervention in a life-threatening situation. I'm thinking of a situation where she is in imminent danger and manages to call or get word to us -- say if a john, pimp, or boyfriend is threatening to beat or kill her and she manages to run or lock herself in a bathroom with a cell phone or something; or she has OD'd and someone finds or knows our number and calls; or she has been raped or beat up and she or someone else manages to call. Action might include calling police and/or EMS, or getting her and taking her to the ER myself if that would be more feasible. In my judgment any of the above type of situation is well within the range of possibility.
  • Minimal assistance in getting help, if requested: use of a phone to contact crisis helpline or treatment center, a one-time ride for detox, intake interview or similar. Has to be on her initiative though.
  • If she shows up on our doorstep, I will offer one nutritious meal and a ride to the homeless shelter or if after hours, one night only at a cheap motel.
Things we will NOT do:
  • Let her stay in our house. We will not provide a respite from the lifestyle she's chosen so that she can recharge her batteries and head out again.
  • Go her bail.
  • Give her money.
  • Give her a ride anywhere other than as noted above.
  • Provide access to a phone or make calls for her other than as noted above.
I would like to get y'all's input on whether to let her talk to easy child 1 on the phone, if she calls and asks to. It might be out of our hands, since easy child 1 loves to answer the phone. It feels wrong to forbid any contact at all but on the other hand it would be justified in light of difficult child's tendency to, consciously or unconsciously, stir up resentment in easy child 1 at how we are treating her "mommy", if you know what I mean (you all probably do know what I mean, but family and the general public generally do not and seem to take the view that we are very harsh and cruel).


Well-Known Member
I think your plans are very straightforward and realistic. Honestly, if it were me I wouldn't want her talking to easy child 1. It seems to me that ship on motherhood/familial relationship has sailed, and it's terribly unfair to easy child 1. I would be very tempted to change my phone number in order to protect easy child 1, but that's me.