I come from a family of alcoholics. My dad is a recovering alcoholic, 30 years sober. My uncles all drank like madmen all through my childhood, gradually sobering up as they all were put on lithium, depakote, valium, lexapro and various mood disorder drugs to treat the bipolar that also runs rampant through the paternal side of my family. Mom’s side are all Scot-Irish Catholics. I’ll let you decide how many of them like to tip back the ole bottle; the stereotypes are oh so true though for them all, good Scot-Irish Chicago Catholics most of them that they be. So booze is a familiar thing to me, I learned a great deal about it during my early childhood, as did my younger brother by two years, TJ.
Mom and dad both drank back then, before I was twelve. Dad mainly, mom I think just not to be left out of the party atmosphere, she certainly didn’t get wasted enough not to still be able to at least minimally care for TJ and me. But every weekend was a party. My first memory of my dad was waking up one morning and finding him nude in the bathroom, hanging over the tub ass end up. Nice. Mom trailing in behind me to roughly grab me by the arm and shove me out of the room as she kicked dad and tried to rouse him, calling his name, calling him names.
Dad coming in drunk one night when I was seven, TJ five, both of us engrossed in The Six Million Dollar Man, sprawled out on the floor and HIM yelling drunkenly about goddamn bikes in the driveway and boots suddenly kicking us both repeatedly until mom shoved him backwards into a wall as we screamed and ran into our bedroom and slammed and locked the door. The only time he ever hurt either of us while drunk, but…the shock of it was so much worse than the blows.
Mom and dad screaming and fighting in the house. TJ and I outside on the swingset, calmly swinging back and forth in the dusk light, discussing who would go with who if they should split up this time. TJ firmly stating he was going with mommy, would never ever leave mommy. Dad was just mean and stupid and should stop drinking and this would stop. A good argument for a seven year old. The truth, probably. I, daddy’s girl for so many reasons beyond the complexes Freud gave us, declared that daddy would need someone to help him, he didn’t know how to do anything, I would stay with him. Cook him fried bologna and tomato soup and grilled cheese since momma never made him things he liked when he asked. That was all settled, TJ went in to move his Star Wars figures around in his room. I climbed a tree. The noises had stopped in the house. Finally. Mercifully. It was getting dark, I felt almost safe at last, if not remotely peaceful or protected. The John Denver song came into my head for some strange reason, Country Roads. I started to sing, something I rarely did aloud, as no one in our family could carry a note in a bucket.
Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, Older than the trees
Younger than the mountains
Blowin like a breeze
Country Roads take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia Mountain Momma
Take me home where I belong….
Dad’s voice comes to me…."Sister? Is that you? You singing? I thought that was a radio at first it was so pretty, but a woman doesn’t sing that song. Come eat dinner."
And he walked away.
Mom told dad he could stop drinking or she was taking TJ and I and leaving when she found out she was pregnant with my brother Brian when I was nine and TJ was eight. Dad quit cold turkey. Went to AA for two years, worked the program and quit. Amazes me how he did it. Still does. My dad IS the man.
When Brian was 15 he got so drunk he had to be taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. Mom took all these pictures of him, in the coma, with the charcoal running out of his mouth, lovely shots. They were very *sobering* to Bri when he came home. He stopped throwing back the beers. Now occasionally has a glass of wine with his wife, but isn’t a drinker.
I tied one on now and again sometimes in my youth. But I’d been told alcoholism is a genetic disease, and I wanted NO damn part of the dance my parents went through so I have always been very careful. I don’t want to push that "drunk button".
TJ…the one who lived through it with me…the one who always begged dad to quit drinking the next morning…the one who cried himself to sleep nights dad came home loaded, or didn’t come home…is now a drunk. A married, with three sons of his own, drunk every night drunk. I am so angry, so furious, so helpless in my rage with him mad I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried the subtle approach. Mom and dad have tried the stern parent approach. The incredulous "wtf are you doing, son?" approach. He and his wife even split up at one point over it, and he was quite ready to divorce over it. He’d rather divorce than stop drinking. She gave in and promised to let up on him, fix "what made him want to drink" ARGH!!!!! We went to their house for a ‘Summer’s Over’ get together in September, and I sat down next to him and got a whiff of his drink. I swear, if you poured it into a pitcher, poured a 2 liter of soda into it, stirred it up and THEN poured a glass of it out, it still would have been a stiff drink. Which is what I told him. He asked me if I wanted a drink. Then he asked dad if *he* wanted one. Our 30 year recovering alcoholic father. I thought mom was going to come across the table and kill him. Probably would have saved his wife and sons a lot of misery. But dad just said no thank you, and mom saved her right to kill her offspring for another day.
I want to sit down and write a letter to him. Remind him of the days we spent, talking about how miserable we were because of dad’s drinking. How we didn’t want to have friends over in case dad came home early. How we hated when he came home, but hated more when he came home late, because it made mom tense, but hated the most when he didn’t come home at all because it made mom cry. Remind him of the swingset talks…ask him how many he supposes his sons have had now. Wake him up to the possibilities of how much pain he is inflicting upon his children every day. Because what I do know about addiction is that it is a very selfish disease. There is no we in it. It is a blinders on disease. Unless someone somehow smacks the addict in the head with the concept that they are harming others and themselves they just never seem to get it. Dad didn’t love TJ and me enough to quit…but he worshipped mom the way Aztecs worshipped the Sun. He quit for her. TJ doesn’t love his wife much, I don’t think. But he adores being a father to those boys. I can’t think what has happened to make him lose sight of them in this.
But if he’s not ready, I will push him further away. I don’t want to lose my brother either. Everyone’s relationship in this family besides me and my father is so tenuous. I am so confused. Messing with an addict when they’re not ready to be messed with…
I don’t know what to do yet.
Doing nothing is a decision, and I hate that. Every day I do nothing, I am silently letting this continue, in a way, putting my stamp of approval on it. My nephews…I see their faces, I see my own at their age. All of them are sad.
I don’t want to continue this anymore…