The more things change, the more they are the same

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I got a notification from WordPress that it was my seven year anniversary of when I began this blog.  I decided to go back to my very first post, which was on January 17, 2013.

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…

 

Well, not much, yet EVERYTHING has changed…I am now in my 40s, my dad is still a drunk and I can now add a very long, very dysfunctional relationship with an alcoholic to my resume.  I became the dreaded cliche- the daughter of an alcoholic who ends up dating an alcoholic.  The only silver lining to that was that I did not marry him.

My father has been in the hospital or a rehabilitation/nursing home since Christmas Eve.  He suffered through a coma and once he was well enough to be moved physically, he went through a mental psychosis, caused by withdrawal or the sedatives.  He was irate, hateful, violent, and confused.  He thought he was at McDonald’s, he flicked off my two year old niece and said “fuck you” to her when she said goodbye to him, he thought another patient was my mother and yelled at her all day for ignoring him, he believed everything was a conspiracy against him, he blamed my mother, sister and me for “doing this to him”, he asked what plane I took to get there when I live ten miles away, he refused to eat..I could go on and on- his behavior was incredibly disturbing and upsetting.

He seems to be doing a little better with his mental facilities, but physically is very weak and will be moving to a rehab center again tonight.  So, now we are up to two different hospitals, two different rehabilitation centers, at least a dozen different doctors and more nurses than I can count.  It is exhausting.

My therapist AND my sister’s therapist asked why we go visit him so often, especially when he is being so nasty and verbally abusive towards us.  I honestly do not have an answer for that.  We have tolerated his behavior for so long.  I think a lot of it is feeling like we need to be there for my mother, but I cannot and will not ever understand her loyalty or sense of responsibility towards him.  It has just been a very stressful beginning to the new year, after what was arguably the worst year of my life.

Speaking of which, my ex (the above mentioned alcoholic and subject of MANY of my blogs) decided this would be the opportune time to try to reinsert himself back into my life.  After not hearing from him for months (at my request), he texted me asking about my father.  I contemplated for a while how to handle it and then decided maybe he was just being nice.  I gave him some details about my dad and nothing about myself.  He basically took the opportunity to fill me in on his life (which only made me pity him) and then proceeded to keep texting me until I had to kindly ask him to stop.

SO much has happened during the past seven years- it is impossible to sum up. Yet, that famous quote is eerily accurate: “the more things change, the more they are the same.”

Bye 2019…thanks for nothing.

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I hated 2019.  Like DESPISED it.  In March, my boyfriend of nine years went through alcohol withdrawal and was put in a medically induced coma on a breathing tube and ventilator.  It lasted 17 extremely long days.  His 28 day hospital stay resulted in his (sort-of) recovery, but the end of our relationship.  I was with him the whole time and I feel like I will never get over the trauma of seeing the man I love in that condition.  However, I was finally starting to feel a little better this month…I got through Thanksgiving and could see the end of the year finally approaching…a fresh, new start.

And then my father was put into a medically induced coma on a breathing tube and ventilator last Thursday.  What. The. Actual. Hell? How do two people that I am very close with, the two men in my life, BOTH end up in comas within the same year???  Thankfully, my dad was removed from the sedation and the breathing tube was removed last night and he seems do be doing ok.  Yesterday was touch and go and in the morning, his condition was bad enough for a palliative nurse to speak to us about a DNR order and “quality of life” concerns.

I just can’t believe it.  I feel like I keep saying that over and over.  How did this happen to TWO people? In ONE year? Six more hours until this horrible, traumatic, heartbreaking, life-changing year is over and I can’t wait.

Holiday Spirits <—-pun intended

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I have so many different things to write about, I do not know where to begin.  One of the topics, I am not ready to delve into, so for now I will stick to the one I know best: dealing with alcoholics.  So, here is a special holiday edition of Thanksgiving updates on the three drunks in my life, who coincidentally ALL drink vodka…

  1. The ex-boyfriend. Thanksgiving was not as bad as I thought it would be.  I had one 45 minute breakdown.  I know it is not healthy, but I would occasionally “unblock” my ex-boyfriend’s Instagram page to see if he was okay.  It felt like the only last tiny connection I had to him.  When I went to check it on Thanksgiving, I realize that he made his page private.  I was already upset because this was always ‘our” holiday and it was the first one without him, but I felt like him doing that was unexpected.  Maybe he knew I was checking on him.  Maybe he met someone.  Maybe he wants privacy.  I feel so far away from him now.  In nine years, this is the longest I have gone without seeing or speaking to him.  But, I suppose that is what happens in a break up.  And I have to remind myself that I was the one who said I could not be in contact with him anymore.  I don’t know how to ever stop worrying if he is alright, but I know there is nothing I can do if he is not.
  2. The father. My dad was good on Thanksgiving, very well-behaved.  I actually took a selfie with him and at one point leaned up against him on the couch.  We took family pictures.  It was nice.  Friday, he was terrible…leaving mean voicemails and sending shitty text messages.  Saturday, my sister and I had already agreed to go to my parent’s house to help them with some things and he was totally fine again.  It is was like a sober-drunk-sober sandwich over the course of three days.  He is truly a Jekyll and Hyde. 
  3. The friend’s boyfriend. My good friend, practically my sister, is in a terrible and abusive relationship with an alcoholic.  She is 18 weeks pregnant and he just got his third DWI over the previous weekend.  I felt so badly for her- they were supposed to do the gender reveal for the baby on Thanksgiving.  But, I also do not understand why she stays with him.  I try not to think about it too much, because after 30+ years, I still do not understand why my mother has never left my dad.  Today, my friend’s boyfriend put his hands around her neck and pushed her against a wall.  He threatened her and then pushed her outside into the snow, refusing to let her back in.  My sister (her best friend) called her brother and he ran over to the apartment.  My friend’s boyfriend then assaulted him, was arrested and the brother is pressing charges, although my friend still will not.  I realized while all of this was going on, I was feeling such anxiety.  It is hard for me to be a good friend to her and support her while separating my own experiences and it brings back a lot of my own traumatic memories.  She is safe now and that is all that matters in the moment.

I am so thankful that I do not live with an alcoholic anymore.  My house is so calm and peaceful.  I feel such a sense of independence and freedom.  However, I also know that had my ex not gotten so sick and also cheated, I may not have ever left him.  That is a hard pill to swallow.  So, it makes me less judgmental of other women going through this.  I got an “out” and I took it and for that, I am so grateful.  I may not have shown strength throughout the bad parts of our relationship and I know I should have ended things with him years ago, but at least I put myself first when I got the chance.

Holidays can be so stressful and sad and sentimental.  I am trying to be positive, but I also know I need to allow myself to experience my emotions.  I have been through so much and I do not feel healed, but I know that I am in a much better place than I was a year ago, so if there is any silver lining, it is that.  But I am really tired of alcoholics…

Withdrawing

26. That’s how many days I went to the hospital to be with you. 26 days where I put you and your medical needs first. Not only because I love you, but because it was the right thing to do. For 26 days I knew in the back of my mind that eventually I was going to have to tell you our relationship was over. I dreaded the day, felt immeasurable guilt. Why? I didn’t lie. I didn’t cheat. I didn’t ruin our relationship. That was all you. But I was so scared of hurting you, of how our break up would go. I ran through every possible scenario in my mind, drafted what I wanted to say, tried to predict your reaction. As the day got closer, my anxiety built. I didn’t WANT to do it. I didn’t want to let you go. I wanted to keep supporting you, helping you, touching you, loving you. I never wanted any of this.

With all the preparations I made, I never expected the response you had. I sat, crying, pouring my heart out, asking questions, telling you how hurt I was. You sat in silence, looking at the TV and sometimes your phone. You only said you were sorry when I asked you to apologize. You only said you loved me when I said it first. I hugged you goodbye, expecting some emotion (from you…I was sobbing). There was none. I pressed my face against your neck, my cheek rubbing your central line, I left tear stains on your gown. I never wanted to let go. Your reaction hurt so bad- it was another piece of my heart broken. It felt like you just dismissed me, didn’t even want me there, didn’t want to look at me. When you were in the coma, I kissed you 100 times, held you hand for hours, told you I loved you over and over. I never knew when would be the last time. I didn’t know a heart could break more than once, but mine broke over and over throughout those 26 days. I only went food shopping once and saw the blue Powerade you like and had to leave the store.

Afterwards, I spoke with your father. He told me (not in a mean way) that I had had a month to adjust to things and you were just finding it all out. I told him respectfully that simply wasn’t true. For 26 days, I put all of my emotions- sadness, anger, betrayal- aside and focused 100 percent on your recovery. At night I would sleep in the guest room bed and was so overwhelmed and exhausted from the day, I would not even be able to process thoughts. My mind was in a constant fog. I would talk and not make sense. I would order food at the hospital cafe and zone out and someone would have to snap me out of it by nudging me.

It’s been two days since I told you I knew everything and it feels like I’m just starting to deal with it. Not seeing you for two days has been so difficult. I want to be there with you. I’m back at work just to distract myself, but all I think about is you. Everyone keeps saying I need to focus on myself. I know that’s true, but I don’t even know how to start. I guess time heals all wounds, but I feel like this is just something that will fester inside of me forever. I knew if you didn’t stop drinking, our relationship was going to inevitably end. I just can’t believe you almost died and it had to get to the point it did. I’m trying to step back from the whole thing, give up control, let your parents take over. It’s so hard because I still want to take care of you. I realize now how codependent I became in our relationship. I know I have to move on. I know I have to relinquish the responsibility I feel for you. I know I need to allow myself to go through the grieving process of our breakup. I know I need to deal with the trauma of seeing you in a coma and you almost dying.

But I just don’t know how to let you go…

The *Dad* Who Cried Wolf

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On Wednesday night, my mother called my cell. “I just called 911! An ambulance is coming to get your father.  He said he can’t breathe.  I think he’s having a heart attack!” Luckily, my sister was already at my house for dinner.  It wasn’t even a second thought…we left our uneaten food on the table and jumped in my car.  Even though it took us nearly an hour to get there, we actually got to the hospital before the ambulance did.

Long story short, my father had a tear in his intestines, which lead to a major loss of blood, which caused the shortness of breath.  They gave him a blood transfusion and ran a ton of tests and he was in the hospital until yesterday.  My sister and I stayed at the hospital that first night until almost 11 pm, waiting until he was stable and was admitted.

I called my father in the hospital on Friday during my lunch break to check on him.  There were a couple of my coworkers in the teacher’s room when I called and he got so frustrated because he could “hear people talking in the background” that he yelled at me and then hung up on me.

He wrote his first nasty email within hours of being released on Saturday.  He wrote that my mother is a “terrorist” because she threw away his cigarettes…that no one cares about anyone but themselves…that all we do is take…and that it’s “time for (my sister and me) to do something for him and PAY HIM BACK for everything he has done.”

I had not seen my father since Christmas before seeing him in the hospital.  I sometimes felt guilty about that until I reminded myself that it was because of his actions that I chose not to be around him.  He was nice to us when he was in the hospital and I thought to myself, “he must appreciate that we drop everything and run to be by his side when there is a medical emergency”…nope.

I do not mean to make light of a medical condition at all and I am not implying my dad is lying about that.  Rather, what I mean by comparing my father to the story of the boy who cried wolf is that every time the little boy cried “wolf”, the townspeople reacted.  They ran to him to see how they could help…and they were disappointed each time to find that nothing was wrong.  Yet, they did not learn.  They fell for the boy’s story every time.

That’s me with my dad.  No matter how upset I am with him, no matter how much he has hurt me, if something happens and he needs his family, I am there. And afterwards, when instead of being grateful for us, he is mean instead, I retreat like the townspeople.  I am disappointed with him and with myself and question why I fell for it again. I wonder why I still care so much.  I use the excuse, “but he’s my father” to justify worrying about him.

So, like the townspeople, I am naive and caring and gullible.  But, eventually, my father is going to end up like the boy.  A day might come when he once again needs his family, and none of us will come. I am not really at that point yet, but honestly a person can only care for so long. Each time this happens, I think my dad will realize how lucky he is that after everything he has done to hurt his wife and daughters, that we are still there for him and he will change*.

*Isn’t that the definition of “insanity”…doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

Fall Back

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I think my dad is drinking again.  A few weeks ago, I talked to him on the phone in the morning and then again in the afternoon and when I hung up the second time, I literally said out loud to my boyfriend, “I think he sounded drunk”.  I pretty much dismissed the idea because he had a stroke two years ago (which led to his miraculous and unexpected sobriety) and so he does slur a little bit still.  But I also dismissed it because- to be honest- after two years of him not drinking, I got used to him being sober.  For the first year of his sobriety, I answered each call from him with that slight feeling of anticipated dread that it would be the time he would be drunk.  By the end of two years of sobriety, it shocked me how quickly I took for granted that he would be sober.  I guess what made it easier to acclimate was his complete and very abrupt stopping.  He was a horrible alcoholic one day…had a stroke…and from that day forward did not drink.  It was like a light switch was turned off.  Just like that…sober.

Now a little over two years later, that phone call that I stopped dreading finally happened.  There wasn’t anything obvious…just a slight difference in tone.  Really just something I can’t put my finger on that only the child of an alcoholic would even notice or know to listen for.  What was more worrisome was a couple of days later, my sister sent me a text with a screenshot of one of my dad’s emails.  She wrote, “do you think he’s drinking again?!?!?”  I immediately called her and told her my suspicion from the previous phone conversation with him.  We saw my mother that weekend and questioned her.  She just retired and is home all day with him and would certainly be the first to see the red flags.  She right away denied it and said she “would know” if he was drinking.  I decided to let it go- it was only a brief suspicion- and I wasn’t ready to confront the possibility that he could have fallen off the wagon.

Today, I got an email early this morning from my father.  In it, he included that my mother was mad at him because she found “a bottle of vodka under a cabinet” and that it was “several years old”.  My heart sunk.  Memories flooded back of being 13 years old and frantically searching for bottles of vodka in my dad’s various hiding spots.  I remember pouring part of one down the sink, the liquid burning my nostrils, and replacing the vodka with water…hoping it was diluted enough to prevent him from getting drunk.  My sister and I both called my mom and both told her the same thing- if he is drinking and she stays, she is on her own this time.

I can’t go through this again.  I can’t relive the horrible events from my childhood. I can’t stand by and watch and listen to him abuse us and my mother.  When I was 12 and he became an alcoholic, I had no choice.  I do now.  I just can’t do it.  Even just thinking about how he used to act- the horrible screaming on voicemails, the nasty, degrading emails, the ruined (and often frightening) family holidays- causes me to feel anxious.  I have made such an effort to become closer to him over these past two years.  But if he chooses alcohol over his family for a second time, it is going to undo all of that and I will cut him out of my life.  I just can’t do it.

It would be MY pleasure

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Sometimes I have a hard time thinking about topics to write about now that my dad isn’t a drunk lunatic anymore.  It’s challenging to keep my “blog at least once a month” policy because I find that I’m leaning towards exploring more personal topics and other relationships, which is not the reason I started writing this.

I have written about my tendency to be a people pleaser in the past.  I know from doing research and through therapy that this is a direct result of my upbringing.  I am not usually one to “blame” things on my childhood, but this is a pretty obvious side effect of living with an alcoholic.  Dad drinks, kid tries to keep him happy so he doesn’t, kid “fails” and dad gets drunk anyway…and repeat.  Even though therapy is wonderful, I really didn’t need to have that one explained to me.

However, I have been trying to be a little less…pleasing?  For example, I have a good friend who over the years has become more self-absorbed.  When we talk or get together, conversation mostly revolves around her and her life.  It used to hurt my feelings, but I either just got used it or stopped caring (I think it’s the latter), although it still does bother me sometimes.  I decided to not get myself all upset about it anymore or to overanalyze it.  I can’t control other people and I can’t make anyone care about me more.

Sometimes I confuse even myself about whether I am genuinely doing something nice for someone or if I am trying to please them….like “please love me and think I am a good person”.  I have another friend (not the same one as above) who had some medical issues over the past couple of years.  I made sure to check in with her a lot, sent her little cards to brighten her day, and genuinely made an effort to let her know I was thinking about her.  I am pretty positive this wasn’t manipulative on my part-  I truly love my friend and was worried about her.  There was no “people pleasing” ulterior motive involved.  But, now I am currently going through a medical scare myself (not ready to address that yet) and this friend knows about it.  I told her what was going on a week or so ago and I am yet to hear from her since- no text to see how I am, no phone call to get the latest updates.  My boyfriend says that I expect too much from people…that I think people will do the things for me that I do for them.  And yes, I do.  When one person is making all the effort and it isn’t mutual, then that is not friendship.  I don’t think I am wrong for feeling that way!  Yet, I am disappointed a lot because my expectations are too high.  But I don’t want to stop doing the things I do because then I feel like I am not being a good friend.  So, I guess I am trying to find the right balance of how much effort to put into friendships where I feel like it is not reciprocated.

The gift of Father’s Day

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So now not only can I count the days, the weeks and even the months that my father has been sober, I can tick off a second Father’s Day!  Last year was the first Father’s Day in over 20 years that my dad was not drunk.  When I think back to last year, I couldn’t really wrap my head around that and I still didn’t trust his sobriety.  A couple of years ago my dad had a stroke and just like that (picture me snapping my fingers!) he stopped drinking and to this day hasn’t resumed.  The many Father’s Days during his years of drinking were synonymous with drama, fights, crying, disappointment, frustration, anger, etc.  He felt even more entitled on “his” day to act like a crazy lunatic.  Even though he isn’t a perfect dad, there is definitely some real normalcy in my life when it comes to my family.  So tomorrow, my boyfriend and I are going to visit my parents and I’m not consumed with worry or fear…my sister and her boyfriend are even bringing his parents there to meet mine for the first time.

On a separate/related/miraculous note: I wrote a blog once before about my father returning every gift my sister and I have gotten him.  This sadly is not an exaggeration.  It got to the point where the only thing we would even bother buying him for his birthday or Christmas was an Amazon.com gift card.  For years it was a source of hurt and disappointment, but then became an inside joke.  Those of you with alcoholic or dysfunctional families know that sometimes you just have to laugh about the ludicrous things that you experience.  But this year, the planets aligned and a curse was lifted and my dad is sober and he LIKED WHAT WE GOT HIM!  He thanked us several times and literally used those words…”I like it”.  My sister and I were together at my house and were on speakerphone with him and just sat in stunned silence, looking at each other in disbelief.  Once we hung up with him, my sister yelled out “hell yeah!!!!” and we high-fived 🙂

Father Flashback

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I have been having a really hard time lately.  My father had a hip replacement two weeks ago.  After the operation, he was very confused for several days.  The doctors assured us that it was an effect of the anesthesia.  My mom insisted my sister and I should not come because the hospital was an hour away.  For the first week, he had no idea where he was most of the time (he thought he was at Taco Bell, the airport, home, etc).  What was even worse was that he was mean.  He yelled and screamed at my mother when she would visit daily.  He was a very difficult patient- he kept trying to get up and fell once and pulled all of his various tubes out.  Towards the end of the week, he was hostile and tried to hit a female nurse.  The hospital had to call security and sedate him.  Throughout the week, I was very concerned about his behavior because he has not really acted like that since his drinking days.  I was worried about the stress it was taking on my mom.  Finally by the first weekend, he seemed to be more “normal” (we loosely use that word in my family).  He knew where he was and seemed to have calmed down a bit, although he was giving her a hard time about wanting to get cigarettes (he was on a nebulizer in the hospital and has sleep apnea so she refused to bring him any).

My sister and I decided to go visit him after he was moved to a physical rehabilitation center closer to where we live.  My mom had been there earlier in the day and said he was still cranky and difficult, but she felt it might do him good to see us.  My sister and I walked into his room and he instantly started screaming at us.  He told us if we didn’t have cigarettes that we should just leave.  He looked like a madman- he was screaming through gritted teeth and his eyes looked crazy.  He yelled that we are “fucking liars” and said not to come back until we had cigarettes.  I was literally shaking, but I asked him calmly whether he would rather have his daughters there visiting him or cigarettes…let’s just say he really wanted cigarettes.

We were literally there for like six minutes.  I started shaking and crying as soon as we walked back into the hall.  I was so shocked and startled.  I knew he wasn’t in a great place, but I was not expecting that.  I honestly think that while I was standing at the end of his hospital bed, I had a flashback to my childhood and teenage years.  My dad used to yell and scream at us like that every, single day while he was drinking (he drank every day from the time I was 12 until he had a stroke a year and a half ago).  For days after seeing him, I was so upset and angry that he treated us like that, but was also disgusted about how much it negatively affected me.  Looking back on it now, I don’t know how I lived through being treated like that all the time.  It was so horrible back then and this was a rude awakening I wasn’t expecting.  Over the past year, I have been very leery of getting used to my new “normal” dad and I guess I let my guard down.

Another week passed and my mom continued to visit him, but my sister and I never went back.  My mom said that he didn’t really mention it and I am not even sure if he remembers we were there.  We finally just saw him again for the first time over this past weekend.  My mom picked him up at the physical rehabilitation center and we met them for lunch.  He seemed a lot better, but definitely was still off and was not exactly nice.  Nothing was mentioned about our visit, which isn’t surprising- that is how we have always dealt with problems in our family (ignoring them) and there is never an apology.

But I feel differently now.  I felt so much closer to my dad right before his surgery than I had in 25 years.  I made time to call him a few times a week and I really put a lot of effort into our relationship.  I feel so let down and disappointed.  Even if he wasn’t of complete sound mind when he acted like that it still really hurts.  I felt uncomfortable around him when I saw him and afterwards I was in a bad mood for the rest of the day.   Growing up, we got so used to how he acted that it was so easy to shrug off how he acted or pretend like it didn’t affect us.  I don’t know how to do that anymore and I’m not sure I want to.

Parent Therapy

I called my father this morning just to say hi. He told me that he was very upset because he and my mother got into a giant argument last night. Apparently, things got very heated and he said he was afraid my mom was going to hit him. This is absolutely mind-boggling if you know anything about my family (long story short, my father abused my mother for many years during drunken rages, but had stroke last year and stopped drinking and is pretty calm now and my mom would literally never hurt a fly). I tried to explain to him that my mother has A LOT of hostility towards him (rightfully so) and that he has to be more patient and less critical of her.

Then I called my mom to hear “her side”. She said that she just lost it during the argument and felt like she snapped. She said she finally walked out of the room and went to bed because she felt like she couldn’t breathe. This has been a recurring health problem of hers lately that I am thinking might be attributed to stress. I talked to her for quite some time and told her my opinion, which is this…

For whatever her reasons were, she decided to stay with him through all those years of abuse. No one, least of all me, thought my father would EVER stop drinking, but he did. Now, he is not currently going to win any father of the year or husband of the year awards, but things are much better than they were before. As far as I see it, my mom has three choices: 1) leave him now, which I know she won’t do 2) continue their relationship like it currently is and continue having health problems that are stress induced 3) learn to communicate with him and develop a civil relationship that ultimately is beneficial for her, for him and for our entire family. This is definitely “practice what you preach” advice because I had to make that choice in regards to my own relationship with my father. After the stroke when he became sober, I had to decide if I wanted the years of disappointment and bitterness towards my dad to continue or if I wanted to try to move past it and develop a relationship with him. I am a realist and know that I can’t just forget the terrible things he did when I was growing up, but I am grateful to have the chance to make some new, happier memories with him now. I have also had years and years (15!) of therapy, which I think has helped immensely when it comes to this.

I just worry about my mom ALL the time. I am scared something is going to happen to her because of the constant confrontation with my father. Stress affects your body in so many ways and it is really starting to cause noticeable health problems for my mother. I hate that the tide has turned and that I now worry about my parents the way they have always worried about me…it’s really hard.