I am 29 years of age, I’ve known my alcoholic father for 29 years, and I’ve been aware of and felt the effects of his addiction for 26 years.
While I have lived my own life, had my own trials and troubles, laughs, victories and dreams; my life has always to some extent, if I am completely honest revolved around him, his existence, mood, actions, behavior and above all his drinking. When he’s sober we are all happy for a little while because we get respite from the torture, uncertainty, chaos and panic that comes with his chronic alcoholism. But then it soon becomes clear that even though things aren’t quite as chaotic, they still aren’t really all that different. He’s still selfish, entitled, toxic, cruel and disrespectful, and he’s sober, so now there isn’t even an excuse. It took me a long, long time to understand this but it is what I understand now as being a dry drunk. You never stop being and alcoholic; if you drink you are right back to square one. But it’s not just about being sober and drink free, true recovery means much more than abstinence. It has to, because what you do when in the height of your addiction is so destructive and painful for everyone around you, you have to try and mend or at the very least acknowledge all this; to really, truly live a sober life. My father never did this. He never thought he had to, we didn’t deserve it, he didn’t have to answer to us and he wasn’t going to show any weakness. In reality it would have shown amazing strength.
So when the novelty and expectant pats on the back die down after his umpteenth time quitting drinking, we see him for what he really is- again. I’m always waiting for something to happen, for things to change, they never have. The dysfunction, toxicity and pain he inflicts is the same, but every day, every month every year it gets harder to be around because the scars get deeper each time and so it becomes more difficult to tolerate, harder to accept and easier to avoid. It hurts too much. Recovery for families, for me as a daughter is challenging, we have to recover to. I know after years of counselling and work on myself what I do right and what I do wrong in this situation. Little by little I learn more and I don’t just learn; I actually put the learning into practice. I realize I don’t have to accept certain behavior, I can remove myself from the drama but then all of a sudden, typical of a daughter of an alcoholic, I am eaten with guilt. A guilt I still don’t really understand, one that makes me feel that somehow I should have been able to make it better, to make our relationship better to make him love me and care about me enough to say sorry.
He’s never said sorry, not really, not in a way that he takes ownership for what he has done, only in a way that explains away what he has done. My flaw is expectation, I know I shouldn’t expect anything and this is a basic rule for the families of an addict. But I do, I fool myself into thinking that this time sobriety will make him different; that he will want to be a dad and support me and encourage me and be proud of me and lift me up, instead of dragging me down. Expectation is what has left me in tears and in pain so many times, not him. Human nature is to always have hope and it’s my hope that has tortured me. It’s my wish that things had been different and my resentment that they weren’t.
Two days ago I found out my dad was drinking again, my reaction shocked me. I cried and sobbed uncontrollably and again I wasn’t even really sure why. Possibly panic because I know everything that is to come or sadness that another opportunity for him to be my dad and for me to be his daughter was lost. I knew what people would say and even though I know I have no control over another person, I cringed at what he would do and how that would make me look. I’m upset for selfish reasons but I think I have a right to be selfish sometimes too. I say it upsets me how I will look, but really I think it’s that he doesn’t care how I look, how it makes our family look or how it makes me feel.
It’s another slap in the face.
Today I read Courage to Change, page 180, June 28th. “Many alcoholics make a number of attempts at sobriety before actually getting sober; others never do. My life is too important to waste waiting for someone else’s choices, even when it’s someone I dearly love.” I have waited 29 years.
Guest Blogger- Maddie