My father is an alcoholic. He has been my entire life. I actually don’t remember him any other way and as an adult now, the impact it has on my life is enormous. My childhood was hard because of the choices he made and I am just now starting to come to terms with it. It affects the way I parent my own children and I will never really be able to fully accept that my children will have to know this man as their grandfather.
One of my earliest memories is my father teaching me how to pour him a glass of whiskey. This was so he didn’t have to get off the couch to get it himself. At the time, it made me feel important, like he had an important job for me. When I think of it now, it makes me sick to my stomach. My mother was working most of the time because my father rarely worked, so my siblings and I spent a lot of our time with our father. It wasn’t always bad, there were a lot of good times, but the bad times made the good times disappear. We were extremely poor and there was always a fear of not having money to pay for simple things like groceries or gas for the car. Early on in childhood, I worried constantly about everything. I had some OCD issues, and looking back now I think that this was because I needed to control the things I could because so much of my life was out of control.
My childhood was a mix of fear and sadness and anxiety. I was always scared of getting in trouble from my father. He was emotionally abusive to me and my siblings, giving us the silent treatment for days or even weeks at a time if we did something that displeased him. My mother was an enabler. She didn’t tell him to stop. I don’t know if it was out of fear of him, or more out of fear that he might be angry with her and she might end up alone. My sister and I were active in athletics, both playing competitively in two sports. My father was our coach, which was miserable. I think my sister took most of the brunt of his wrath because he deemed her the better athlete, but once she had graduated from high school, his focus turned to me. Games were stressful, rides home were awful. My confidence was low, or non existent. My older sisters moved out immediately after high school. I stayed at home longer, mostly because my mother seemed to need me and my personality was that of a caregiver. I liked the attention I got from her when there were less children around to take it away from me.
I think the most confusing and heartbreaking part of my life is that I didn’t even realize how messed up it was until a few years ago, when I met and started dating my husband. When I would revel a story about my childhood that was sad, but not necessarily outwardly abusive, he would pause before responding’ almost in disbelief. Eventually he started asking me more details and talking to me about how abnormal my life had been. The real gut punch happened about 6 years ago when my father ended up in the hospital with a severe medical issue and almost died. I was there with my mother for the entire time. I was terrified he would die and at that point, I still felt confused about him. I loved him, I wanted him to love me. I wanted his approval for my life. I was still holding on to the idea that he was somebody who I needed in my life. He was forced to detox while in the ICU. I was there with my mother when the nurse told us that he was detoxing and that they were going to keep him medicated to help with the physical symptoms. To this day, she denies that this conversation ever happened. After almost two weeks in the hospital and a miraculous recovery, he was released and went home. Within 48 hours of being home, he was drinking again. My mother justified his drinking, always has. But even more so after his hospital stay. It was maddening to have the hope that he would change and watch it drift away. I stopped loving him sometime after that ordeal. I started to feel disgusted by him, to dread seeing him. But he still has a hold on me in some ways, I still want his approval. It bothers me that I still feel this way. I want to break free.
Having my own children has made my view of my father even more clear. I will never treat my children the way I was treated. I married a man who will protect my children with his own life if necessary. I strive to make sure that my children will feel loved and secure and happy. I will do my best to protect them from my father. He will never be alone with them and at some point, should he live this long, I will have a conversation with my kids about alcoholism. They are so young now that they don’t realize that he is a bad person. I will show them that the person my father is should not affect how they feel about themselves. I have other people in my lives that stepped up and acted like a parent for me. These people are still there, being good stand in grandparents. My mother is a better grandparent than parent, and I appreciate that she wants to spend time with my kids. She babysits for me one and a half days a week, sending my father out to do errands while they are with her. I’ve told her how I feel about everything and she has expressed remorse that she didn’t protect us better. I believe her, but it doesn’t really mean anything now.
I am just now, at 33 years old, starting to move forward from him and his disease. I know this will be a gradual process and eventually I will be completely free from him. I look forward to that day.