12/02/2005

recovering


I became a 'saver' at a very young age. My father is an alcoholic. Wow, that actually hurt typing those words out. I wonder if it's as painful for the addict to admit their addiction as it is for their child to acknowledge it? I'd love to be able to put the words 'recovering' in front of that word - alcoholic - but I can't. Although my dad doesn't drink nearly as much as he did when I was growing up, he is not 'recovering'. This time of year always ties me up in knots. Maybe it's the stress that comes from trying to divide my time between three sets of families (my parents are divorced and remarried), or maybe it's the stress that comes from knowing I'll have to be around my dad while he's knocking back a few 'hot totties' to get in the spirit of the holidays. I love my dad, there's never been a doubt in my mind about that, but I cannot erase all the years of damage his drinking has done to me. I can't remember the first time I realized my dad was an alcoholic, but I do remember the first time everyone else discovered he was. I was 14 and my dad came to see my gymnastic meet, he was intoxicated. He kept trying to talk to me in that loud voice that was supposed to be a whisper, only everyone else on the planet could hear him. I was embarrassed, not for me, for him. I knew that no matter how wonderful I thought my father was, all anyone else would see was his disease. My dad wasn't one of those stereotypical drunks, you know the ones we see the actors on tv portray? He was never violent towards me, he never missed a day of work - in fact he was a respected English Professor at a state college. My dad was a drunk but people still liked him. He was handsome and smart and knew how to be the life of the party. It was when he came home from the party too wasted to remember how to pull in the drive way without hitting the garage door, or take his shoes off, or his clothes before getting into bed. It was the hangover he had the next morning that made him too tired to watch cartoons with me, or play outside, or be - a real dad. It was the realization that alcohol would always come first and I would follow with a distant second. It was all these things that made me hate him, love him, want to save him. I tried to save him. I begged him to stop drinking, I hid his booze bottles, I took his car keys so he couldn't drive to the bar, I stole his wallet so he wouldn't have any money to buy more alcohol - but somehow he always found a way to drink. The person that ended up needing saving, was me. My mom divorced my dad and that left me, the one and only person my dad had in the whole world. He reminded me on a daily basis which put even more pressure on me to save him. I can tell you this, a life line can be pretty heavy for a 14 year old to carry. The weight of my dad's disease almost destroyed me many times. Once, he went to AA and I saw bits of hope. He stopped going because he said 'those people' were not like him, he could stop drinking whenever he wanted. If that was true, did that mean he actually chose to be a drunk over being my father? I've actually lost count on how many attempts I made to save him. They all sort of blur together from the first time he called me from jail after being picked up for a DUI to the last time he called me at 2 in the morning to tell me he loved me. I've discovered that words mean less when they come from the mouth of a drunk person. Eventually I stopped trying to save my dad, when I realized I had to save myself or risk losing a part of myself I may never be able to regain. It was so hard letting go of that burden, letting the life line go, and I felt guilty. One day I woke up and I felt broken. Broken from the string of failed relationships with men who reminded me of my father, men I tried to save but couldn't. I was broken from failures that were not my own, broken from failing myself. Then, I got angry. I was a kid, how could anyone expect me to save him? I was mad at my mom for leaving him and putting the burden of being his savior on me. I was mad that I never really got to be a child, a teenager, a young adult. I was forced to skip right over what were supposed to be the best years of my life, into the years that would scar me for the rest of my life. I did all I could do. I broke all contact from my dad for an entire year. He was devastated, he was pissed, he was lost. I could not find him, lift him up, make him happy. Eventually I was able to heal. After many therapy sessions I learned that the only person that could save my dad, was himself.

It's been many years since that 14 year old self blushed with embarrassment over my dad's drunkenness. My dad actually doesn't drink much anymore, at least not around me. I know he's still an alcoholic and yes, that realization still hurts, but I've learned that I cannot change who he is. I've learned that when he's determined to have those 'hot totties' to get in the holiday spirit, it's time for me to go, to leave that place that ties me up in knots and return to the sanctuary I've constructed for myself. That place used to be built of steel, miles and miles of never ending barricades, but now, it's built of love - for myself. Now I'm the one who can put the word 'recovering' in front of her name.

23 Comments:

  1. sirreene said...
    Ever attend http://www.adultchildren.org/
    I here it is very helpful and know many alchohics who attend AA and this group also.
    ladylongfellow said...
    Damn...I need a hug after reading that!
    ladylongfellow said...
    I think you do too! Not to mention...Kudos to you!
    Networkchic said...
    thanks lady...and yes I could use a hug.
    Wenchy said...
    I did the alcoholic thing first with my step-father.. and then with the x-person and it is not one bit fun. Actually it breaks your soul ALLOT and it is hard work to put it back together again.

    Hugzzz for you.
    Mike said...
    "I wonder if it's as painful for the addict to admit their addiction as it is for their child to acknowledge it?"

    That is does....admitting any addiction is extremely painful to realize, as in a way you have to admit a great weakness/character flaw within. Admitting though is the first step of breaking the denial of that painful weakness...
    k o w said...
    Acknowledgement was so very, very difficult.

    Hell it still is.
    NewYorkMoments said...
    Yikes, Networkchic. But glad to know you're working through this pain :-)
    NML said...
    Yes me too. I know people in the same situation that wouldn't even be able to utter half the word! I think you are refreshingly honest and brave and you will work through your pain :-)
    Caterpillar said...
    Wow. I'm so sorry NWC. You really have had to deal with a lot. But it says so much about your strength and character that you are where you are today, and so honest about things - and continuing to heal.

    And this is a wonderful reminder for me of why I'm doing something about my own problem now, before it becomes a problem for my future children as well. Thank you for that.
    Jaimie said...
    NWC: my ex-husband is/was an alcoholic and this is one of the 100 reasons of why I left. We have a daughter who is still young, but I wonder what she will think of her father when she is an adult.

    Thank you for the post.
    Jaimie said...
    Oh, and the "I'm not one of them" and the going to work every day kind of an alcoholic-it's like you were describing my ex. I guess when it all boils down to it, alcoholics have one thing in common-denial.
    FunkyB said...
    I know that was difficult, and I hope in sharing it, you now feel lighter.
    WDKY said...
    That was a brave post, and I know you'll feel a little better for writing about it. And don't lose sight of the fact that these trials on your life have made you the person you are... you know, the one who amazes us most days on here with the profound and sensitive things you write?
    kimmyk said...
    My mother was your father.
    Thankfully she's been sober for about 10 years....I think it's a struggle for her although she says it's not. I wish she'd stop smoking too, but I'm thankful she quit drinking.
    I hope your dad figures it out sooner than later, before his liver kicks his ass.
    I used my children (bad mommy I know) to get my mom to quit. I wouldn't take them over to see her if she could possibly be drinking and that worked. Not that I recommend using your children in such a way, but I'll be honest-whatever I could do to make it work-I did.
    Blueprincesa said...
    that's a heartrending story, Networkchic. But the fact that you can tell it shows that you are strong...
    Mr. H.K. said...
    Lifesavers: A part of living.

    Cheers,

    Mr. H.K.
    Postcards from Hell's
    Kitchen

    And I Quote Blog
    NMAMFQLMSH said...
    Hey Chic - my dad was a functioning alcoholic. It took me until I was an adult to realize this because I too am an alcoholic and his behavior looked fine to me until I got clean and sober and holy shit - the man could drink. After my parents died I actually took the plaque from the local pub that made him "Customer of the year"...what an achievement huh? O.K. I'm shutting up now because I'll just keep typing and before you know it you will have my whole life story.
    I see you girl,
    JJ
    Just Some Gal said...
    Admitting the wounds of our souls is the single most hard thing to do in my opinion. I wish I could admit the dark rivers as you have.

    I truly admire you for sharing this with us. You are an amazind woman NWC.

    xx


    PS, I only wish my name was faith... Its actually, Ruthie. :-(
    Neil said...
    Than you for sharing with us all that personal stuff. We all got to know you a lot better.
    Steve said...
    I have been a life saver since I was three...
    at least that was what my mom told me then...
    life savers never have a real childhood...
    now I am 41, and I am looking for my childhood.
    It's too fucking late
    for being loved as a "child" now...
    unless I can find a shortcut...
    just give me one affair, that's all.
    Let me gaze into my lover's eyes...
    and see myself as I really am...
    not as I ought to be.
    I know it is something that I will never find...
    without a price.
    But, sometimes, I think it would be worth the cost...
    to find myself...
    and be loved, just once,
    and to finally feel touched,
    as I should be loved and touched.

    BTW, I lived with an alcoholic for a few years...
    it is certainly not Disneyland.
    Steve said...
    PS... my search is impossible...
    and I know that...
    I think...
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