Friday, September 01, 2006

Something I Carry

"Tell a lie sometimes, tell the truth when it suits you, and when you've lost your way tell a story."
- The Weepies


My father was an alcoholic. I always remember him as a drinker- at parties he would bartend, be the jokester and entertain with his stories. At least, that is how my child's eye pictures him. As I hit twelve, something shifted and my dad's drinking wasn't just social or fun. It was nightly. It was "asleep" on the chair in the living room. It was bottles hid around the house. There was distance and tension and, most of all, silence.

When the drinking got unbearable (wasn't it always?) he went to rehab. That night, when we found out he was going away for a month, that was probably one of the worst nights of my life- until then and up until now, still. But how that unfolded is a story I am not ready to share here. I looked at him when my mom told us he was leaving, his head hung low in shame, his eyes blurry with too much vodka, and all I could think of was "... But he is going to miss my birthday!" I was twelve. It was how I coped.

That was the beginning of the unraveling. What was supposed to bound us back together, didn't. It is incredibly difficult to learn new coping mechanisms when the one that you've been using is so ingrained in you (re: drinking). I'm not an alcoholic. I don't know what that feels like, inside. But I have loved (do love) many who are and I think, no matter how much I read or ask or think on it, there will always be a big piece that I just won't understand. My father wanted to do whatever he could for us but he never wanted to do it for himself and that is probably why he never stopped drinking. Or that all his attempts ended in failure.

After so much betrayal, I stopped being over-protective of him and let my hurt show up as anger. I'd scour the house for alcohol and find it hidden in the bedroom closet, above the stove, in the far reaches of the pantry, in the garage, the trunk of the car, out by the shed in the backyard. I would gather all these bottles and dump them out one by one and then line them up on the kitchen counter for him to find. He never said one word to me about it. Not ever.

I am told to find comfort in the fact that it is a disease. That's what therapists and Al-Anon tell me. That it isn't about me even if I always have felt that the alcoholic chooses the drink over me. It's a constant feeling of rejection that is horrible to live with. And I haven't let this go. It manifests in different ways- especially in relationships with close friends and even more so in my relationships with men. How I push away. How I have trouble trusting. How I feel like I have to constantly prove my worthiness so I can be loved. Even after years of therapy, I still struggle.

This is the preface to a very long tale...

18 comments:

sue said...

I can so relate. {{{hug}}}

Jenny said...

i don't think i could ever know how this feels... the pain and sadness. but i can have compassion for you and love you deep, hoping to support you in your healing. how brave you are to share this with us. i love you, miss s.

Mrs. Ca said...

I can't imagine how hard that must be. It sounds like you're dealing with it, which is good. It also seems like you made it through really well.

Becky said...

I think what's also frustrating is how our parents don't realize (and I know, especially under those circumstances) how everything they do will affect who we become as adults. Their behaviors will trigger things for the rest of our lives. It's a lot harder than people realize to get your own help and work through the things that your own parents did.

OT said...

That's powerful stuff. I spent a few of my younger years partying wayyyy too much and wondered when exactly it is that one croesses the line into alcoholism. It may be a disease, but I also think it is a choice. I have a daughter that I could never let down like that - it would literally kill me. I choose not to drink like a frat boy because of that. I do not, nor have I ever drank around her. It may be hypocritical to drink when I'm not around her, but the presence of that beautiful child in my life allows me to make different...BETTER choices.

I am a regular at a local bar, and I also cook there a few nights a week. I've known no less than nine people who have died at younger than usual ages, and drinking had something to do with each of their deaths. A couple died as a direct result of drinking. Again, I wondered why is it that I know when to stop, but an alcoholic does not? That's the part I will never get, and I hope I never do.

Thank you for sharing that.

kapgar said...

I'm thankful that I've never had to deal with this sort of situation in my family. But I truly do feel for your plight and look forward to more of the story as you feel ready to share it.

gorillabuns said...

as hokey as it sounds, but is very true, "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger" (i butchered that, didn't i?) my father is an alcoholic/drug addict. i understand the pain of constant disappointment and loss when dealing with the person you would do anything to look up to, when the end result is grief.

it has taken me years to go through men like the bottles they drink to find the right one to be the special father i didn't have to my children.

JJ said...

After living with an alcoholic mother for 17 years (until I had had enough rejection, physical and mental abuse) I swore I would never become like her.

I didn't. But two of my brothers did. They are now in recovery and have been clean and sober for 15 years each.

My mother? Well, after drinking for 40 years, after being hospitalized because they had to drain her stomach from the accumulation of fluids that were killing her, after being diagnosed with cirrhosis, she stopped. Cold turkey.

She has tried very hard to be a better mother and a better person. I have forgiven her, but I will never forget what she did to me. What she did to our family.

amy said...

My father was emotionally, mentally, verbally abusive. Even after years of therapy, I still struggle too. Nice post. I can relate. Amy/inky

anne said...

Thank you for sharing your heart as hard as it is to do...

Claire said...

I look forward to hearing more when you're ready to tell it.

My father's father was an alcoholic. When I knew my grandfather, he was an old, thin man dying very slowly from emphysema. I never knew him as a drinker, but there's no denying that my father was deeply affected by growing up in that household.

BullysE said...

Worthiness...yeah. I do that.

I look forward to your story--and just know, that many of us can sympathize in one way or another.

Bully

Melissa said...

I read this yesterday and it has been on my mind ever since. It is so difficult to reconcile the lessons our parents teach us by the way that they live with the lessons they teach us verbally. The whole do as I say, not as I do thing.

These are such complicated issues... You're still on my mind.

Lynn said...

Been there. Still there (you obviously know what I mean). Totally understand.

question girl said...

sizzle... you know we are hear for you to express yourself to whenever you are ready, if ever....

the fact that you have shared this much is a testament to your strength..

snackiepoo said...

I saved this post in my Bloglines for when I got home because once again, I totally relate. My Dad at least got sober when I was about 8 but it is amazing how much damage one can get with 8 years of a boozing Dad. However, my Mom never got help for her Rx Pain Med addiction and her selfish ways left her to be alone and sad because through my own 12 Step crap, I learned to finally NOT be guilt-ridden and codependent. Now I am going through it myself, knowing I have some sort of hole in me that needs to be filled but also knowing that I want to figure out what that is before I rip a hole in anyone else.

I just wanted you to know that I understand.

Karl said...

Major hugs, babe.

Chameleon said...

I'm glad I came across your blog. Believe it or not I started attending meetings at Al-Anon two weeks ago. My father has been an alcoholic as far back as I remember. My brother is an alcoholic and a herion addict, my sister is an alcoholic and my mother was a prescription drug abuser and alcoholic till the day she died at 40. It's not easy to discuss such painful memories and I really admire your courage. I started blogging a few months ago, about all the nitty gritty parts that make up my life, and I find that it's helping a little.

I will definitely be coming back to read more of your entries.

Take Care :0)