1. Recently my husband’s work hours were cut and we’re struggling financially, now his drinking has increased quite a bit and he’s always angry – at first he just was angry with me but now he’s begun to take it out on our children as well, yelling at them for no reason, or dishing out very harsh punishment for small issues. I’ve tried talking to him about it, but he says he’s fine and doesn’t need help. I don’t want to turn into a nag, but I don’t know what to do. Thank you for your help.
You are right on target with not wanting to “nag.” Some of the most challenging aspects of being in a marriage relationship is stepping up when you see a possible ‘train wreck’ ahead. What is happening in your family now seems to be one of those times. It will not be easy, but your husband needs you now more than ever to be assertive (not aggressive), and insist that the two of you talk about your situation. There are three issues that you need to attend to and that you can do something about. First: empower yourself in preparation for dealing with what is unlikely to be a quick or easy process. Get educated on alcoholism and alcohol abuse and misuse. Public education is offered by most local treatment centers; there are wonderful resources online and print material is also available. Get support so that you are not alone. Alanon is a wonderful resource for those affected by family members’ drinking and meetings are plentiful in the South Bay. Local treatment centers and churches may also offer support groups. Second: make sure your children are protected, both physically and emotionally. What you describe is harmful to children. Decide where your lines are regarding the treatment of your children and clearly communicate these to your husband (preferably when he is not drinking). If these lines are continually crossed, you may need to call in help, whether that be the Department of Children and Family Services or the Police. You cannot allow yourself or your children to be victims of ongoing abuse of any nature. Third: lovingly encourage your husband to get help, while making that as easy as possible. Research what treatment options are open for him and contact local interventionists to explore using that method. Shaming him, agitated emotional appeal, meeting anger with anger, and judging and/or manipulating have all proven highly ineffective in getting alcoholics or problem drinkers to seek help. Communicate as clearly and calmly as you can your concerns for him, yourself, and your children. Let him know you love him and want him healthy and happy. This approach gives you the best chance to positively impact his choice, but there are, unfortunately, no guarantees. You may need to make very hard decisions to ensure your own and your children’s welfare and that is where the support you have built will become critical.
2. How can I tell if my 14yo son is depressed or just moody like other teens? Some days he’s fine – funny & like his old self – then others he barely speaks to anyone, shrugs off my concern, and stays in his room with his ear phones in. Could his mood swings be related to drugs? How do I tell the difference?
To answer your question directly: is your son depressed- possibly! Is he just a moody teenager- most likely! Are his mood swings related to drugs – maybe! The true key is communication. Share this article with him, tell him you love him and worry about him. Then sit back and listen. You will have to wait for it, because he most likely won’t just begin talking. Be patient, non-judgmental, and non-critical with whatever he says. Just listen and learn. If it is in part, or whole, substance driven, there will likely be other signs such as unusual odors, abnormal eye appearance, friends with known substance involvement, drug related material ( High Times Magazine, visits to drug related sites online, t-shirts with drug related slogans etc.), increased secrecy, attempts to keep physical distance, loss of interest in activities he’s always enjoyed, or others. Consider implementing random drug screening (which can be done at a very reasonable cost) both as a confirmation and as a preventative measure (it’s easier for a teen to say “no” if they know they will be caught, plus it is perfectly o.k. for him to use you as his “over protective” parent if offered drugs). If you see multiple signs that drug use is involved, contact one of the local treatment centers specializing in adolescents and obtain a professional assessment, which is often available at very reasonable to no cost.
Responses to the above parent questions have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention. The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. For local resources or more information, please visit our website www.thefutureiswatching.org or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org