ADVICE - What to do with Crazy In-Laws & Their Children?

Reply Wed 29 Dec, 2021 12:41 pm
Long story, I'm sorry in advance. I feel like these details are important for any advice or ideas anyone has.

I have been married to my husband for 5 years now. My husband's dad was 13 when he had him. Father-In-Law (FIL) then got married and had other children 13 years later (currently has 2 children ages 13 and 16). FIL is now an alcoholic and going through a 2nd divorce from his wife (children's mom). His wife/ex is a doctor running her own practice and always seems a little too busy for things. I don't have a lot of details on her. FIL always claimed that she was the reason he drank, saying she was heartless, so he HAD to drink.

He drank A LOT while babysitting his children when his wife was at work. Until he was passed out drunk and needed to be picked up by an ambulance because he wasn't responding. This happened at least 3 times, kids saw it all, starting at ages 8 & 11. FIL has been in rehab 4 or 5 times since I have been with my husband. Rehab for a few days to a week has done nothing.

About 1.5 years ago, FIL started filing for the second divorce with his wife. Since she was the reason he drank, everyone advised him to move out even before the divorce was final. Who would have guessed it... but he STILL drank! Now because "he is so lonely" (the longer this goes on, the more I think he isn't so much as "lonely" as he is "horny").

FIL has lots of sweet family members nearby who are always ready to help, and my husband has been the right-hand-clean-up-dad's-mistakes person for years. My husband isn't treated as a son, but as a worker FIL can use for anything he wants. When I finally realized how much alcohol was involved for all the things my husband was "helping dad with" we had to talk about enabling. His dad was obviously using my husband as a means to continue drinking, because my husband can help with "the" kids (never "his" kids), finish jobs for him that he picked up and ignored, and fulfill other tasks and promises his dad had made. Always making it sound like if my husband didn't help, THE kids would have to deal with the consequences of my husband not helping. Never the consequences of an alcoholic dad still somehow in charge of his kids.

FIL has also told my husband that if he ever stops being in his life (aka fixing his mistakes, cleaning up his crap, and doing whatever he asks) he will kill himself. Apparently he also told this to his 16 year old son. This son also thinks he needs to be dad's caretaker now. He has seen his dad almost dead several times, and takes it upon himself to live with dad, get rid of alcohol, and make sure he's okay.

My FIL is the youngest of 5 children, was addicted to some drug in his young teens, drank through most of his teens and adulthood, and I think he has been spoiled and taken care of for a long time. He has lied A LOT about his situation to family members, always making it sound like his wife was the worst, he couldn't get out of the situation, that he wasn't drinking, making it seem like episodes weren't happening as often as they were, etc.

This last year has been an eye opener for everyone. I think we now all know how often he is drinking, how often he is lying, and honestly that his ex may not be the evil person he was making her out to be. But at the same time - I still don't think the kids are being taken cared of the way the need to be. And this is my biggest concern. I have NO IDEA why his ex leaves the kids in his care anymore. I think she should have stopped years ago...

Each time an episode happens, FIL cries, begs for forgiveness, promises to never drink again, says that he realizes that he can't even have a single beer, goes to rehab, etc etc. Classic addict behavior apparently.

The last big episode happening just 3 months ago. Drinking because he was "so lonely". But also has his 16 year old living with him... so not that lonely? When this episode happened, the 16 year old was with him, called my husband crying that his dad is passed out drunk, he thinks he might be dead, and doesn't know what to do. So we go over, FIL doesn't respond to anything except knuckles across his ribs, and then passes back out after a few seconds. We take the son home with us, FIL's sister comes over to watch FIL for the night.

The next day we get a call from FIL mad that we took his son, pretending NOTHING upsetting happened the night before, and refuses to let the son stay with us another night. The son does not want to see his dad again, but finally goes home after FIL yells enough.

Now He is back to drinking again, but it's "just beer". I'm SO sick of this guy I don't even know what to do. I think I should have called CPS - but my husband was so angry at me for even thinking about it. I think he dad need to be in in-house rehab for a few months minimum. FIL's sister agrees with me, but... how can we make him go? He's an adult!

I just don't know what to do. I'm done helping out this FIL with ANYTHING. I don't want gifts from him. I don't want dinner with him. I don't want to run errands for him. I don't want to fix things he ruined. I don't want to babysit because he over drank. I don't really want to babysit at all... my husband and I are not parent-material for these teenagers. The kids are old enough to be left alone, just not alone with their dad.


All I want to do is beat the living crap out of my FIL and get some kind of restraining order for the kids so they don't ever have to see him again. Obviously I can't do that... and the 16 yr old thinks dad is the best! Mom is the worst. Mom caused all problems dad has.

How can I help them, without enabling this lying, piece of crap human being anymore?

I'm desperate. Any advice?
Reply Wed 29 Dec, 2021 01:03 pm
I appreciate your concern for your, I guess they're your brothers in law.

Still, repeat after me, please.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

Say this until you can't say it anymore.

But if you must get involved, read on.

Since the 16-year-old has made up his mind, there's probably not a whole helluva lot you can do about that, apart from calling CPS. Which, apparently, will cause holy hell to rain down.

But there's nothing whatsoever stopping the rehab place from calling CPS.

As for the 13-year-old, maybe it can be presented as a sleepover. You and your husband are going to spend time with Kenny (or whatever his name is) just to spend time with him. If Pete (or whatever his name is, the 16 yo) wants to come along, then that's fine. If not, then you can spend some time just with Pete some other day.

Not babysitting. Just inviting them over, get some fun movies from Netflix you know they'd like, order a pizza, and chill. No parenting, no disciplining, no discussing the elephant in the room. Just spending time together.

This is a reasonable suggestion which your FIL would be insane to turn down. And it can help the 16 yo to see how the other half lives, and that his life with Dad isn't exactly normal.

Are you or your husband in touch with your former MIL at all? Not to snitch on the FIL's parenting lapses or to offer the kids to her. Just … maybe you can give her the lowdown on what's happening without actually saying a word. But that may be similar in difficulty to brokering peace in the Mideast.

There's a lot of difficult stuff you can get involved with. And the 13 yo may very well be worth intervening with.

But otherwise, the mantra still applies.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.
Reply Wed 29 Dec, 2021 01:19 pm
I agree with a lot of what Jespah said, but I'd reiterate more strongly that their mother be told - they're her children, after all, although why she would leave them with him in the first place is rather questionable.

But sitting down with your husband and setting your boundaries should be your number 1 issue. "Bill, I don't want to hear about your father or what he needs. I don't mind having your brothers over, but I am done with your father. I don't want him in this house and I won't visit him or have anything to do with him at all. Are we clear?" Something along those lines.

You sound like a caring, rational person and I can hear you're at your wits end. For you to continue to enjoy your married life, boundaries do need to be set and he has to be in agreement with them. It won't work, otherwise.
Reply Wed 29 Dec, 2021 01:50 pm
Agreed with both above...just adding it sounds like their mom knows about the dad being the way he is and isn't doing anything so you saying something to her is likely to do nothing...just assuming this.

You could anomously report him to CPS. Hard decision but I can understand about the kids. But would you be able to take them in if CPS removes tgem?
Reply Thu 30 Dec, 2021 10:34 am
Thank you Jespah, you had a lot of great insight! I really would LOVE to take your saying to heart "not my monkeys, not my circus" - but I don't think I can totally convince my husband to leave things the way they are. He still kind of believes there's a chance for his dad. We are the first called every time his dad drinks, and my husband feels too bad to leave the 16 yr old at his mom's when this stuff happens. The 16 yr old has refused to live there for awhile.

When FIL moved out into his own house (1.5 years ago), we started taking the 16 yr old every time an episode happened. Luckily the 13 yr old has been with at her mom's.

As for the almost-former-MIL, she absolutely knows what's going on. The ambulance was called by her at least one of the episodes (if not on all 3 while he was living with her). She KNOWS what's going on, I think she is just too busy to care? I really don't know. She's almost always at work, running her practice, which requires a lot of called-in, after-hours work. It also "seems" like FIL chooses these nights when she was called in to drink like an idiot...

Which also causes issues with taking the kids so much in my eyes. My husband and I can't take these kids during the week at all, and we can only some weekends. We have full times jobs, part time jobs, and our own lives, and it is starting to feel like having us pick up the son is enabling FIL to continue his cycle of chaos. But we can't get in touch with MIL because she's always so busy.

Technically the kids are old enough to be left alone at her house, but 16 yr old won't do that because his dad has convinced him that "mom sucks". So instead he has decided he is dad's caretaker - saying if dad dies he will kill himself - then crying/freaking out and calling my husband every time FIL succumbs to his drinking. Then says he never wants to go back to his dads. It's like he's torturing himself by living with his dad, and can't be talked out of it.

I really don't know much about MIL. She isn't the most caring person in the world, but I don't believe she is the evil person FIL convinced us that she was for so long. I think they both have messed up, I just don't know if MIL's career is as bad for the kids as FIL's alcoholism. I honestly don't believe it could possibly be worse than FIL's alcoholism - I just don't know any details about her.

It feels like it comes down to 1) Enabling FIL and taking the kid(s) every time he messes up 2) Leaving the kids to live with their Mom every time we get called. My husband thinks it's "wrong" to leave the panicked kid(s) with her, but we need to stop this endless cycle!
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Reply Thu 30 Dec, 2021 10:58 am
Thanks Mame! I mentioned this in my reply to Jespah, but the MIL absolutely knows what's going on. She's just always at work. I can't help but think FIL decides to play this game when she is called in for a late-night emergency.

I have tried setting boundaries with my husband, but he just can't leave his siblings to his father's demise, and he thinks by leaving them at their mom's we are "abandoning".

My husband also doesn't quite see how terrible his father is for the kids. He knows his dad is "bad" and a bad influence, but my husband was able to make it out and turn around his life from similar (maybe worse) circumstances. I think he assumes his siblings can do the same. He doesn't realize how rare it is for people to make it out of childhoods like this.

This weekend we canceled our New Year plans to take the 16 yr old. His dad was going to take him to a party out of state with his Uncle and cousins. There is supposed to be underage drinking, smoking pot, and gambling. The 16 yr old was supposed to stay in a hotel room with an older cousin and his gf who will be having sex with him in the room. It's disgusting... and honestly FIL has plenty of money to get his son his own hotel room.

Right now my husband feels like he can help fix and guide his younger brother. Which I don't hate. I just don't think it's possible with the current living situation, and I think it's going to be a lot more work than my husband realizes. His brother has smoked weed for years, but says he has/will quit. Maybe there's a chance to show his that there's another life?

But kind of like I mentioned in my reply to Jespah, it feels like helping his brother comes at the expense of enabling his father and continuing his cycle of drinking and traumatizing both kids. Maybe it's worth it? Maybe his father's liver won't hold out much longer so the cycle will force a stop? I just don't know what's actually best for the kids.
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Reply Thu 30 Dec, 2021 11:16 am
Hi Linkat, thanks for your reply! Your are absolutely right... mom knows about everything, just doesn't do anything? I'm really not sure about her. She's a doctor with her own practice, and helps out at the local ER.

If I called CPS (anonymously), do you think it's possible they would take the kids away from her too? I have no experience with this. I don't know if she's as much to blame for leaving kids with their father or not? I don't know the legality of this kind of thing.

My husband and I couldn't take these kids, unless I quit my job, which we just can't quite afford to do. They go to a private school 40 minutes from our house, with no buses to take them. We both work full time and have some random part time jobs. I mean, there's a reason we don't have kids of our own yet. We just have a guest room and a couch!

The FIL has 2 sisters in the area. We live north of FIL, and they live south, they are a little further from the private school than we are. They both have kids around the same age. I don't know if either of them could take the kids or not.
Reply Thu 30 Dec, 2021 11:40 am
Hi I am far from an expert so cannot really tell you if they would take the kids from their mom. My gut says no as long as she is not a danger or harm to them. But she has allowed them to stay with their dad knowing this....my limited knowledge of CPS is that they try to keep the kids with family and work with them but of course if it is a dangerous situation they will remove them.

Do you think the mom would refuse to take them in if CPS says they have to stay with her and cannot stay with their dad? BBC
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