I recently read an article online and came across a quote that struck me. It was written by a recovering alcoholic who stated, “All of us stop drinking at some point. It’s just that for some people, that point is death.”
I kept going back and reading those two sentences over and over. It is such a simple statement, but it is really powerful and concise. I never really thought about alcoholism in that way. My father has never attempted to stop drinking and I have accepted the fact that he will most likely die an alcoholic (he may even be drunk when he dies). My father’s alcoholism will not end until his life does.
Today, my dad wrote one of his obnoxious, embarrassing emails and copied various people on it- my sister and my mother, my aunt and uncle (his own brother from whom he is pretty much estranged), my other aunt (my mom’s sister who is an alcoholic herself), my cousin and about seven friends of our family (two couples and a few guys who have loyally remained friends with my parents from when they were first married). Even though I am accustomed to the lunacy of his emails and can usually ignore them completely, sometimes I have to look at it from the perspective of one of these unsuspecting recipients. They must literally think he is insane. It is hard not to feel that it is a reflection on our family (or that at the very least there are several people who probably open his email and can’t help but pity us). Most of what he writes is utter nonsense and this email was very tame compared to the majority that he sends, but it still makes me feel weird. The other day when my sister and I were with my mom we were talking about hobbies and one of us mentioned that it was unfortunate that my dad doesn’t have any interests to keep himself busy. My mom quickly replied, “he does have a hobby- writing his emails.” It’s darkly funny and ironic…my paternal grandfather used to write in a journal every day when he was alive. He had an easy chair in the corner of their living room, right next to a small bookshelf filled with little leather bound journals. His journals seemed sacred when I was growing up and during my visits to their house, I was never tempted to read one of them. After he died, my grandmother packed them all up in a big box and put them in the attic. Many years later when she passed away, my sister was helping to clean out their house and found them. She brought one to me as a keepsake (she and I are both VERY sentimental, especially regarding our grandparents). I was shocked to discover that his journals were not filled with philosophical ideas and deep reflections, but rather the minutiae of everyday life. He noted the weather, how he was feeling, what he did that day (“went to the dump”), etc. If my sister and I were visiting, he would write about how much we had grown and about what we did at the beach that day. I have to admit I was almost disappointed when I read it, because I was hoping for…more. Now that I know he was an alcoholic, too, I wonder if this was his pre-technological way of doing exactly what my father does. My dad treats his emails as a daily journal, although instead of keeping his inner most thoughts private, he copies various people on them.
When my dad does die, I wonder who will care. I mean, I know people will care, but will they really care? He has burned so many bridges with so many people. During his brief two year sabbatical from drinking, he changed in so many positive ways. If he had passed away during that time, it would have seemed more tragic…like he had so much to live for…that my sister and I had lost our dear father. Now, he just seems pathetic. His death will be a big deal for my mother, sister and me, but will be a tragic blip on most other people’s radars. They will feel sorry for us, they will feel sad for losing the man they remember- the brother he was growing up, the friend he was in his 20s. But when people think about him, he will always be thought of first and foremost as an alcoholic- a sad label that defined him for the past 25 years.