My Dad and Me

1967-1980DadLisac1967
I wonder sometimes if I am really remembering the snapshot moment or just in love with the how I feel when I look at the photo.  This photo (circa 1967) is a rare picture of my dad and me—alone.

I was number five of six kids so any one-on-one time was appreciated— until it wasn’t. Like most little girls I worshipped my dad and spent most of my life seeking his accolades and at the very least a smile of approval. We had a classic love-hate relationship as I grew. What started as adoration slowly turned to fear. Fear of the unacknowledged, fear of the unknown. Over time I came to learn that my dad was an alcoholic.

I spent hours, months, and years calculating how I would get away from him. I made feign promises to the Universe for my deliverance from his wrath. I swore I would never be like him. I looked down on him. I disrespected him. I blamed him. Getting away from him was my purpose in life. Letting him know he had hurt me was an important task in my day. Eventually I would exercise my right to not speak to him. I engaged in this act with a sense of entitlement. He would miss my sweet voice—eventually. He did not.

My apology, delivered after nine months of silence (during Lent nonetheless), was met with more silence and a refusal to read my request for forgiveness. I cried for two days. My mom intervened on my behalf. The probability of his rage for interfering seemed secondary to my swollen shut eyes and shattered heart. I accepted full blame. I have become my mother too, forever apologizing as if the words would heal him of his alcoholism.

 

February 2004
I poured a shot of vodka into my almost empty soda can. Relief! Any true alcoholic resonates with the first sip. I chased this first-sip-feeling … every night I ever drank. It never returned.

This particular Saturday me and the kids were off to the park to play. I wasn’t drunk. At least I didn’t think I was.  I’m not even clear, it happened so fast.  She was hurt and screaming and I … I had looked away. Her leg was caught on the slide. She was screaming. I blew into her face to get her to take a breath, another curdling scream. I was too scared to ask for help. I was more concerned with the vodka on my breath. I took her home.

I got up Sunday relieved to awaken from the nightmare. I peeked into her room. She is playing happily in her crib. Whew!

Upon seeing my face she reaches for the crib railing, she tries to stand—she falls. She falls for another week. She crawls about the house like a crab. I cannot bear the pain. I drink to escape. I hate that I drink. Why can’t I stop drinking? I am an alcoholic.

Even when I want, I cannot stop. Even when I try, I cannot stop. Even when I bargain with the Universe, I cannot stop.

I will give to her what my dad gave to me—a life of fear.
Fear of the unacknowledged, fear of the unknown. Fear … in a shattered heart.
This can no longer be okay.

It is again Lent.
This time, I will succeed with my apology.
I make a decision, a final decision to get sober.

Epilogue
Dad you gave me a beautiful gift. I would never have known the pain I was about to inflict upon her beautiful life had I not lived it. And for all the moments of drunken horror there are now many more wonderful memories.

I have learned to forgive. I have learned to accept forgiveness. I can heal.

My dad passed during Holy Week of Lent in 2002. He had 15~ years of sobriety. My-never-drunk-a-day-in-her-life mom has decades of recovery in a 12-step program. This is my version of facing my past, without regret. This post is my way of not shutting the door on it.

  • Dear Dad (crosshearted.wordpress.com)
  • http://catholicalcoholic.com/2013/01/01/and-all-is-vanity/

No Responses to “My Dad and Me

  • Will the coincidences never end? I have been mentally preparing a tribute to my father, also an alcoholic, for this Thursday’s post. On February 7th, he will have been dead 21 years. Your ability to intersect your childhood with your parenthood brought tears to my eyes. Your Dad is absolutely smiling down on you!

    • I love the “coincidences” too. Looking forward to your post on the 7th. Maybe our dads are hanging out together?

  • great job. My recent days have not been good and this was awesome. Thanks

    • Sorry to here about your recent days. I have learned that the pain is there for me to look at it. Please know you are in my prayers. Occasionally something interrupts it, but then again it returns until I face it. Glad you enjoyed the post. You made my day because you commented. So we are both doing better right now.

  • Oh Lisa, such a heartbreaking and beautiful post. It is a helpful reminder to me that I only have so much control over another’s actions…I too want to fix it all and so hard to know what I should and shouldn’t do. This post will sit with me for awhile. I’m glad to hear your parents found healing in recovery too.

    • Thank you for your words. I am finding so much additional healing with the blog. I am so grateful to those of you who connect with me. it means so much to continue to make friends and share my journey. ps. while I eat a sugar cookie …. ugghhh why always sweets when I’m typing with you? lots of love, me

  • Stunningly moving and candid and a joy to read. Having clarification on our past helps to set up how and where we move in the present. The up and downs with your dad, reflecting with your own child, is a testament to the power of holding onto our past without clarification. Fear is a powerful thing. It drives us in more ways that we can conceive. And to face the fear, not feed it, and let it slip away is something you have done, and look at where it has taken you. Wonderful. This is what we do here – heal. We can’t undo things from the past, but we can do the things in the present that bring forth a happy, joyous and free life. Free of what binds us from the past, and fear. Have a wonderful day and thanks for sharing. Cheers 🙂

    • Again, thank you for the inspiring comment. It is so affirming to connect with new friends and journey together. I am really loving blogging (and I wasn’t sure if I would). This is a wonderful community for all of us to heal together. I still cry when I think of many of those childhood moments, but I sure am glad all of you are here to whip my tears and give me a hug. Cheers to another day of sobriety for all of us.

  • It’s so clear that somehow we have to integrate where we’ve come from with who we are now, we can’t just ignore certain bits, pretend they never happened. I love that you’ve been able to do that. Also that you can see your dad and yourself as the flawed beings we all are. Thanks for a beautiful post. xx/Susan

    • I love when you comment, but then I love how you write, so it’s an extra treat for me on my blog. Your blog has helped me usher my personality into this blog. You know I thought I started it to help others, share my sobriety, share the book, but the longer I post the more I see that I write to continue to heal. A Course In Miracles (my daily meditation book) says that, ‘when one heals we all heal.’ It’s as if I feel you healing and it helps me heal too. I hope my healing helps you heal. Susan, you are a light in my recovery. Blessings my friend. Lots and lots of blessings.

  • I love this, Lisa. My mom has now been sober for almost 17 years. I was only able to fully forgive and accept her when I started seeing both her alcoholism and sobriety as gifts to me. You can’t see the light without knowing the darkness.

    • Amen. Thank you for sharing that. Glad we have each other … I learn so much from fellow bloggers. I am really loving this WP community.

  • Hello Lisa, I just received your book in the mail and am looking forward to reading it! As for this post-wow. You shared so very much. Thank you. Very much.

    • You are welcome. And thank you for your kind words. I am fortunate to be blessed with people who understand me (and I them). Blessing on your journey.

  • There is a ton of maturity in realizing hurt is a learning experience which teaches us not to hurt others. Much heartfelt healing in this post, Lisa. There is a lot of love in the picture. xxx

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