Dad’s drinking to cope

Dad's drinking to cope
My dad was an alcoholic and a Vietnam Veteran.
I’d placed my dad on a pedestal. He was my hero. Larger than life. A gentle man. He would help anyone,give the shirt off his back to someone in need. He could build anything he wanted, carpenter, mechanic, welder, he stayed busy…
He drank from sun up to sundown. Gin and Sprite. Any clear alcohol that he could mix and anyone that seen the cup would think it was water, 7 up, or sprite.
When I became a teenager, we argued more and more. I begged and pleaded for him to stop drinking. I was 13 years old and driving back roads to get home, because he was too drunk to drive.
In 1991,he decided he was going out west. He was a rambler. He promised me that he would be back. During this period of my life, any relationship I had was a failure. My first marriage ended in divorce, as I could no longer fight something I couldn’t see (drugs). I had been lied to, verbally abused etc. My kids deserved better. The relationships that followed, didn’t last. I know now that I was searching for someone to love me, I wanted someone with the characteristics of my dad.
In 2005, my father made contact with me. I’ll never forget that phone call. If we had been strangers before, we were even more so. We began to talk every month sometimes twice a month. I talked about the things that I had done, my nursing career, told him about my kids, stepchildren. Of my kids, he was only around in the first six months of my oldest son’s life. He’d never seen the other two, except in pictures.

Feelings starting to re-emerge

After, re-establishing him in my life, all the pent up feelings that I had locked away started emerging. I sat down and wrote him a letter, asking him why (if he loved me),did he continue to drink? Why did he walk out of my life not once, but twice? Along with many other things. I never got a response.
October 2006, I got the call that my father was in hospital in Montana. For the next two weeks, it was daily talks with nurses, Dr’s, social worker etc. I was on the east coast, trying to juggle my home, kids, husband who was a truck driver, plus trying to make sure my dad’s medical needs were met.
There were several times that he was able to talk, and when he was asked if he wanted to talk to me, he would say “no”. My heart would break, but then anger would be overwhelming.

Not enough time

By mid October, I was booking a flight out west. The Dr. Said, “I needed to come”. I left my husband and children and flew west. Alone, scared, feeling all sorts of emotions. I had so much to say to my father, but what I really wanted to say to him was “I love you daddy”.
Well, I didn’t get the chance to say those words to him. He passed away,as my plane was landing.  To me that was a slap in the face. His way of “having the last word”.
The letter that I didn’t get a response to, well I found it as I was going through his things. And as I read what he wrote in the margins, I cried.

My Dad’s terror

My father’s life and death, showed me that his drinking was partly due to trying to forget the terror of Vietnam, the hatred that they heard/seen as they returned to American soil. Alcoholism runs heavy in the family of his parents, especially his mother’s family. I guess we are genetically predisposed to certain things.

My own struggles

In the years, since my father’s death, I still struggle. I have a better understanding of him.
I’m angry at him for abandoning me, for denying my brother the opportunity to meet/have a relationship. I mourn the times that my dad refused contact, the loss of being a grandfather to my children, my brothers children, my grandchildren. So much was taken from us. I am still the “little girl lost”, longing, missing the what could have been.
In my brother and my sons, I see my dad. Physical features, gentleness, caring, all of the good qualities. My brother and I find ourselves members of a “club” we didn’t ask to be members of. We do the best we can, as we continue to come to terms with the impact that alcohol and our Dad has had on our lives.
We know that we can stop the cycle, we can’t erase it, deny or forget it. It is a part of us entwined into our being.

Note from Jo

When I started reading this I thought, wow this is my Dad. He was in the army and used to be a welder. I really do relate and it does bring sadness because it’s such a huge thing to be impacted in this way by a parent. Many that haven’t been in this situation don’t understand.
It’s certainly a journey, like the writer shared, one we can’t erase, deny or forget. We can heal from it, but it takes time, patience and commitment.

Next Steps

If you’d like to chat then do get in touch, I’m happy to gift you some time. Simply email jo@johuey.co.uk or call (07732) 403305.
Remember you aren’t alone and you can always join my Daughters of Alcoholics Facebook group, where other daughters of alcoholics support each other with challenges they experience from the past or present.  You may have lived with an alcoholic in your past, but it’s still impacting you in the present.
I also run the Two Roads Travelled podcast with my sister, click here to find out more.

 

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