If you have not already read my first instalment/blog on addictions, I encourage you to do so.
In this blog, I talk more about the legal problems you will likely encounter if you are separating from your spouse, you have children, and you are in the throes of an addiction.
Let’s be honest: if are struggling with a serious addiction, can you be certain you can be entirely trusted if the children are left solely in your care? If you answered “yes, I can be trusted", you might be in 'denial' mode –a very common defense mechanism used by addicts to hide their addiction from themselves and others. If your estranged spouse were asked the same question, the response would most likely be, "No way!" And If a court was asked this question, the judge would also likely say ‘No’, particularly since Courts like to err on the side of caution when dealing with children.
When faced with a parent who is abusing a substance--whether it be alcohol or another drug--a Court will probably order 'supervised access' until your spouse or the Court (or both) are reassured that you have acknowledged your problem and have sought treatment.
You might even find that your spouse is more restrictive when it comes to your access than is really necessary, using your disease (yes, addiction is a disease) against you. Unreasonable, even vindictive--perhaps; but not entirely surprising.. To paraphrase: "Hell hath no fury like a spouse scorned". Indeed, you have 'scorned' your spouse and children: once the most important people in your life, you have replaced them with a new love--your substance, your poison of choice. .
Supervised access is not fun. First, it can be difficult to organize. Unless your spouse, or another family member approved by your spouse, is prepared to supervise visits, you might have to apply to the Supervised Access Program offered through Ottawa Family Services. The wait time for a spot at this centre can be months (yet another example of a lack of government funding for a crucial service). But if you have substance abuse issue, supervised access is what you are going to get, until you have taken demonstrable steps to address your problem and get well.
There are of course 12-step recovery programs such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous). These 12-step programs are not everybody's cup of tea. Many get turned off, for example, by the focus on spirituality. This being said, however, many find comfort through the camaraderie found at these meetings. One meets many others suffering from the same affliction--people who can relate, people who can understand what you are going through.
For those adamantly opposed to 12-step programs, there are many other resources and options available out there. Below I have included a comprehensive list of resources in or around the Ottawa area.
I would suggest that the best way to prove to your spouse and the courts your sincerity to recover is to enroll in a treatment program. I would make special mention of a treatment program close by in Merrickville: Newgate 180. They can be reached at 1-888-524-8333
Addiction counsellors can also be of great assistance in helping one get back on the right track, but they are few and far between in Ottawa. Two well respected addictions counsellors are Catherine MacDonald (613-868-9351) and Jeff Gullick 613-796-8411.
Be forewarned, treatment centers don’t come cheap. You can find treatment centers that are partially subsidized but the waiting period for a subsidized spot could take months—yet another example of inadequate government funding. :By the time a spot becomes available, you could have already died from your disease.
I find it most frustrating that the Ontario Government derives enormous ‘sin tax’ revenues from four main sources: tobacco taxes, beer and wine taxes, the retail activities of the Liquor Control Board (L.C.B.O.) and the revenues from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) In 2016, these revenues surpassed $6 billion. Soon the government can add marijuana as another lucrative source of tax revenue. And yet, even though approximately 10% of the population struggle with some sort of addiction or another, the government--complicit in promoting potentially addictive products and activities and reaping huge profits for its efforts--appears to reinvest very little in education and treatment for problems it is in part responsible for creating.
But I digress.
Do not make the same mistake as so many others. Many feel that through sheer will power, blood, sweat and tears, they can fix their problem by themselves. If you have become seriously addicted to a substance, you will probably need some kind of professional help. It bears repeating: addiction is a disease; it has nothing to do with a lack of will power or moral fiber. There is no shame in asking for help.
You will have to be patient. The former spouse--or if you are fortunate to have salvaged your relationship, your current spouse--will need time to get over the hurt. You will have to regain your spouse's trust, for no doubt you have lied time and time again in an effort to hide the extent of your problem. Be patient with the legal system, for it is slow, ponderous. Be patient with your children, as they too will need time to get to over the pain your addiction has caused them.
Above all, be patient with yourself . As I said in my previous blog on addiction, your problem did not develop overnight, and the road to recovery takes time and is not always easy. The alternative, however, is living a nightmarish existence enslaved to a substance==a rapacious creditor who will leave you bereft of your family, your dignity, your money, your principles, your health and ultimately your life. Recovery is tough, but it is worth the fight.
As mentioned, I have included below addiction resources that can be found in Ottawa. If you have further questions about this topic, please do not hesitate to call me. I might be in a position to help.
Blake R. Lyngseth, Ottawa lawyer & mediator. Blogs primarily on issues of Ontario & Canadian family law & estate law.