My father has been sober for over a year now, since his stroke last October. This has made holidays and family occasions SO much better, now that there is no longer a real threat of him being drunk, violent and belligerent. I never in a million years imagined my dad not drinking, so I never allowed myself to fantasize what it would even be like if that ever happened. Even though it is obviously better, one thing I didn’t take into consideration was him having memory loss. I have so many vivid, unbelievable memories of things he did while he was drunk over the past 20 years. Whether it is from the stroke itself or just being wasted, he really does not remember doing the things he did.
Case and point…I grew up in a very big house, throughout which was an intercom system in each room. The main intercom was in the kitchen, but you could press a button in any room and your voice would be projected throughout the entire house. Unfortunately, one of the intercoms was located in my bedroom, as well as my sister’s bedroom next door to mine. My father also had one in his office in the basement, which is where he would sit and drink all day long. I have so many memories of being in my bedroom, doing my homework or talking to a friend on the phone and hearing the intercom click on with him yelling my mother’s name into it over and over or just being obnoxious. Even worse, he would yell into it while we were sleeping…on school nights. So even if we were able to get away from him physically when he was drunk, we could never escape his voice. It was constant and it was horrible. Even if the volume of the unit in my bedroom was turned all the way down, you could still hear it resonate throughout the house and there was no “off” button, so the volume would always be on, just very low. It is truly one of the most vivid things I remember about my dad being drunk and acting like a lunatic. I have blocked out so many memories from my childhood, but I could never forget that damn intercom system. It was like a torture device when I was a teenager.
Fastforward to this past week….my sister and I and our boyfriends were all at my parents’ house for Christmas and I called out something to my sister who was in another room. My dad nonchalantly mentioned I should use the intercom system, but he wasn’t sure if it even worked anymore. Then he said something like, “I don’t remember ever using it anyway”. I literally just stood and stared at him open-mouthed. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. My sister came in the room and I said to her, “dad says he never used to use the intercom”. We both looked at each other for like ten seconds and then started hysterically laughing. My dad truly didn’t understand what was so funny. On the drive back home and in the days since, it has REALLY bothered me. I mentioned it to my boyfriend and tried to explain why it was upsetting me so much. How could my father forget something he did day in and day out for years? It is so hard to make someone who didn’t experience it understand. I am not 100% sure why it is bothering me so much that he said that. Maybe it’s the whole “forgive but don’t forget” concept? Not to sound like a baby, but it’s not fair…it’s not fair that he got to act the way he did and do the damage he inflicted on all of us that affected our lives in so many ways that we still have to live with and then he just gets to forget. I want my dad to be sober, but I also want him to be sorry. He has never apologized for things he did or tried to atone for them because he doesn’t remember them. But that’s not fair!! My mom told me that she will sometimes tell him things he did throughout the past two decades when he was drunk every day and he looks at her like she is crazy…like how could she invent these horrible things??!! I know he used to black out a lot (like the time he head butted me in the face and then told the police that I attacked HIM), but I can’t believe he would forget something that he did every day, like using the intercom. It blows my mind. I can’t stop thinking about him saying that.
I wonder if he truly does forget. As I read this post, I started thinking about gaslighting. Just a thought.
I have considered that but he truly seems bewildered! And it doesnt happen that often that he would be manipulating my mom or me. I think he just has blocked so much out (conveniently for him!) who knows though? Even if he did remember, I am sure he wouldnt admit it to us!
Thanks for commenting 🙂
I think he probably truly does not remember. But that makes your situation worse in a way. People that live through long periods of traumatic events like that usually have post traumatic stress syndrome . You listened to that horror over the intercom for years with no escape. Not even in your sleep.
Your PTSD will not just go away. I know you would like him to be sorry , but sadly alcoholics sometimes do not ever really feel sorry for what effect they had on others. They are very self involved when they are drinking. When they look back on things, it is most likely they will see how the alcoholism hurt them and not you.
It depends on the person and their personality. Some alcoholics can be sorry and actually believe what others tell them they did and how much it hurt them. But it does not sound like this is his personality, from the way you describe his reaction to your mother , when she tells him things he did.
You need to find a path to healing from the trauma. It probably needs to be a path that does not look for an apology from him. And the apology really would not change the fact that he did that in the first place.
My mother was an alcoholic and I lived with her as a teenager. I also, sadly, chose 2 alcoholic boyfriends as live in partners , at different times as an adult. I thought if I could fix them and get love from them, I would heal. But that did not happen. They just hurt me.
All alcoholics do not hurt people in the way you describe. Some just inflict most of the injury upon themselves. I truly believe that an alcoholic still has their base personality in tact , even when they are really drunk. If your getting enough sleep for school the next day was not a priority to him when he was drunk, it is possible that it never was a priority to him at all.
It is very sad. All parents do not prioritize their children in the same way.
All alcoholics do not become angry and violent when they drink. Their inhibitions and judgement are low when they are drinking but the feelings of anger have to already be there, for them to act like that.
I want you to be able to heal from all that trauma. I have PTSD from years of various trauma. It has caused my level of function in life to be lower than it could be.
Reach out to people on wordpress like you are. It is good therapy. Lots of people care and there are lots of people that understand trauma.
In the day to day world, it is hard to find people that can relate to PTSD, depression and anxiety.
You do not have to forgive and forget. It is easy for people to say “honor your parents” and “respect your parents n matter what” They have no idea what it is like to be so disrespected by their parents and violated in a way that causes PTSD.
My thoughts are wit you.
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I am so overwhelmed by your response. Thank you so much for your comment. You gave me a lot to think about. I guess i have always thought of my dad as being a different person when he was drunk because it helped me cope with how he acted. But you are very right in that it is possible he would not have been the greatest dad even if he was sober. I definitely agree that alcoholics are such selfish people. My das knows that he did terrible things while drunk, yet he does not ever ask us about it. He must know deep inside he hurt his family- even if he does not remember the specifics, he could still show remorse overall.
I have been in therapy for many years and have addressed my anxiety disorder. But i have never really considered PTSD. I guess i have always reserved that diagnosis for people who suffered “real” trauma, but when I really think back to what I lived through every day for twenty years, I know there was a lot of emotional damage done.
You are so insightful and I appreciate your thoughtful response more than you know. To know someone can relate- and even reaches back out to me- makes me feel validated and heard. Thank you for that.
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Wow! May peace chase you for the rest of your life. I could only imaging what you’re going through. I was married to an alcoholic who refused to get help and remains in denial to this day. During the course of his drinking he managed to totally alienate our daughters, cause undue pain and heartache on them and a great deal of emotional distress. And yet, he still does not understand the damage he has inflicted on them or me. When I try to explain to him what he’s done to us, he either feigns memory loss or lack of understanding the full brunt of what his actions did to us. I am no longer with him, and I have absolutely no intention of ever being with him again. I attempted to give him a second chance only to witness the same drunken beligerent behavior as previously. He refuses to stop drinking because he thinks everything is fine and he is fine. I can see that his behavior and his personality is getting worse and worse with his heavy drinking, and I decided that it was time to pull the plug on my relationship with him. I pray that he will get help and stop drinking, but I know that this is totally up to him. In the meantime, I am once again trying to piece together my family as well as myself. Active alcoholics are so wrapped in themselves that they fail to see anyone else. Everything for them is all about convenience and what works for them. They are selfish and heartless people. As long as they continue to drink, they will never be fully functioning or fully productive individuals. Many happiness to you and hang in there, and continue to heal. You are not responsible for your father’s drinking, his behavior or his life.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. Let me start by saying that I’m so very glad to hear that you have separated yourself from this man who caused so much damage. I know that must not have been easy at all. And yes, alcoholics can be incredibly selfish. Hopefully he will be able to change someday before it is too late to have a relationship with your daughters. I used to say my dad would NEVER stop drinking, so I am definitely proof that you should never say never. But in the meantime, keep on being the strong woman you are and I hope you continue on your path to happiness!!!
I read this post yesterday and it’s stayed with me since. I have had similar experiences with my own dad and it’s very distressing. I don’t know how much people like this actually remember/choose to forget, but that doesn’t change the fact that we remember and are affected by what they’ve done/said.
We can’t change the past and we can’t change the actions of others, but we can choose how we act ourselves. Whether you challenge your father on what he can/can’t remember is your call and I hope whatever you do brings you peace.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I know….I am torn sometimes between wanting to confront him and then just appreciating having no conflict in my family right now. I guess part of it is not wanting to rock the boat. But, yes, thank you for pointing out that it is my choice because it is one of the first times I have ever had any control when it comes to my father!