So where does that leave me?

I feel like such a big part of my identity is wrapped up in my dad being an alcoholic. Let me stress that I have never used my dad being an alcoholic as an excuse for my own bad behavior, but rather that I have been a “child of an alcoholic” for over 20 years. Then very abruptly, my father stopped drinking- something that I never anticipated and still have a hard time believing. Even though he has been sober for a couple of months, I am still a child of an alcoholic and that hasn’t changed. Don’t get me wrong- I couldn’t be happier that he isn’t drinking (he had a stroke in October that I think scared him straight), but just because he is not presently drinking does not just make all of the years of abuse disappear. My mom thinks that he does not really remember the terrible things that he has done while he was drunk (which was every day), but we all do. I remember. I haven’t quite figured how to reconcile the old image of my dad and the new one and how my father’s newfound sobriety affects me. I am not being harassed by his drunk phone calls every day and am no longer receiving two to three crazy, nasty emails every day (can’t complain about that!), but that doesn’t erase all of the belligerent voicemails on my phone or mean emails in my inbox from the past 15 years. Am I just supposed to forget everything and have a magical “fresh start” with my dad?

15 comments on “So where does that leave me?

  1. Linda bischof says:

    No definitely not your reality is yours and it happened and the ACOA traits r there but what an awesome opportunity to have some conversations open and honest between the two of u

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    • Linda, I’m getting there! Obviously the majority of the focus has been on his health since the stroke, but now that he is getting to a stable place, I am opening the lines of communication more. Thanks for your comment 🙂

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      • Linda says:

        Hang in there, and remember your forgiveness does not let him off the hook it frees you

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        • That’s so insightful! I’m totally writing that down in my phone so I can read it again!! You are so right that forgiving him would definitely do more for me than for him (especially considering he hardly remembers the majority of what he did)

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  2. Meg,
    (((Hugs))) I can see and understand your dilemma. It seems like you’ve hit on something here that bears consideration. Your self identity has largely been defined by your dad’s alcoholism. Which makes a lot of sense for the child who was impacted and affected by it. Now, the task, would be to teach that child inside of you that it’s okay to form and forge a new identity not determined by her experience or the dysfunctions of having grown up with an alcoholic. This is easily stated but not easily achieved. You’re absolutely correct in that your dad’s current sobriety does not retroactively change your experiences.

    Good luck on your journey. You’ll get there.

    Blessings,
    Kina

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    • Kina,
      I actually said “wow” aloud while reading your comment lol. You completely summed up how I feel so beautifully. I think over the years I have learned to accept my family and to create very low expectations for my father. I guess a big part of it is not completely trusting that my father is going to stay the course and I am so afraid of the huge blow I am going to feel if he drinks again. So I’m sort of in this weird limbo stage between my dad being a raging drunk and him now being this helpless stroke victim who is trying to be sober. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for your insightful understanding!

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      • Meg,
        I haven’t had the chance to read through more of your blog than your About page and this post. So, I’m going off of my own experiences and what I’ve been working through inside of myself and in terms of my relationships with my adult children.

        What I’m finding very helpful in forming a new identity of self is coming from going through Twelve Step processes, exploring and coming to deeper understanding of faith, spirituality, and the character/nature of God, as I understand Him.

        Through these processes, I am realizing and understanding that I have to let go of who my adult caregivers were or were not when they were responsible for my care and nurture. I have to stop focusing on them and look and pay attention to the little girl who was so that I can see the things she still needs: love, acceptance, nurture, validation, compassion, empathy, understanding, and encouragement. I now am learning to seek out relationships and opportunities where I can receive those things and give them to myself. This is bringing me to a place of being able to offer those things toward the ones who let me down and abused me. I still have a ways to go, but I’m getting there.

        I’m glad you followed my blog so I could find you and reach out to you.

        Blessings,
        Kina

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        • Thank you, Kina- I really do appreciate you taking the time to reach out to me. I can relate to so much of what you wrote. Even though my process is different than yours, I can respect the idea of needed to refocus on myself and the present. I have been in therapy for a long time and it has helped me learn so much about my father and the effect of his alcoholism on our family and my childhood. It’s wonderful that you have channeled your experiences into a way to help others- that is very admirable. I am a teacher and I have had several students who have similar backgrounds to mine and it helps me to be there for them as well.

          Again, thank you for taking the time to write 🙂

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  3. desertjasmin48 says:

    My father is also an alcoholic. He is 81 and still drinks throughout each day. I grew up very angry and didn’t realize that my anger stemmed directly from growing up in an alcoholic family. My anger in my younger years affected all my relationships. All my relationships with men eventually failed. I didn’t raise my children with a tender spirit and my daughter especially suffered as a result of this. I found a counselor that helped me understand why I was so angry. That anger later turned into many tears throughout counseling.

    When I became born-again at age 38, the VERY FIRST thing that happened to me was amazing and it was just one week after I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I was lying in bed one night and suddenly I felt like I was hovering above my bed in the corner of the room. I saw my parents laid out before me and God spoke to me in the Spirit and said, “here are your parents; love them for who they are for they know nothing else.” Then this incredible feeling of forgiveness swept through my entire body like warm water slowly flowing through it from the top of my head and out my toes. It was a feeling that cannot really be captured in words or in writing. It was amazing! At that moment I forgave my parents. I could never have mustered that within my own human self. I knew then that God was real. My anger was also cured at that moment. People that knew me said I was very different now.

    I pray for you to seek God in this situation.

    With much blessings,
    Diane

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    • Diane,
      Your story is incredible and I admire that you found a path that led you to where you are now. I internalized a lot of what I experienced and the feelings I had and ended up having crippling anxiety (much like you had anger). Luckily, I found healthy ways to deal with it and am much better now. And I love what you wrote about forgiveness!

      Ps- you are a beautiful writer! (sorry I’m an English teacher so I notice that lol) Thank you for taking the time to write to me.

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  4. jill says:

    Your past will always be a part of you. You cannot change that, but you can change how your attitude to it. Recently someone wrote, anger is just sad’s bodyguard. You can forgive and choose not to hang onto the anger, but you can look at it instead as an opportunity for growth. Like anger, anxiety will lessen when you begin to connect with its source,

    I believe that things happen for a reason. That the universe guides us if we simply pay attention to the lessons around us. Several years ago, I went through a period of hell when my twin sons became embroiled in drugs and alcohol addictions. My whole existence became vigilance, guidance, coaching, trying to help them find their way clear. A good day was when everyone was alive and no one was in jail. I lowered my bar that far. They both found their way back and they are productive 24 year olds. I am much wiser.

    That wisdom and compassion are things I bring with me everywhere I go. They are a gift albeit a gift that came from living through hell. They have made me a better teacher, a better friend and a better mother.

    A year and a half ago, I lost my husband to liver failure. I was fortunate; he was a sweet kind man, even when drunk. The compassion I learned was so helpful to me in the last couple of years with him.

    Three weeks ago, I quit drinking. It was time for me to see what the wreckage around me and choose better. I was lucky. The universe showed me that I didn’t have to wait for rock bottom, but it also took me to AA. It’s helping. Have you tried Alanon? It also brought me to this on-line community, a wonderful place.

    By the way, your mom is probably right. He probably doesn’t remember some of it. He remembers as much as he is ready to remember. It’s still rather soon. He has a lot of healing to do before he will be ready to really say things you need to hear. You wouldn’t really believe it now anyway. Give him time to find his way. He is on a tough journey.

    You are doing well. You are looking at the questions, even asking them out loud. You will put it all together in time. Be patient with yourself.

    Wishing you peace.
    Jill

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    • Jill, thank you so much for taking the time to respond. You certainly have a lot of experience and wisdom and I love what you wrote about anger. I also once heard someone say that depression is anger turned inwards and that made a lot of sense to me too. I did try Alanon a few times, but honestly having 1:1 therapy has been more helpful for me.

      I am so very glad to hear that your sons are doing well, but I am sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. You are clearly a very strong woman! Good for you for not drinking- that’s a huge accomplishment.

      I never thought about the fact that if my dad was to remember everything and apologize that I might not believe it. I do think you are right about that. I guess it is true that actions speak louder than words! His journey is tough, but he is lucky in many ways (to have the support of his family still, to have had the stroke not do much worse damage physically, etc.)

      Again, I do appreciate your words and I am hoping that this- and every experience- will help me grow and become a stronger person 🙂

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  5. I agree, forgiveness and forgetting are two different things. Forgive your dad. It doesn’t make his behavior okay and doesn’t release him from the consequences. But, it does release you from being a victim to him anymore. As long as you hang on to anger and bitterness, you will still be a victim. I am glad to hear your dad is doing so well and with all the positive things happening in his life right now because of being sober, then I hope that makes him stay sober. I also hope he becomes active in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).

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    • Thank you for commenting!! I don’t think my dad would go to AA- he didn’t exactly quit drinking of his own choice- he just didn’t have access to alcohol for two months. Hopefully he finds the strength to stay sober without it (of course I would be thrilled if he wanted to get involved with the program).

      I agree with you about forgiveness. It’s not an easy thing, but I know it would do more for me than for him!!

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