My father passed away last year. For most of my life he was absent. He lived with us, he and my mom shared a bed, we all had dinner together, but for the most part he went to work, came home, had dinner, drank a few beers, slept on the floor before climbing into bed. My father was an alcoholic. He was never violent or mean, he was just absent. He was never at soccer games, parent/teacher interviews or school functions. He dealt with his demons the best way that he knew how…he drank. He didn’t have the easiest childhood, but that was how he chose to deal with life, he drank and it is ultimately what killed him. He was deceased for approximately 5 days before he was found. He hit his head, and because his blood was so thin and his body was in the last stages of shut down, from the drinking, he bled out.
Over the years both mine and my brother’s relationship was up and down with my father until we both finally got one very important thing. My father’s drinking had NOTHING to do with how much he loved us. He drank to cope with life. He was a grown man capable of making his own decisions. He didn’t need me to save him, he just needed me to love him no matter what, and I did. I set boundaries, so did my brother. Towards the end of his time it was really bad, he was drinking from morning to night. He tried to drink away his demons and he couldn’t, but I loved him regardless. It took me a long time to forgive him and I miss him every day. I struggle with anger at times, “Why couldn’t he see all the great things he had going for him?” “Why was he so blind to all the love?” But it was his choice. Whenever someone would ask me about my dad I would get embarrassed, change the subject and I had a lot of shame around having a father that couldn’t stop drinking long enough to sit through my high school graduation. Now I can talk about how much I love my dad and how there are parts of me that are so much like him…I am my father’s daughter in quite a few areas.
Why am I telling you all of this? I have had a few friends confide in me their struggles with a parent that drinks and here was what I can say. Their issues and abuse of alcohol or drugs, has NOTHING to do with you. They are not doing it because you were bad, or you didn’t love them enough, or you didn’t tell them enough. The drink or take those drugs because they don’t know how to cope with life, with their reality. THEY LOVE YOU! No matter what, their love for you is there and unwavering. You may not be ready to hear that yet, but get there before it is too late. My father and I had some really great conversations in the last couple years when I finally got that and I could let go of my anger towards him.
If you are reading this and you are the person that is drinking, taking drugs, or maybe a combination of both. I get it. In your mind your reality is so messed up that it is the only way you know how to cope, how to escape from having to deal. Your children love you, despite the words that are coming out of their mouth, they love you. They are just angry with the decisions you are making. They can see it, but are having difficulty understanding it. Sit down with them, share with them your reality and as a family let them support you to get well. If you don’t want to change, let them know, but be prepared to deal with the fall out and that they may not be able to be in your life. Everyone has boundaries, we had set them with my father and your family may have to set them with you.
Carrying around all the anger will do no one any good. Let it go and enjoy what life has to offer, don’t waste it because you never know when it will be gone.