My Dad is an alcoholic.
Not the happy-go-lucky kind of alcoholic that has a few drinks, then laughs the night away watching old home videos while his kids play on the floor. And not the fall-down-drunk alcoholic that you see on the streets, tripping over his own feet, pee running down his legs after he’s pissed himself.
No, my dad was the high-functioning-but-mean kind of alcoholic. The kind who held down a job perfectly, but also beat his wife and kids. The kind who hid his cheap beer in the medicine cabinet out in the garage, and who drank whiskey and coke whenever he had the chance. The kind who yelled and swore a lot, and who sometimes showed his love with the end of a belt on your backside.
He didn’t have a favorite drink. As long as it was cold, wet, and could get him wasted as soon as possible he would drink it. Light beer, real beer, foreign beer, whiskey, vodka, Everclear, tequila, you name it, he drank it. And he drank a lot of it.
He would take me to the liquor store out near the county line and buy me beef jerky and fake cigarettes, while packing home brown paper bags filled with whatever alcohol was the choice of the night. He would pop open a can, or sometimes a bottle, on the way home and would down two or three of them before even reaching the front door to our house. He would spend hours at the local Eagles Lodge drinking with his buddies until we would pack up in the car to go and pick him up, because he was too far gone to drive home.
He was violent at times.
Any thing could set him off on a rampage that would last for anywhere from a hour or two, to sometimes longer than a week. He would rant and rave, and I would hide in my room underneath the book case. He would chase mom around the house threatening to kill her. He would throw things, and break things. Sometimes he would hit me. Then, he would wake up the next morning, and he wouldn’t remember any of it.
We would just go on with our lives. The broken pieces would be picked up, the bruises would heal, and we would all act as if nothing had ever happened.
When he was drunk he was a real asshole, and I would always end up wondering if it was all my fault. I still to this day wonder if I could have done something differently.
If things got bad enough we would leave.
We would run.
We would go to one of mom’s trusted friends, or sometimes we would go to people we didn’t even know, to stay for however long was needed.
I would lay in bed and wonder if he would come. I would stare at the ceiling until the wee hours of the morning on the lookout for any sign that he might have found us. Car headlights against the wall, voices outside, slamming doors, they would all put me on edge. I silently wondered what he would do if he did find us. Would he break down the door to someone else’s house? Would he wake everyone up in the whole house by yelling his head off? Would the police come? Would he kill mom? If he did, would he get sent to prison, or maybe they would send him to the electric chair?
Sometimes it was him that would leave. He would be gone for days at a time and we would all speculate whether or not he was dead. He would come home sober and promise it would never happen again.
Then, he would drink again the very next day.
No one ever talked about what was going on. If something was mentioned in relation to his drinking it was swept under the rug as quick as possible. It was, and still is the biggest pink elephant in the room.
It was a vicious circle that we danced over and over again.
I have always longed for a relationship with my dad. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to have a dad that didn’t drink. A dad that would act like my dad acted while he was sober.
When he was sober he was fun, loving, kind, charismatic, just an all around great dad. He loved to throw the football around in the yard, or work on the car in the garage. We would go fishing. He would let me sit on his lap and drive his company truck on the dirt roads. He would hug me, and tell me how much he loved me. How I was his “little buddy.” He would run around the yard like a lunatic catching lightning bugs so that I could have them in a jar beside my bed when I went to sleep. When sober dad showed up, life was grand.
The problem was, I was never sure which dad I was going to get.
So I’m learning to deal with the grief I feel about not having the kind of relationship I wanted to have with my dad growing up. I’m learning to deal with the grief that there is a very minuscule chance that I will ever have the of relationship I yearn for so deeply with him.
I’ve also searched long and hard to try to find that dad in other men.
Many, many men have come and gone in my life. My best friend’s dad, an old boss, an Uncle, a college professor. At different times there has always seemed to be a middle aged man close to me to provide me with the love, the advice, and the fatherly influence I’ve needed in order to get by.
I wouldn’t have made it without them, the good men in my life. And I love each of them dearly as much, if not more, than I love my own dad.
And even though I shouldn’t, I feel guilty about that.
I am damaged.
Sometimes I feel that I am damaged beyond repair. I am broken. In the deepest, darkest part of me, I am broken. I am broken in a way that I don’t know how to fix. I am also scared. It’s a gnawing sort of feeling, right in the middle of my soul. It’s an angry sort of fear, a fear that if left to it’s own devices might consume a person entirely.
I still can’t sleep at night. I wake up in a cold sweat sometimes. I have nightmares. Sometimes I flinch when people get too close. My relationships suffer because of my dad’s alcoholism. So does my self esteem.
It effects every part of my life.
I still wonder if it was all my fault that my dad drank. What if I did something to cause him to? Maybe if I could have just been better, if I could have done better, if I could have been more, he wouldn’t have spent all his time drinking and more time with us.