Dear Coleen – ‘Dad is being emotionally blackmailed by his toxic

Dear Coleen

Four years ago my dad met a woman at his Narcotics Anonymous meeting and they’ve been having an on/off ­relationship since. He’s been sober for 12 years but they’re both immature and break up over everything.

They split one time because she told him not to visit her, as she had to take her mother to hospital, but when he complied she had a go at him for not being there.

This break up lasted eight months and is just one example of the toxic cycle they’re in.

Another time, after being apart for four months, she told him she’d get back together with him if he proposed, which he did on Christmas Eve.

But because my siblings and I didn’t visit her to congratulate her, she went nuts and blamed us for ruining her Christmas.

We’re sick of dealing with the repercussions of comforting our dad after every split.

During some of the break ups she’s told her 10-year-old son from another relationship to say goodbye to my father and that he’ll never see him again.

This makes my father and the child very upset and is emotional blackmail.

He’s had counselling over this, but I don’t feel it’s helped, as she gets in touch out of the blue.

They’ve been in contact recently after a chance meeting in town. She told him she’d consider getting back with him in two years only to change her mind.

His head is messed up, he isn’t sleeping and has been prescribed sleeping pills and antidepressants. He’s getting old and is scared of being alone, and she plays on this vulnerability by saying she’ll look after him when he’s older.

We are very worried and any advice would be appreciated.

Coleen says

I’m not an expert, but in my opinion she’s become his addiction and replaced the drugs. On the positive side, he’s proved he can be a very strong man – it’s really hard to kick substance abuse and stay clean, and he’s done it for 12 years.

I think your dad needs to be reminded that he can break free of any toxic situation.

He needs to remember how far he has come and that he can be OK on his own. But at the moment, he’s simply replacing one toxic solution for another.

Reassure him that he’s never going to be left alone in his old age – you’ll all be there to support him.

I think what is sad is that he should be enjoying life after beating addiction.

Think about how you can build him up again and empower him to make the right decision – tell him you’re proud of him and you don’t want this relationship to take him off the path.

As with any addiction, only he can change things and find positive ways to channel his energy, whether that’s hobbies or exercise or even helping others by being a sponsor.

He needs to find other passions that make him happy and stop using this woman as a crutch.

Unfortunately, he has to be the one to cut the ties with her and all you can do is help to boost his self-esteem so he has the confidence to say it’s over.

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