Dear Margo: Demon Rum and Demon Mum

My stepsons’ mother is out of control. Margo Howard’s advice

Demon Rum and Demon Mum

Dear Margo: My husband has custody of his three sons from his first marriage. The boys’ mother is an alcoholic, and at the time of the custody battle, she was also addicted to meth. Her current husband shares her addictions. Visitation with the mother was limited by court order to four hours a week, and she rarely shows up.

Last year on Mother’s Day, after not seeing them for months, she did pick the boys up and took them to a local lake. During the visit, her husband, in a fit of anger, physically assaulted one of the boys. We filed and received a protective order against their stepfather the next day.

Since that day, the mother has been verbally and emotionally abusing the boys on a near daily basis via telephone. She calls, drunk, dozens of times a day to tell them they don’t love her, that they’ll be sorry one day for the way they “treat her.” (They are actually respectful, but tired of her abuse, they are starting to stand up for themselves.) If the boys turn off their cell phones, the messages escalate into the hundreds. When she calls to talk to one of us, she accuses us of taking her boys from her, as well as causing her addictions and problems.

We spoke to our lawyer about terminating her rights. We were told that as long as she shows up, even if sporadically, and pays her child support (garnished by the state for the first two years when she did not pay), there’s nothing we can do. (Though she did lose her job yesterday for regularly showing up drunk.) We cannot make her stop. We cannot make her change. We cannot make her face reality. We can only be there for the boys and try to comfort and counsel them through the anguish. If you happen to have any advice about how to make the situation better, I am all ears. — Helpless Stepmom

Dear Help: Isn’t alcoholism a terrible and destructive thing? One thing you can do is send your boys to Al-Anon so they can gain understanding and get support from people who have “been there.” On a practical level, because this woman has lost her job, there will be no child support, meaning that you may be able to stop the visits. Regarding the drunk dialing, you all might consider changing your numbers.

The good news is that the visits are sporadic. And … though you don’t say how old the boys are, there comes a time when kids can make their own decisions about seeing or not seeing a parent. Good luck. The turmoil will at some point be over. — Margo, thornily

Do We Ask About Face Lifts?

Dear Margo: I’ve been close to “Maggie” for 30 years, from the time we were young mothers in our 20s. We’ve always had a joke pledge that we would never do anything to our faces. I don’t know what your position is, but we both thought it was unnecessary and phony. Well, lo and behold, Maggie, after some weeks away (“visiting a cousin”), returns looking, uh, quite refreshed. I mean, the wrinkles are gone, and so are the jowls. What would you suggest I say to open this discussion? — Longtime Friend

Dear Long: Nothing. In this case, her face speaks for her. Unless she brings up the subject, why cause her embarrassment? Often, women who don’t wish to fess up will tell you they are just “well rested” or they’ve “changed their makeup.” The kindest thing would be to play along, telling her the “rest” did wonders for her, and let her think you’ve bought her story. Where’s the harm?

As for myself, I am not looking for reasons to go under general anesthesia, and I must say I’m interested to see how my face goes to hell on its own. As I’ve written before, facelifts are a dicey business. You can wind up looking like a Picasso, suffer nerve damage, or look pulled and shiny. Some faces are so changed that friends might think you’re in the Witness Protection Program. ‘Nuff said. — Margo, naturally

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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59 Responses so far.

  1. avatar toni says:

    LW1 needs to consult an attorney specializing in custody battles. If her lawyer thinks visitation is in any way a privilege tied to payment of child support she needs to consult someone else.

    To Margo – I am so with you re LW2 and plastic surgery! Any surgery has risk, and I like seeing where my face is journeying.

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      Toni, you are so correct. Too many lawyers out there are happy to charge a fat fee to render a “there’s nothing we can do” opinion. With a scenario like this, there’s plenty to be done. In addition, LW1 might want to read Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear (available used on Amazon), which in Chapter 8 (Persistence, Persistence) outlines how to deal with people who refuse to let go and other forms of harassment.    

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        Another vote for The Gift of Fear, it’s an extraordinary book that everyone should read. In particular, De Becker has a hugely valuable technique for harassing phone callers. He says that if you just change your number, or block theirs, they will immediately start trying to get the new number, or calling from other phones to get around your block. What you do instead is get a new number, but leave the old one up, with the same answering message. Tell people you actually *want* to hear from (and can trust not to tell the crazy stalker) your new number. Let the other calls pile up on the voice mail. Check now and then for the calls you actually want, and again, call those people back and give them the new number. Eventually, only the crazy stalker will be calling the old number, and the calls go into the void.

        Brilliant stuff.

    • avatar lisakitty says:

      I agree with you, Toni.  Many people take the word of one attorney as the absolute, it’s always worth getting another opinion.  In this case, given the harrassment of the young children, the sporadic visitations and the abuse by the new stepfather, at the very least the LW should be requesting (or rather her husband, because he’ll have to be the one to do this) supervised visitation.  On pain of DEATH would I allow a child of mine in a car with that woman!

      • avatar mmht says:

        I have to agree. I find it odd that the mother can harass the children all day, which they can easily get proof that she’s doing, and the lawyers are saying “Oh well, there isn’t anything we can do.” Children are taken away from abusive parents all the time and that lawyer is telling you that her abusiveness is ok b/c she pays child support? I really think they need to consult an attorney.

        • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

          The lawyer did not say that.  He said that she could not terminate rights.  Involuntary termination of parental rights is a much different animal than custody.  There is a higher standard involved.  Even so, some courts are loathe to terminate rights even in situations in which it is probably warranted.  She should seek a second opinion regarding termination and if that is truly not an option, pursue changing the custody order.

  2. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  While her conduct may not warrant termination of her parental rights, I think that there should be a way for the court to stop her harassment of the boys.   And, I hope that the sporadic 4 hour visitation she has with them is *supervised* by a court officer or social worker.  If it is not, you may want to have your lawyer file a motion asking for supervised visitation particularly given the abuse that has already occurred from the step-father.  I’m not a family lawyer but I think that if a court were aware of the harassing abusive phone calls the boys are receiving from her, she could be ordered to limit her contact with them to her scheduled visitation.  Good luck.  

    LW#2:  I hope you are not in some way feeling betrayed by your friends decision because of your pledges to each other.  I’m with Margo on plastic surgery…don’t plan on having it myself.  But people often change their minds about such matters and evidently your friend did.  I wouldn’t say anything to her about it. 

  3. avatar gala62 says:

    Good morning everyone…even though I’ve read this column for years, this is my first comment.
    I think it’s important to distinguish that the children from LW1 should be attending Alateen meetings NOT Al-Anon which is for adults (the topics sometimes get very intense and not appropriate for children or teens). Other than that, Margo’s advice is spot on.

    As for LW2? When did we as a society become so fearful of the aging process? I don’t want to try to look 30 when I’m 70 – sheesh! There is a cosmetic surgeon here in Rhode Island now advertising vaginal rejuvenation…wtf? Are you serious?

    hoping the lilacs last until Rochester’s Lilac Festival in May!

  4. avatar marywells says:

    LW#2- She has changed her mind about facelifts, so what? It doesn’t mean she has stopped being a good friend. Or that she has stopped trusting you. Maybe she fears your reaction, since you shared the same opinion some years ago. Or she simply doesn’t want to be a walking ad to plastic surgery. Some people are shy about it, while others publish “before and after” photos on Facebook. Pay no attention.

  5. avatar CatA says:

    LW1’s case is hair-raising, and it was good that that they got the protective order against the problem mom’s abusive husband.  Margo’s advice is sound, too, but I disagree that “[T}he turmoil will at some point be over.”  Likely not.  I am always amazed at the capacity of abusers to see themselves as victims, and continue in this vein, ad nauseum – with complaints about how they are treated, telephone terrorism, even up to filing false police reports.  One could hope that if the mother ever sobers up and dumps the jerk second husband, she might be able to rebuild a relationship with her kids.  But I’ve known of this sort of thing to not get better, and the bullsh*t just continues.  My lying and manipulative former SIL is a drama queen extraordinaire who continues to position herself as a victim, blathering on Facebook about being kicked to the curb by her kids. Her children want nothing to do with her because of her heinous and childish conduct.  People like the children’s mother above and my former SIL are very immature, narcissistic, and apparently have little ability to deal with the problems they themselves have created … because it’s much easier to blame someone else than look into your own soul.  I truly feel for the Helpless Stepmom because she is trying hard to build a decent life for her three stepsons.   Until the courts get sterner against the abusers, though, the family members who try to do it right will continue to have it hard.  And until these self-deluding abusers have a man-in-the-mirror epiphany and change their lives around, nothing will change and the turmoil they cause will continue.          

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      “And until these self-deluding abusers have a man-in-the-mirror epiphany and change their lives around, nothing will change and the turmoil they cause will continue.”

      Good luck with that. My mother never did. And my ex never has, and he just had our adult son declared mentally disabled, so that he could receive disability Social Security. He has been trying to turn our son into a paycheck since he went to live with him, and has never made even the smallest bit of effort to help him be responsible for himself. Mind you, this is the man who for 15 years never attended a school meeting, doctor, dentist, optometrist or psychiatrist meeting, insisted that our son wasn’t autistic or troubled, just stupid (tests to the contrary, he has slightly above average intelligence) and relied on his parents for visits. He also took him off of his meds as soon as he went to live with him…much to everyone’s detriment, as he ended up in the mental hospital three different times for assaulting his father, grandfather and grandmother (they had claimed he never did the same to me or his six years younger brother…and that he’d never touch his beloved Mimi. I tried to warn them.). Then he tried to have him declared mentally retarded (fail) and have him committed…after having him for two months.

      My son didn’t want to live with us, because we saw his potential, and we actually have rules, and consequences and act as a family. We see him as a family member and we care deeply about him. My ex sees him as a meal ticket, and has never wanted to exert any effort to actually help him…it’s so much easier to let him devolve to a 10-year-old mentality, and give him whatever he wants, and let him have vague, unreachable fantasies. Unfortunately, he is nearly 21, and when he becomes frustrated when reality and fantasy don’t mesh…that is when the acting out starts. My ex is doing no one any favors, and is potentially setting up an extremely dangerous situation…but it’s all our fault.

      Yes, he put that down in the disability paperwork. My son had a terrible childhood, you see. Which my ex would know, being almost entirely absent except for that support check during that 15 years.

      So, yes, good luck.

      • avatar CatA says:

        I wonder if your son’s case couldn’t be reviewed with a goal to placing him in a neutral assisted living facility?  Maybe you could petition the court for this?

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          CatA: My son is closing in on 21…and he likes living with his father, because he can do whatever he wants. He has lost most of his ability to separate fantasy from reality…and no one there cares, as this is the low and easy route. His grandmother is an alcoholic and prescription drug abuser…she can no longer drive as she totaled her car while inebriated and high on pain pills about six months ago. My ex, her son, provides her with liquor and refuses to monitor her pills…even though her doctor flatly told him to do so. She is an extremely narcissistic, vicious, and dramatic woman who cares for nothing and no one but herself…and her son is exactly like her. My son is also narcissistic, high-functioning on the autism spectrum, and bi-polar. He has been diagnosed as ADHD…but I’ve never seen the “hyperactive” part, and I think his concentration issues are exactly like his father’s and grandmother’s…they are able to do so…when they have the desire…but make something require even the slightest bit of effort and they whine and quit (I’ve known many ADD and ADHD people, one of my best friends is ADD, and they can and will put a lot of effort into things…my son and the rest simply won’t).

          My son is a racist, is fascinated by Nazism and thinks he can run off to Los Angeles and be a rock star…except he plays no musical instrument (he was given lessons, but refused to practice), cannot read or comprehend music, and thinks that all musicians “lived off of their middle class parents’ money” (that’s a quote from him) while they gained immediate stardom. We’ve tried to disabuse him of this notion. If you’ve read my comments before…you know my feelings about bigotry. We don’t allow any symbols of Nazism in the house. He loves coming here to visit (he lives only five minutes away) because we are a family…but won’t stay more than two or three hours because the sole topics of conversation aren’t death metal, video games, and action movies with his favorite actors. And he has to sit down to dinner with everyone…not watch TV and eat at his leisure. Etc..

          Would it be wonderful to get him into a good program? He’s already in at least two…and his father has them bamboozled into thinking that he is utterly incapable, and that I am the enemy. I can’t get any information from his dad, and since my son is an adult, I can’t just ask the people in the programs for it, nor is my son ever aware (or does he care) when appointments are taking place.

          So I keep trying, as does his step-dad (who rocked him, read to him endlessly, and loves him as his own), step-grandmother (who first taught him to talk and communicate), and even his younger brother. We keep hoping for the best, and fearing the worst. The laws make it almost impossible to help adults.

    • avatar toni says:

      CatA you are correct. Things rarely magically change. It makes it even more important to get a good lawyer.

  6. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Re: L#1: Change all of the phone numbers…and if you have a land-line, go unlisted regardless of the expense. Her visitation is limited to four hours (I would hope supervised, by two, not just one, social worker, and limited to public venues) and that is all she gets. Period. End of story. Your husband, her ex, gets to make any further contact, such as checking to see if she’s going to be visiting the boys, before she arrives or after she fails to turn up.

    You are far from helpless. Changing the numbers on the cell phones, and either removing the land-line or going unlisted (and people, please, don’t start the usual whining about the dreadful inconvenience of these things…we are talking about the safety and comfort of children and phone numbers for personal and business contacts are really NOT that difficult to change and keep private. I’ve done it, and recently too) may cause her to become irrationally angry…and to stop making her support payments. Then you have a firm legal reason to take her to court, and perhaps, with the harassment, get all further contact with her sons curtailed.

    Document, document, document. It’s tedious, but it helps enormously. Every threat, snipe, attack, call (time, length and content)…record it in a log. Alcoholism is a beast…and people like her are the reason I have little empathy for addicts. I am a recovered alcoholic and drug addict…26 years clean and sober, and the child of a mother who was at least as horrible as the woman you’re suffering with, and a whole family full of others just as wretched and rotten. I am the only member of the family who actually chose to become sober on her own.

    Custody can be an awful thing. My oldest son is now suffering the full impact of having his bio father and his family in his life…something I could do nothing about because the checks were always more or less on time. I wish you all the best on the road ahead of you.



    • avatar David Bolton says:

      LW1: It’s important to realize that when you’re fighting a war, sometimes you might need to use a dirty bomb. Not that I would ever suggest doing any of the following, but I’ve heard of parents who

      1) Changed their phone numbers because of “prank calls” from an unknown number (which anyone can create these days using Google Voice, in less than 5 minutes—for free). Sadly, they forgot to tell the other parent.

      2) Called DHS on suspicion of drug use around the children, betting that the parent or step-parent would likely fail a tox screen of some kind.

      3) Waited until the parent called drunk, set up a meeting and then called the police to report a drunk driver. Enough of those, and the parent will lose their license and go to jail—at least in Tennessee, anyway.

      LW2: “You look great. Did it hurt?”

      • avatar toni says:

        I like how you think!

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Gosh, David, while I would never do such things…somewhere there’s an alcoholic ex-MIL who had her ability to pick up a grandchild suspended for a long, long time ’cause she showed up in an inebriated state at the daycare…which has received a mysterious phone call.

        Yup, everything you said…and more.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          I’ve also heard of parents who offer the alcoholic pest a free supply of good booze for the weekend in exchange for “something came up this weekend, sorry kids.”

          It’s a tactic I wouldn’t be above trying.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Mescal with the worms still in it…a few bottles of that and the woman might be looking Mictlanteucuhtli in the eyes.

            Problem solved.

  7. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: What Margo said. Are the boys obligated to take her phone calls? If not, change your phone #’s. Do what you can to NOT be held hostage to this destructive woman. And yes, I’d definitely see if her “visting rights” can be terminated while she’s unemployed (can’t pay child support). You risk an escalation of her anger, but I’d rather risk that versus appeasing her. She should NOT be appeased. I hope your husband (boys’ father) is being more proactive about this than you, considering he is the biological parent.

    L #2: I’d just say nothing. It’s not like you’re both in junior high and made a pinkie swear. Time changes people, changes our appearances. Some people don’t handle it well. I look very good for 46 and (if mother and aunt are any indication), I’ll still look good 20 years from now. But if I don’t? I might get a tweak; might not. Impossible to say at this point.

    • avatar lisakitty says:

      I’m a little wary of the change the phone numbers idea.  In many parenting plans, there is a specific clause that says that the parents have to provide effective phone numbers and addresses to each other.  To change the numbers could put the LW at risk of violating the parenting plan.  I stress the word COULD.  The LW should look at the specifics of the parenting plan before taking any action about contact numbers. 

      BTW:  Be careful when talking about changes to the parenting plan.  In my state, it is extremely difficult to change a parenting plan formally, but there are motions you can make that in essense temporarily modify the plan.    

      • avatar toni says:

        You are on the money about the ph #s – parent has to have them and you can’t just change them.

        • avatar butterfly55 says:

          In most cases the parents have to have the other parents phone number, not one direct to the child, this is a problem with everyone having a cell nowadays.  I don’t see any reason that the number can’t be changed on the childs phone and not given out.

          • avatar lisakitty says:

            Butterfly, again, it depends on what is included in the parenting plan.  If the parenting plan states that the mother have direct access to her children through cell phones, and the father changed those numbers without telling the mother, the father would be in violation of the parenting plan and that could affect HIS custody.  We just don’t know.  It’s not unheard of for a parent (especially one as instable as the mother seems to be) to take a changed phone number as a personal insult and try to reach for more custody. I’d be careful about just changing the numbers without advice from a (possibly another) attorney.

          • avatar butterfly55 says:

            Can’t imagine any parent not getting into court with these calls and getting it set up so the mother is no longer able to access the child’s cell.  They need a lawyer who also realizes that child support and visitation are not tied together.  Someone is not doing their legal work properly.  Would like to know the age of these children as that can make some differences

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Regarding changing from a land-line to a cell phone, and visitation rights:

        Actually, the mother has only been granted contact with her children for four hours per week. Period. End of story (and yes, I am very familiar with these laws). There is no requirement that she have her sons’ cell phone numbers at all…only a single contact number which is provided in case she cannot not make her visitation time, or there is an emergency. Her sons’ custodial parent, their father, is responsible for monitoring any further contact…as long as her permitted contact is not obstructed, he has no further obligation to allow contact, especially since her current partner is under a restraining order, and also because the children are minors.

        There should be no issue with switching the boys’ cell phone numbers. As for deleting a land-line, everyone is doing it in favor of cell phone service. There should be ONE number that she has access to, it should be their father’s, and he should monitor all calls from her. That is allowing her to call if there is an emergency…and using call screening by listening to her messages is the best way to handle that. He’ll assuredly know immediately if her call has any importance, if not, delete the message. He is NOT setting up a barrier between her and her children…if there really is a reason for her to talk to them, he can have them call her.

        None of this is in any way questionable, especially if they have recorded conversations of her abusing the boys…and they continue to allow her four hour weekly visitations. That’s all the law has permitted her, and that’s all she gets. Been through this kind of thing before, and I’ve got a pretty good idea of the do’s and don’ts.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        “In many parenting plans, there is a specific clause that says that the parents have to provide effective phone numbers and addresses to each other.”

        Bingo. “To each other” is the important part of that statement. Not to minor children who haven’t the ability to monitor calls, and who should not be subjected to daily harassment and abuse. Give the woman one cell phone number, monitor the messages for emergencies, and allow her supervised phone contact with the boys as their father sees fit…by calling her at his and the boys’ convenience, and having the option of terminating the call if she becomes irrational and abusive. And document every abusive ranting message she leaves…time, date duration and a recording.

        Parenting isn’t a child-support check grudgingly given. This woman is not a parent.

        • avatar lisakitty says:

          Unless you are the LW, Briana, you DON’T KNOW what’s in the parenting plan!

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            @lisakitty: I quoted you, lisa…did you fail somehow to recognize your own words? I never said that I knew the parenting plan…I was referencing your quote directly. Here it is again, to refresh your memory:

            “In many parenting plans, there is a specific clause that says that the parents have to provide effective phone numbers and addresses to each other.” —lisakitty

            If one reads your quote correctly, the phrase “each other” references the subject of the sentence, “the parents” who must “provide effective phone numbers and addresses…TO EACH OTHER” (I apologize sincerely for the capitals, as WoW saw fit to remove the use of italics). Apparently your understanding of either English as a written language, or your memory of your own comments is extremely faulty. I never said that this was true, or that I had some sort of clairvoyant knowledge of the parenting plan.

            Your statement does not reference the children at all, in any way. I was actually agreeing with you. You must be one of the most unreasonable, deficient readers to ever post on this site…given your frequent attacks on other readers, and more recent unfounded, and ridiculous attempts at me. What IS your problem? I have never heard of a non-custodial parent being required to have the cell phone numbers minor children…and I know a lot of divorced parents and their children (my son is in middle school and has many friends). Only the number of the parents is required. As you stated in your post.

            But then, anyone who self-contradicts then chooses to chastise other readers probably isn’t much worth conversing with, is she?

  8. avatar lincer says:

    Re: Letter #2
    You know, some things are none of our business. If she wanted to tell you – she would have told you. Friendship doesn’t mean we have no privacy – it does mean acceptance.

  9. avatar D C says:

    if I had the money, I’d definitely get a few things lifted and tucked, but I’m the kind who would willingly confess that I’d had some work done, especially to people who know me well.  You know you can smooth out that neck with duct tape — just hide it under your hair if it’s long enough.  If not, maybe a high collar.  LOL

  10. avatar D C says:

    I feel so sorry for the kids in the first letter.  I think they need to find a new attorney.  There has to be something that can be done to stop the mother’s destructive contact.  Or maybe it’s as simple as getting a new cell phone, strictly dedicated to the calls with the mother.  Turn the sound off and dump all messages without listening to them.  The boys can talk to mom on that phone only and when she gets abusive, train them to say “Call back when you’re feeling better mom, I have to go now” and hang up. 

  11. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – Change the kids phone numbers and get a new attorney if your not getting better advice than this from the one you’ve got. 

    LW2 – Oh, please. If you’ve been close for 30 years just ask her about it. “Wow! You look so rested. Just how much did that nap cost you”?  

  12. avatar lebucher says:

    LW1:  I can’t believe any court order includes requiring people to submit to nearly nonstop phone harassment.  Document the excessive calls and get legal relief.

    I also like the idea of pushing her out of the picture with the drunk driving gotcha.  Someone like this cannot possibly bring anything good to her contact with the children.  The less exposure they have to her, the better for their emotional welfare.  Some people are just so toxic that they should be shut out altogether.

  13. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: While I agree with Margo that the LW and her kids should check out Al-Anon, please keep in mind that it is not for everyone. I never took to Al-Anon like my siblings did. I never really felt comfortable there nor did I ever get the comfort and peace from it that my siblings did. It wasn’t the groups fault nor was it the programs fault, it was me and how I had to deal with the alcoholism in my family. Unfortunately, neither my parents nor my siblings understood this and I was constantly hounded to attend meetings. Often being told that I was doing something wrong or not really listening and if I just went enough then I would understand how helpful the program was. It was a very terrible time and experience for me. So please keep in mind that if one or both of your children are not happy with the program that it is neither their fault nor Al-Anon’s fault. Its just that each person deals with the trauma in their life differently.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      I agree. My dad has been sober over 20 years and he doesn’t recommend Al-Anon across the board for many of the reasons I never liked it there. I felt more comfortable in actual AA meetings despite not being the alcoholic. Now I definitely agree family/friends of alchs need someone to talk to. Either a good friend or a therapist, but I’m wholly unconvinced al-anon is useful to everyone.

  14. avatar FireyLady says:

    LW1: You know, I fail to see why they can’t keep the voicemails and submit those to the courts as evidence of the woman’s harassment toward the boys. (I refuse to call someone who behaves like that a mother) After that, get a court order and either change the numbers or block hers. Every cell phone company has the option of blocking a few numbers, and this is certainly something that the parents should explore for the boys’ safety. There has to be more that the parents can do than what the attorney is telling them.

    LW2: I fail to see how you can possibly accuse your friend of having a facelift without greatly hurting her feelings. If it doesn’t hurt you, leave it be.

  15. avatar Frau Quink says:

    LW1: As a former CASA volunteer, this is my input: Children do not have the luxury to wait until a parent ‘shapes up’ and gets healthy. To start with in this case, a court order for supervised visits needs to be put in place immediately.

  16. avatar mabel says:

    LW#1 – I agree with those who say that paying child support isn’t a free pass to abuse your kids. Maybe your lawyer isn’t taking the abuse seriously because it’s “verbal and emotional” rather than physical. You should take the kids for a psychological evaluation so that you have a professional’s opinion about how damaging their mother’s behavior is to their well-being. Then go back to your lawyer (or get a different lawyer!) and say that its the opinion of Dr. So-And-So that what the boys are experiencing is abuse that will cause serious consequences for them if allowed to continue.

    LW#2 – Why on earth would you need to “open a discussion”? Why do people these days feel that it is not only their right but their obligation to call people out on things that are absolutely none of their business whatsoever? Example: “My co-worker is butt ugly. How should I tell her that?” YOU DON’T!!! And the fact that you even want to means that you’re a nasty, small-minded, petty person! Plus, the fact that somebody else needed to TELL you that you shouldn’t say anything means you’re also stupid! What the hell is wrong with people? (Sorry, I’m making generalizations that go way beyond this one letter, but I’ve seen several letters to advice columnists recently asking how to “politely” say something that was absolutely unnecesary to say, couldn’t possibly have any positive outcome, and would almost certainly result in negative feelings. Why, people? Why?)

    • avatar HelliePie says:

      @ mabel, right on!

      Why do people these days feel that it is not only their right but their obligation to call people out on things that are absolutely none of their business whatsoever? Example: “My co-worker is butt ugly. How should I tell her that?” YOU DON’T!!!

      In answer to your question I think it’s because people have always modeled their behavior on what they see on tv, and the stupider the person, the more they do it. “Reality” show producers egg contestants on to do this sort of thing because it will be provocative and dramatic. Viewers follow suit.

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      “I agree with those who say that paying child support isn’t a free pass to abuse your kids. ”

      thanks for the strong stance against child abuse, mabel. it’s important to have convictions.

      so tell me… what ARE the things one can do to get a free pass to abuse your kids?

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        chuck alien: “so tell me… what ARE the things one can do to get a free pass to abuse your kids?”

        Top Ten Reasons to Abuse your Kids
        1): Wrecking your new Beamer.
        2): Drinking all of that $1500 bottle of Scotch you hadn’t even cracked yet and puking all over your Beamer’s leather seats.
        3): smoking your only Gurkha Black Dragon cigar ($1500).
        4): Announcing they’ve married the pool-boy…either sex.
        5): Running up all of your Platinum cards and given every item away to friends and street people.
        6): Joining the…Other Side.
        7): Announcing they’re Born Again
        8): Renouncing all religious beliefs.
        9): Opening all of your tins of black and white truffles and $550/oz. caviar, tasting them, deciding they don’t like them, and feeding them to your $2500 teacup dog, who vomits the semi-digested remains onto your $50,000 authentic fetal endangered species unfinished leather sofa. Plus the vet bill for the damned dog…
        10): the Facebook photos they post of them with your new, secret 20-years-junior boy-or-girl-toy at a rave. Priceless.

  17. avatar julpfeif says:

    LW#1 Can’t they just block Mom’s number to the kids’ cell phones? Let the parents deal with drama.

  18. avatar Annie H says:

    LW #1 Is in dire need of a new attorney.  They are going to have to document all of her phone calls and messages to show a pattern.  Also, her vistation, or lack there of, document it all.  If you know she is still using drugs, document what you can and ask for drug testing.  If she fails, there you go and you can ask the court to intervene on visitation.  After what my sister went through with her ex’s drug use, I can say it will take time and documentation but you can win.  Also, your attorney must be willing to help you.  If not, find another one.  Some attorney’s do not want to do the extra work in a long custody case.  They’d rather have the quick solution and move forward.  My sister went through bad attorney’s, judges, and finally got judge that didn’t buy bs.  After not doing the agreed drug testing and classes, he revoked vistation and contact. Years later, said ex husband still hasn’t done a thing to get visitation reinstated and still has a meth problem.  You might not get parental rights taken away but you will get the visitation and contact axed.  Be persistent and good luck! 

  19. avatar Jay Gentile says:

    Immediately get the children new cell phones and do not give the number to their mother. If you can afford it, leave the other phones active so that mommy can leave her nasty messages on voice mail that no one ever listens to. 

    Also, consider the Five Minute Rule. If mom is five minutes late for her visit, leave a note on the front door (“The boys were sorry that you didn’t show up as scheduled, so we took them out of ice cream.”) and go somewhere fun with the boys. If she was late for her visitation, oh well.

  20. avatar Carolyn Schmahl says:

    Repeated calling and texting is a chargeable form of harassment. The parents and children, if age appropriate, need to tell her to stop, both verbally and in written form (send a certified letter). Press charges if she doesn’t.

  21. avatar Carolyn Schmahl says:

    Oops, I wanted to agree with the first poster also. Child support and visitation rights have absolutely NOTHING to do with each other.

  22. avatar Mary Morgan says:

    LW1, if it is age appropriate for the children, then Al Ateen is a great suggestion…but quite honestly, it sounds as if they could all use a support system like Al Anon…it is for friends, family or anyone with an involvement with someone with a substance abuse issue…helps to learn when to fight and when to walk away…

  23. avatar butterfly55 says:

    LW2, perhaps you need refreshed?

  24. avatar A R says:

    LW1: Just because the woman calls doesn’t mean anyone has to answer. Answer only on the days she’s scheduled for pickup. Otherwise, turn the ringer off.

    LW2: People change their minds. Be a good friend and leave the woman alone. Why do you care? She’s healthy, looks nice, and is still your friend.

  25. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Re: L#1: I have never been to an Al-Anon or Al-Ateen meeting, but if they’re related to AA, or any of the standard 12-step programs, they are more or less religiously based…and 12-stepping doesn’t work for everyone (I have tried OA, which uses the same program and book as AA, and found it useless). My therapist, who has worked with addict and alcoholics, and their children, dislikes 12-stepping because she feels that it is failure-based, and refuses to actually encourage personal accountability (she has been working at her profession for over 30 years…and she is religious).

    May I gently, and without being attacked, suggest therapy for the children? It doesn’t have to be expensive, there need be no medications…and a good, qualified therapist experienced in working with children’s issues may be much more effective than meetings. I have always found them to instill a large degree of guilt…even in the victims of the
    abuser. A qualified therapist will also suggest appropriate group settings for the children depending on age and need.

    12-step groups have more relapses than any other form of recovery, because they insist that the addict WILL relapse. Just a thought.

    • avatar mayma says:

      I 100% agree that therapy might be a good idea for the kids, and I 100% disagree that “12-step groups have more relapses than any other form of recovery, because they insist that the addict WILL relapse.” This is in no way, shape or form part of any 12-step group that I know. First of all, no one tracks those kinds of statistics, so there is no way to know, and secondly (and more importantly) there is a big big big difference between what some random one or two or three people in the meeting say and what the actual program says. Anyone who “insists that the addict WILL relapse” has misinterpreted something, and their opinion should definitely not be taken as some kind of canon. Really felt the need to correct that misinformation.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Yes, mayma, people do track those statistics, and 12-step programs do have the highest rate of relapse (remember, a lot of rehab establishments use the 12-step program as well). I’ve also been to 12-step meetings…so I do have first hand experience. You are powerless, you will eventually relapse, give it over to your “higher power” when you do, and come back and tell us all about it. They don’t teach ***personal*** accountability and responsibility…just the helplessness of the addict.

        There is a much higher rate of success with therapeutic techniques that explore the nature of the addiction, triggers, and self-responsibility. Sorry, but those are the facts.

        By the way, I am a recovered addict and alcoholic…and I found AA useless, and didn’t have the money for rehab…so I did it on my own. I relied on knowing my triggers, and a firm belief in my own responsibility toward others. It’s worked for 26 years.

        • avatar mayma says:

          Please cite the the statistics/studies. There is no way that any poll-taker is going to be able to canvas an AA meeting and gauge the rate of success. There is no way to get a representative sample of addicts/alcoholics from that pool to make anything close to an accurate judgment about its success rate.

          Rehab programs are in no way, shape or form equivalent to AA, so polling rehab graduates is not the same as measuring AA’s success. They are two completely different things. Like you, most people don’t have the money for rehab; there are literally millions more outside of that very narrow sample.

          I am (truly) glad you found what works for you; I mean that sincerely. And I think therapy is a 100% valid route. To say that it has a higher success rate is “fact” is simply not true. There is no way to support such a claim; it’s anecdotal, based on your own experience, not fact. (At best, such a study, if it exists, would be based on a skewed sample, because — again — no proper measurement is possible.)

          The AA program does not ever say “you will eventually relapse,” and it harps on personal responsibility almost constantly. One takes responsibility when trying to clean up damage from the past, to give just one small example. Again, I am talking about the program, not random people who have misinterpreted the actual program.

        • avatar wendykh says:

          What the hell are you talking about? AA is ALL about personal accountability, focusing on yourself, being honest, and taking care of yourself. I think you missed the message entirely.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Sorry, but I absolutely disagree. So does my therapist, the entire staff of the extremely reputable hospital she works with, including the other therapists and psychiatrists. AA sends a mixed message that treats the alcoholic as a “sick” person with no control over their illness and talks about giving up control to their “higher power”…then wants the alcoholic to go in ***after the fact*** to confess their “sins” and apologize for all of the harm he/she has done. I AM familiar with the program. And the twelve-step method is NOT exclusive to AA, and the studies have been done based on rehabilitation centers in which 12-step programs and alternative therapies have been used. Sorry again…but 12-step programs in such settings (also used by “millions of people”) have the highest incidence of relapse…partly due to the fact that they always allow for the addict to come back, confess his/her “wrongs” and make restitution. That is not the same thing as accountability or responsibility, nor is having a sponsor to call (I know all about sponsors…they aren’t always available because they’re human…and prayer doesn’t work and meetings aren’t a 24/7 solution…but hey, if you fall off the wagon for a day, month, year…you can always go to “confession” again and say “I’m sorry” to the people you’ve wronged for the umpteenth time). As to admitting you’re an alcoholic…nowadays, that’s the easy part. It’s almost condoned.

            I’ve been there, and so have a lot of other people. And while rehab is expensive…AA is no miracle. I’ve known far too many people who’ve gone that route who relapse constantly…return to meetings…then relapse again. Of course, those who succeed are as filled with faith as any religious converts. Not surprising to me at all, since it’s faith based and god-driven.

            And that, people, is like any other religious business. It doesn’t work for everyone…and like prayer, requires a certain suspension of disbelief.

  26. avatar mayma says:

    I’m not even a fan of plastic surgery but I nevertheless felt… I dunno…. super-irritated at LW2. Why do you care, LW!??! You phrase it as if it’s some kind of betrayal of a childhood pact and that you’re obligated to have a confrontation. WTF?!?! I say this with love: are you crazy!?!? It is unbelievably none of your business what this person chooses to do with her body. The judgement and childishness (as if she’s supposed to never change her mind over 30 years so that YOU can rest easy) from that letter were creepy to me.