The Children's Place Kids
Donny is a warm, caring, and sensitive twelve year old----the kind of kid you'd like to have. Donny sees clearly that addiction has robbed him of his father. Mention of Dad brings up sadness and tears for him. "I really need my dad: it's just not the same without him around. No matter what I try it's just not good enough. I can't get his attention. Why won't he listen to me? Why can't I reach him? If only I could get through to him, I know things would be much better." Donny has tried everything he knows to get love and attention from his dad, and has great difficulty accepting his father's disease. It's hard for Donny not to think somethings wrong with him that prevents him from reaching Dad. It fills him with sadness and pain.
Janie is a pretty ten year old who scowls most of the time. She's had difficulty making friends and is frequently in trouble at school. She mocked the idea of drawing a picture of her family, yet did it. As she shared her picture, she unleashed a barrage of anger. "I hate him. He's no father of mine. Look at him! Will you just look at him," she uttered. Startled by Janie's loud booming voice, the other children's eyes all got bigger. "He sits in that same chair every day, every night until he passes out. Look at his eyes he's always in a fog. They are his best friends beer and cigarettes, cigarettes and beer. Why does he have to be my dad? This is not fair. Why me?" Janie paused, sighed and stared at the carpet. The group was silent until the co-leader reached for Janie's hand. She quickly embraced him and buried her head in his chest. Slowly, one by one, the other children comforted Janie, a hand on the shoulder, whispered words of encouragement. When group ended, Janie's scowl was gone, at least for a while.
She's eleven, and has participated in the Children's Program for over three years. Courageously, Rhonda stands up for herself and sets limits in a way that most adults only wish they could. In many ways Rhonda takes care of herself, a cornerstone of recovery for kids. On alternate weekends she visits her actively alcoholic mother. Rhonda deeply loves her mom, yet struggles when mom sneaks drinks during the visits and ends up drunk. " I can tell when she's been drinking. I pick up the phone, call Dad, and tell him to come pick me up. Mom gets upset with me and swears she hasn't been drinking. She tries to make me feel guilty about leaving. I ask her stop doing that! Rhonda says it's so much easier to pretend everything is fine when it isn't. "I get so sad when I leave early. I love her very much. I really want to be with her," Rhonda shared as tears streamed down her face. "I'm not safe there when she drinks. I end up trying to make her happy by doing everything. I just want to be a kid."
Kenny, though shy, listened intently in group to understand what was happening at home. As the weeks passed, this eight year old's confidence slowly grew and he spoke of the father he idolized. He painfully told of how he rarely spent much time with Dad. As Dad got sicker and sicker, occasionally landing in jail, Kenny repeatedly struggled to win his father's attention. It was hard for Kenny to accept alcohol's power over his Dad. Then, approximately six months into the program, Kenny matter of factly announced that he no longer watched the news with his dad. "Every night for the past couple of years Dad and I split a beer while we watched the news," he told the hushed group. I really didn't want the beer, I only wanted to be with dad. Last night I told Dad I couldn't watch TV with him anymore because it's not good for a kid to drink beer. I said, "I hope we can do something else together because I love you." I kissed Dad on the cheek and left. The group remained started for a moment and then gave Kenny a spontaneous ovation.