My Father, the Alcoholic

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My dad took his last breath two years ago. He told the hospice nurse that he was ready. He passed hours later. My head knew it was close, yet my heart was not ready to get the phone call. My dad was gone. I cried. Big, ugly, crocodile tears. Cancer took control and destroyed his body, primarily his lungs. This strong man, my dad, could barely walk to the mailbox without gasping. He fought the good fight. I never missed a chance to tell him how much I loved him. Have you ever been in love with the desire to connect and bond? As hard as I tried, that dream never happened. Alcohol took over his mind, body, and soul.  

This may sound selfish but I never made the trip to the hospital say goodbye. I had every opportunity to see him one last time. I just wanted him to pass peacefully and I prayed he knew Jesus. Before you judge my actions, step into my world as I capture life growing up with an alcoholic. Dad would wait until 5:00 PM and then all hell would break loose. One or a couple of drinks was not enough. He had no control after that first sip. My pain runs deep and bleeds into all facets of my life. 

Childhood memories

It feels like yesterday. Sitting on the white metal chair on the porch, overnight bag in hand. Waiting and waiting for him to pick me up. My parents’ divorce granted him time with me every other weekend. I would reassure my mom that I was fine waiting for him in the white chair. Hours passed and I still had hope. Every car that passed made my heart flutter. I was excited. I craved my dad’s love. I adored him. He was just running late. He would never forget me. How could he forget me? Sadly, he did forget me and it would not be the first time. That chair, that pain as a child, that look in my mom’s eyes will forever be etched in my mind. Yet, I still had hope.

As a child, my dad would ask me to pick the restaurant. Quickly I learned that if they didn’t serve alcohol, it was not an option. When I finally had time with him, he would switch our plans and drag me to social events. Why didn’t he want special time with me? There, I watched him and his friends getting wasted, while I sat in a corner thinking of ways to get him to leave. He ignored all of my creative attempts. It was not uncommon to make a stop at a liquor store on the way home. He could not wait. He would guzzle wine straight from the bottle, while I clasped my little hands together praying we would make it home alive. What a nightmare. 

Never answer the phone after 5:00 PM

As a young girl, I took on the role of the parent. Always giving him the benefit of the doubt. I would stop at nothing to have a relationship with him. He lived hours away but was always faithful to call and check-in.  His voice was always warm and he was vulnerable with his heart, but only if we chatted before 5:00 PM. Plain and simple, if he called after 5:00 PM, he was drunk. Remember, I would stop at nothing to be connected to my dad. So, craving that bond resulted in hours of listening to him ramble and sometimes get emotional. It never failed, the next morning, he would not be able to recall specifics of the phone call. Years ago, I put on my “big girl pants” and refused to answer my phone after 5:00 PM. Once again, I adjusted and made sure we talked in the morning. The only guarantee that he would be sober. Best decision for myself and my family.   

The last straw

My wedding was held at 10:30 AM. I convinced friends that morning was my most savored time of the day. My husband of course went along with the lie. Truth be told, I needed my dad to be sober and not make a fool out of himself. He typically did not start drinking until 5:00 PM, so I was confident he would be fine. My wedding day. The weather was perfect. We danced and he gave a little speech to all our friends and family.  Maybe this was the start to the connection I still craved from him. A year later, I was told that he was taking shots in the parking lot before the wedding. How could he do this to me? What selfish behavior on one of the biggest moments in my life! Alcohol won again.  

I still love you

My dad would never admit that he was an alcoholic. After years of gently sharing that I was worried about him, I gave up. Many told me to give him an ultimatum and not allow him to see his grandchildren. I just couldn’t do it. Would it have made a difference? Something to ponder…

Even cancer could not stop his addiction. Early into his chemo treatments, he called to let me know he was on his way from treatment to a bar to celebrate with a stiff drink. Eventually, he felt sick enough that drinking was not appealing. His final months will be cherished forever. He was sober and he knew it. The fog was lifted and his mind felt clear. Unfortunately, he didn’t experience this feeling for long.  Cancer does not wait. That strong man, my dad, became fragile and tired. My last conversation with him by phone was quick because it was hard for him to catch his breath. It was after 5:00 PM and I will never forget it. I love you, dad. You are a good man. When I get to heaven, we will start fresh. Love you always!

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