Substance abuse is one of the most common causes of family destruction, marital unhappiness and worse. A person with a serious substance abuse problem is rarely able to function effectively in a marriage or as a parent. They often have problems putting anything ahead of the drug-of-choice - whether it be their children, their marriage or their finances.
When faced with a spouse or co-parent that has a substance abuse problem, the only way to ensure your safety and that of your kids is usually to get into the Court system. Our Judges here take the problem serious, and are well versed in the subject.
If you are the one with the substance abuse problem, then getting yourself healed should be your first priority. There are a large number of resources to help out, but the most important factor in getting sober is your determination to do so.
I've found that for every substance abuser there is also (at least) one enabler. The enabling behavior allows the addict to continue to be an addict. Once the enabling stop, the addict is forced to make hard choices (such as getting drunk vs. spending time with their child). The addict does NOT like this, and the result is often threats, violence and/or manipulative behavior. The former enabler has to be really strong at this time not to give in.
Often the substance abuser will deny that they have a problem. This is especially common when the drug-of-choice is legal, such as alcohol or prescription medication. It can be difficult to prove the abuse, because the spouse/enabler is often the only witness. Proving prescription drug abuse is easier, because normally the abuser is getting multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors who are not aware of each other. I just subpoena all the doctors with their records, and the truth comes out in the Courtroom.
It is also fairly common for both parents/spouses to have substance abuse problems. Often one has a more severe problem, or one has stopped using recently, while the other continues using.
Testing is often the only way to be sure what is going on. Again, this can be difficult when the problem is with a legal drug, especially prescription medication. But it can be done, and has gotten more sophisticated over the years.
It is important for a parent to protect their children from a substance abuser, even if the child has a close relationship with the abuser. If a firm stance is taken and the abuser is given the choice of their drug or their child, most abusers will sober up and choose their child. In that case, your child is protected. If the abuser chooses their drug, then it is best that this parent have little or no contact with the child anyway.
I have handled many substance abuse cases over the years. They are often very complex and difficult, but the Courts will protect you and your children from an abuser. If you are living with a substance abuser, you are in a weird world that seems normal at times. Once you (and your children) escape the world of the abuser, you will be amazed how much happier your life becomes. It is like walking out of a dark room and into the sunshine.