Since your last meeting with Mr. Potts, you have learned that because he is home so infrequently, he does not spend much quality time sober with his children. He recently missed their dance recital and their dance competitions. The girls excel at dance and have won numerous awards, none of which Mr. Potts has been around for. Mr. Potts has never missed work because of drinking, although you have learned that he sleeps only 4–5 hours per night and is typically hung over the next day after being out drinking the night before. He has very little patience, chain smokes, and has many regrets in his life (although drinking is not yet one of them). When asked about his children, he appears to know very little about them. He is unable to tell you who each child’s best friend is, what each child’s favorite color is, what television shows they like to watch, what music interests them, or what foods they like to eat. He cannot recall ever doing any activity with either of them, whether individually or together. He is not sure of their schedule, and he has never been to a school parent/teacher conference or any doctor or dentist appointments. However, he is very vocal in his expectation that his children excel in school and get all As. He did disclose that he reviews their report cards to be sure they are getting all A’s.
Mr. and Mrs. Potts travel frequently as a couple with different retail groups, and these trips are paid for by the manufacturers of the furniture that Mr. Potts carries in his stores. The children do not come on these trips. There are about two per year, each lasting for 1 week. When asked about these trips during an interview, Mrs. Potts’s face elongates and she looks down. She is very guarded in her responses to you as the probation officer. You learn that these trips are a source of great stress for Mrs. Potts because all decisions are left up to her. She decides and plans for the child care for the children when they travel, she does the packing, and she even has to pick out all of Mr. Potts’s clothing. During these trips, Mr. Potts is intoxicated most of the time except the mornings, and Mrs. Potts is left to deal with his intoxication, embarrassing behavior, and other antics.
Mr. Potts has a heart condition and has suffered from three heart attacks in the past 6 years. In addition, he had triple bypass surgery 18 months ago. He takes numerous medications for his heart condition. The doctors have clearly articulated to him that they believe that his years of heavy drinking have impacted the functioning of his heart. They have advised him explicitly that Mr. Potts must stop drinking if he wants to live. Despite this medical advice and his failing heart, he continues to drink and smoke excessively. His wife and children have spent numerous days and nights at the hospital while he recovered from his surgery and heart attacks.
Sarah, the 10-year old, dotes on her father whenever she has the opportunity. She sympathizes with him, gets him beers out of the refrigerator when he is home drinking, and is always trying to take the stress away from the family caused by Mr. Potts’s drinking.
Cindy, the 11-year old, is an angry child. She lashes out verbally and behaviorally at both her parents. Her parents do not know it, but she has recently began self-mutilating behaviors in the form of cutting her forearms, writing the words “help me” with a knife.
Given the information you have learned about the Potts family as stated in the scenario as well as your knowledge of how alcoholism affects children, do the following:
- Specifically state how Mr. Potts’s alcohol abuse has affected the children and his relationship with the children.
- Additionally, specifically state which role in the family you believe that each member of the family plays (e.g. scapegoat, caretaker, lost child, comic, etc.).
- Explain why you believe this member has this particular role.
- Based on your knowledge of alcoholism, discuss whether you believe either child or both are at risk to develop an alcohol-related drinking problem and why.