Daddy’s Little Girl

It is wrong for anyone to be abused…anyone. Women, men, children, animals, etc. I do not think I am in a position to analyze how being abused affects people in general, I can just think about how it has affected me. My father was VERY emotionally and psychologically abusive on a consistent basis- he did very weird things like following me, opening my mail, recording my phone conversations, things like that. Occasionally he was physically abusive. I was lucky that it was not that often and I know many other people who have been hurt way worse. But even one time is one time too many.

What I can say is that when you are hit by a parent, especially when you are a daughter being hurt by your father, it changes something deep inside you. Your father is supposed to be the person who biologically is conditioned to be protective of you, not to be the one to inflict harm on you. I have really tried to look at this from an outside perspective. I am not condoning it at all, but I really do believe (or maybe I just NEED to believe) that my dad never meant to hurt me. I have no doubt that he loves my mother, my sister and me very much. But the fact of the matter is that he has abused us all. I don’t have any intense trust issues towards men as a result of this- I am able to compartmentalize it to just my father and I don’t think I have made my partners pay for my childhood. When I was on the phone with my dad talking to him about getting divorced, he asked me if my husband had hurt me and started to cry. I find this very ironic, naturally, but I also understood that regardless of what he has done, my father would never allow another person to hurt me.

I know it sounds a little like I have Stockholm Syndrome. I assure you, I do not. I have a healthy amount of resentment towards my dad. A lot of that resentment stems from the sadness I feel when I watch a movie like “Father of the Bride” or when I hear a song at a wedding written about a father and daughter (it was no easy task to choose the song for the father/daughter dance at my wedding- I went with “Stand By Me”…”Butterfly Kisses” was not even a contender).

It’s even harder to find an appropriate father’s day card. Maybe I should start a line of cards for children who have strained relationships with their fathers. Like “Dear Dad, you really sucked as a parent and I’ve had to pay for lots of therapy because of you, but I love you anyway. Happy Father’s Day!

Decisions, decisions…

So, I have explained my disdain for change. That was just a warm-up for my explanation about my hatred for making decisions. I am absolutely horrible at making decisions. I am a smart, educated, independent woman, so there is no real reason why I should have such difficulty when it comes to making decisions. Oh, and it doesn’t matter if they are big decisions, like refinancing my house, or little decisions, like what to order off a menu…I will agonize over what to choose or what to do.

I think it boils down to the fear of making a mistake. The best example I can give relates to my divorce. I filed for divorce once in April 2009, withdrew the paperwork from the court in July 2009 (6 days before the court date) to try to reconcile, only to refile again in November 2009 and then finally get divorced in January 2010. I remember going to the lawyer’s office to “cancel” the divorce and I asked my lawyer if other people have done so. She said yes, but almost every time they were back to refile. But…maybe I would be one of the lucky ones! I wasn’t.

I loved my husband. I really, really did. I loved him the day I stood in front of a judge and answered the appropriate questions to dissolve our marriage. I wanted to scream “STOP!!!” and throw myself on him, but what it came down to was the very basic fact that I loved myself more. That sounds selfish, but I had lost myself in my marriage. I also believe my husband still loved me, but he had so much resentment and anger built up that he would have never changed and treated me the way I deserved.

But this blog is about decision making…and in the end I made the right decision, I have NO doubt about that. I would have been miserable had I stayed married. But I put myself through hell trying to figure out what to do during that time. It wasn’t a matter of ordering something off a menu and not liking it…whatever I decided had permanent consequences. I tormented myself every day leading up to the divorce (both times) with questions like, “am I doing the right thing?”, “can I stay married to him?”, “should I leave?”, “have I tried everything?”…out of every 60 minutes in an hour, I probably thought about this for 45 of them. I drove my family and friends crazy asking their opinions and telling them all the different scenerios repeatedly. I was a mess at work. My lovely high school students probably thought that my whole family died or that I was diagnosed with some terminal disease. They made me cards saying “we love you” and “things will get better” (listen, teenagers can be jerks sometimes, but they can also be so sweet and sensitive).

I do not think about my decision to get divorced anymore, I know I did the right thing. Now I have OTHER things to decide…”should I let my boyfriend move in?”, “should I get another degree?”, “should I buy that sweater at The Gap?”…you know, all equally important things 😉

I don’t think I will ever be good at making decisions. And I hate that it makes me feel like I can’t trust my gut instincts. One year I even made it my New Year’s resolution…and like all resolutions, I did great until about January 11th.

I like this quote and I try to think about it when it comes time to make a decision: “It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.” Sometimes I just have to let go, stop thinking so damn much and allow myself to just fall off the fence and see what side I land on.

You can’t spell families without “lies”

The other day I jokingly said something to my mom about writing an online blog about my dad and she completely freaked out. I explained that it was anonymous, but that didn’t make a difference. She said I should not tell people things about us. So, I told her I wouldn’t (see…lies come easily in our family!)

When things started getting really bad with my dad’s drinking, there was an unspoken rule that my sister and I were not supposed to tell anyone what was going on. I am still not sure of my mother’s reasons, whether she was ashamed or just in denial. The lies were not always about my dad, but were oftentimes to my dad. As many children of alcoholics know, the less ammo you give them, the better off you are. To this day, we still constantly tell him “white lies” about the stupidest and most trivial things (again proving that abnormal things become very normal in an alcoholic family).

What my mother could not prevent was the neighbors calling the police. This started to become a regular thing by the time I was graduating from high school. My mom is so amazing as a mother, but she is a classic “battered wife.” During the summer, when my father would start screaming, she would run around their huge house closing all the windows so the neighbors would not hear him. My mother is friendly to everyone she meets and many of the neighbors really liked her and were genuinely concerned for her safety. I don’t blame them for calling the police- my dad sounded like a freaking lunatic and the more she tried to calm him down, the louder he got.

A few times, the calls were coming from inside the house (duh). My younger sister would call 911 and wait long enough for a dispatcher to answer and then would hang up. I have to give the cops in my hometown credit…within minutes, two or three officers would pull into the driveway. One time, my dad was so drunk, he mocked my mother saying he was going to call the cops and pretended to call 911…but he actually did (I actually think that is hilarious) and sure enough three police officers were at our house minutes later.

Here’s the thing. If a woman is being abused, but lies and tells the police that everything is fine when they come to the house, there isn’t anything they can really do. They would check out the house and talk to my dad while my mom reassured them everything was fine. My sister and I would sit at the top of the stairs watching and wondering how my dad never got in trouble. We didn’t understand why my mom protected him. As much as I adore my mother (we talk every day and see each other most weekends), I do have some resentment towards her that she didn’t get herself and my sister and me out of that situation.

When I was 18, my father was threatening my sister in her bedroom. I was (and still am) very protective of my sister, who was 15 at the time. I stood in between them and told him to leave her alone. He promptly leaned back and headbutted me in the face. That may have been the only time my mother called 911, though I am still not sure if it was her or my sister. Ironically, the cops had already been to the house once that day on a noise complaint from an anonymous neighbor. This time, my dad was arrested for assault. I think I have blocked a lot of that day out of my mind because I hardly remember going to the police station to do the paperwork. The result was a list of charges against him that were automatically filed by the police. They probably had a big donut celebration afterwards that they finally had a reason to arrest him. I am sure it must have been frustrating for them to come to our house and know that a woman and two teenage girls were being abused by a drunk asshole and not being able to do anything about it.

I will save the rest of that fun story for another blog, but I will say that afterwards my mother begged my sister and me not to tell my grandparents or any other family members about what happened. Of course, secrets like that have a way of coming out and eventually everyone close to our family knew about it. I am happy to say that these days my mother is much more honest with other people about my father and his alcoholism, and more importantly, she is honest with herself. And if I still tell “white lies” here and there, I guess I can just blame it on the alcohol 😉

…the harder they fall

I think about my dad dying a lot. That sounds and looks horrible now that I actually typed it, but let me explain. Throughout the years, my father has done some terrible things and treated his family very poorly. Being an alcoholic has made him very mean, abusive and controlling. But I still love him and I worry about what is going to happen to him because of what he has done to his body. He drinks straight vodka, sometimes starting as early as 7 am, smokes about two packs of cigarettes a day, eats like crap and gets no exercise.

You know that expression “God protects fools and drunks”? My dad must have some kind of guardian angel that has protected him all these years because he has never had many consequences for his actions. Even when he was arrested for assault (lucky recipient: me), he only got a slap on the wrist. But lately, something strange has been happening that gives me a very ominous feeling. My father has been falling. Like, down flights of stairs. No one has been home to see him do it, but my mother has found the evidence. Two times we know about he put his head through a wall. He blames tripping or “carrying too many things at once” or his hip giving out. It is really scary to think that my mother could come home from work to find him unconscious or worse.

A few years ago, my dad was mowing the lawn and somehow rolled the riding lawn mower down a small hill. When my mother came home, he was still pinned underneath the running motor and blade. It was a scary near-miss, but afterwards we found it mostly funny…like a victimless drunk driving accident. It seemed like an isolated incident and because of the pain associated with the shoulder he dislocated, we thought maybe he learned a lesson. Nope.

Last night he fell again. My mother found him in bed with blood running down his elbow. He shrugs it off like it is normal and god knows a lot of really crazy things have become normal in my family, but it has to scare him. I used to worry about liver disease, lung cancer, etc. but now I worry more about him having a heart attack or literally breaking his neck.

On a lighter note: he now is saying he thinks he broke his thumb. My first thought: maybe now he can’t write emails! My mother burst that bubble by explaining he has always typed with two fingers.

Change? No, thank you.

I hate change. Like, despise it. I know most people are not too keen about making changes, but I think I have a harder time than most adapting to them. From big things, like where I live, to little things, like what I eat, I tend to just stay consistent and static. I could probably eat the same thing every single day and be perfectly okay with it (grilled cheese!).

I am in a long-distance relationship and he is willing to move to my house so we can be together. It’s exciting, but also really scary because I have been living alone for almost four years. When it comes to my living situation, I really notice my reluctance to change. I think it is because I have never been 100% happy or satisfied with my prior living arrangements and living alone has been a very pleasant experience. Four years ago, I went through a complicated divorce. That was a huge change in itself, but I made the decision to buy him out of our house, mostly because I just was comfortable here. So at age 30, I became a divorced, single home owner. It is really hard to think about all the changes and compromises I would have to make if I was living with another person. I like being able to eat Eggo waffles for dinner and talk to my two cats like they are human and leave dishes in the sink for days (if I sound like a crazy cat lady…I kind of am…but the cool sexy kind, not the grungy bathrobe kind-lol).

I do know, though, that the reason I like living alone and why I really DETEST change is that my life is predictable. And that, my friends, is the opposite of what life was like living in a house with an alcoholic. Every day, I never knew which version of my dad would walk in the door after work, which one we would eat dinner with. When he first started drinking heavily, my father was like Jekyll and Hyde and it was really scary and unnerving. Forgetting to empty the dishwasher was no biggie one day and the end of the world another. By the time I moved out at 22, my dad had become much more predictable…he was just drunk and mean most of the time. But for many years, I walked on eggshells trying to keep the peace at all costs.

And now, my house is calm and quiet and even though it is lonely at times, it is safe. And I am not sure I am ready to give that up, even for love.

My “Before” and “After” Dad

If I look at the history of my family and my dad’s alcoholism throughout time, I can literally put a line between the years 1989 and 1990 to distinguish when things changed from B.D. to A.D.

1978-1989= These were the good years. Ahhh, yes, the “before dad was an alcoholic” years. It is ironic now, considering my relationship with him, that I was definitely a daddy’s little girl. Most of my best childhood memories included him. Cannonballs in the pool, him attempting to ride a tricycle, squeezing into the backseat of his sportscar while he blasted “Addicted to Love”…he was THE COOLEST. All my friends loved him. He was fun and youthful and silly and made my sister and I unique gifts. I was young so my memory is fuzzy, but I don’t remember alcohol in our house at all. My parents were very social, so I recollect many loud, energetic parties (where I am sure cocktails were served) where adults shooed us kids into a back bedroom to play. My parents never argued that I can think of. I ask my mom about it now and she says that he was always a “social drinker” but she never thought he had a problem. Life was good.

1989= My father was promoted in his company and my family had to move across the country. It was an adventure! It was sad to leave friends behind, but it was exciting. My parents designed and were building their dream house. Because the house was taking longer than expected, my father had to move before us to start working. One month turned into two, turned into six, etc. and it was almost a year and a half before we were reunited. His company flew him home every weekend or so and my sister and I eagerly anticipated his return every time.

1990…on= I was in sixth grade when we moved to our new house and it was in seventh grade that I noticed things were different. My parents fought, my dad started being mean and belligerent. It took a while for it all to make sense…in that year or so of being alone and stressed, my father developed a drinking problem. The good years were OVER. Things never went back to “normal”. I yearned to move back, thinking that it would fix everything. Needless to say, my parents are still in their “dream home”, which turned into more of a nightmare as my father’s drinking escalated. By the time I entered high school, my dad was a full-blown alcoholic and had become emotionally, verbally and physically abusive towards my mother and towards me (and later, towards my younger sister).

I often wonder if we had never moved, would this all have happened? I guess I will never know. I do know that there are many alcoholics in my family, so perhaps my dad would have found his way to that vodka bottle regardless. Even though I am 34 and only see glimpses of him here and there, I still really, really miss my “Before” Dad.


I think my father was a telegram machine in his past life.  You didn’t read that incorrectly…I don’t mean a person who reads or writes telegrams, but that he was the actual machine.  It is the only explanation for his emails.

My dad’s alcoholism and his understanding of how to use technology grew at pretty much the same pace.  Which meant that once I moved out of my parent’s house and was no longer affected by his constant screaming rants, I was subjected to his incessant emails.  I am not the only lucky recipient.  He copies my sister, my mother, sometimes my aunt or uncle, old friends, his financial advisor…it is so strange and these people must think he is bat shit crazy.  I am just used to it until I show it to someone else and see their reaction.  The emails are one thing, the voicemails are an entirely different thing (different blog!).  So you can truly experience the bizarre, warped mind of my father, I am copying one of his latest emails:

HI ALL!   You guys –  No help here as usual?!   I always wait or Mom first!   Your calls and times?  You guys?   And,  go and help someone else that you care about??   I wait first for Mom and then you guys, etc..  JOKE!!    This is fast a recap as I can do now.  In – No order and from notes and my memory.  The recroom XMAS Tree all done and other stuff.  Just small lights. I replaced (8).  I guess no glass bulbs, no tincle, etc.   Tons more.  Years ago.   Mom – no clue.    More to pickup, etc.  Put away the glass blocks- I guess she forgot the one to take to her office today?  I bought Drill Bits and drilled out (12) + blocks and ordered and I did the lights?  Not sure know if she knows anything and what she is doing.  If you know- let me Know!   Has Mom done nothing for her plans?  You guys?  Party,  NYC  –  XMAS show,  Bunko, etc…  All the (insert my mom’s best friend’s name here) stuff?  I just wait for Mom…  I think Mom going out later this week for a work XMAS deal and over night in NY?  A fun deal !   Have you guys seen or know any thing?  I just wait????  Please? I give up!!
$120.00 Dec. car ins.  Other loan stuff pending.   Love,  Dad   XXX.
Were you hearing the word “stop” after each sentence in your head?  This was one of the very nicest emails- no real insults or anything.  But it is still so weird and so annoying.  And as my boyfriend (the genius who came up with the idea for a separate “dad only” email account) likes to point out, “why does he write XXX?”  It is going to take quite a while for me to get to that part of my dad’s personality, but sometimes I think he lumps my mother, sister and I into one person and forgets who he is talking to.  He also ends each one with “love dad, (and his name).  I’m 34 and pretty sure I know your name, dad.
Anyway, there’s exactly 978 more of those where that came from…needless to say, I only skim through them once a week.  As an English teacher, I have enough bad writing to read from my high school students :)

Post-it Notes

post it notes

My father has probably single-handedly kept the Post-it Note company in business.

One of the most tragic parts of my dad’s alcohol dependency is that he was once a very bright man.  He graduated from college, worked his way up through a Fortune 500 company and made a six-figure salary.  Beyond being smart, he could fix anything.  Literally anything.  From the construction a dollhouse from scratch to rebuilding the engine of a 944 Porsche, there didn’t seem to be anything he didn’t know how to do.  Some of my fondest early childhood memories were spent in his shop, watching him fix something with epoxy or create something on his table saw.  Every single one of my friends were treated to a demonstration of his compressor (and they were obviously SO impressed…what 13 year old girl wouldn’t be, right?)

But over the years, something started happening to my father’s brain.  He developed a weird OCD-type complex where everything had to be written down.  His product of choice: the Post-it Note.  For the last years I lived in my parent’s home, every day the kitchen counter was littered with post-it notes in my dad’s ALL CAPITALIZED handwriting (isn’t that a sign of a serial killer?)  He seemed to be especially fascinated with noting every aspect of his day, from taking out the garbage to feeding the cats to phone calls he made.  As if that wasn’t strange enough, he also demanded that anything we needed to tell him would be in writing.  I am not sure if this was due to an underlying mental illness or just the effect of alcohol on his brain, but it was very annoying.

Now that I do not live with him, he has moved on to his new favorite forum: email.  He sends at least one email every day.  It got to the point where I had to create a new email address just for him.  In the first year alone, he sent over 550 emails.  I can probably write 10 blogs on just his emails alone.  But you kind of have to see them to believe them, and there’s a lot more to talk about before I can even scratch the surface of his emails!!

From the beginning…

I am not really sure where to begin, so I will just start writing and see where it takes me…

I am in my 30s and have read pretty much everything ever published about being the child of an alcoholic.  I know all about the roles (I am a hero), the shame, the dysfunction, the warnings (Just FYI- I didn’t marry an alcoholic “like my dad”, but my ex was a jerk anyway, go figure).  But I never read anything that really sounded like MY life or MY family or MY alcoholic (awww!).  I’m tired of all the hokey, psychology-ridden rhetoric about living with an alcoholic…I think people need the harsh truth.  Living with an alcoholic parent is hell.  No book you read is going to change that.  The only thing that ever helped me was finding other people in my situation (rare) and using humor (often).

My dad is a special kind of alcoholic; the kind who hasn’t had to face many repercussions.  But after being an alcoholic for over 20 years now, it is finally starting to catch up with him.  It’s about time.

That sounds mean, but once you start to read a little more (if I get anyone to read this since I am not sharing it with family or friends), you will see.  Because my story stretches over two decades and has no definite end in sight, it is a little overwhelming to know where to really start.  So, let me just explain the title of my blog: “Do Nothing Taker”.  That is one of my many nicknames I have been given by my alcoholic father.  For many, many years, he was a functional alcoholic (one of those fancy Al-Anon terms!). It basically means that the alcoholic gets to go to work and have everyone think he is a normal person, but then comes home and acts like a psycho-monster to his family.  My dad made a very good living and my younger sister and I were very well provided for.  My ex (the sober jerk) used to say “big house, no problems”.  This was the truth.  We appeared like a very nice family.  It was exceptionally deceiving for a long time (we will get to that).  But when my dad acted especially mean, he would buy my sister and I gifts- it is how I got my first Nintendo.  But my father’s favorite thing in the whole world (besides cheap vodka) is throwing things back into people’s faces.  Hence my nickname.  I am a do nothing taker because he bought my first bike, paid for my college, etc. etc. and I have done nothing in return- I just take.  He conveniently forgets me dropping assault charges against him, but alcoholics have fuzzy memories like that (and that is a whole OTHER story…)

I do hope someone reads this, maybe even someone who can relate to this (or who just wants to feel like their dad maybe wasn’t such an asshole in comparison to mine- my friends like to do that lol), but even if no one does, I think it will help me to get some of it off my chest.  Besides, I want to write a book about him one day so this is prewriting (did I mention I teach English?)