Hi, my name is __________, my dad’s an alcoholic.

By on December 2, 2015 in Project Mental Health, Uncategorized

kzine1

The most difficult part of being in a close relationship with an addict is hoping that someday, somehow, the person will change. He promised me, so many times that this was the last time, and up to a certain age I believed him. I wanted to believe him and I was willing to forgive him for the harm he was doing me. My emotions were stifled, I disregarded my own needs and I thought that I could fix him somehow. I never truly believed that it was my fault that my dad was the way he was, I just thought that he didn’t love me enough to change. His behavior was harming me and I was slowly corroding.

They were fighting, again. “You are a lying alcoholic”, she yelled.

I can’t recall how old I was but somehow this memory is ingrained in me, it’s a deep wound that throbs when I try to remember how things used to be. All those difficult nights of crying and hoping that he would change have become a muddle of vague, indistinguishable memories, foggy and dim I can’t tell them apart.

It wasn’t until I was older that I started to see the signs, the traces that suggested that my dad was suffering severely from alcoholism. The long walks he used to take with the dog started to make sense to me, the late nights at work and the countless fights that my parents had. But I couldn’t tell anyone.

It wasn’t until 7th grade that I could finally articulate the problem to someone outside the family, the essential cause to my sadness, my father’s drinking. I had been pressured into talking to the curator at my last school, this turned out to be the first and most important step towards emotional stability. It took me over year to become comfortable with talking to someone who was a stranger at first, but over time it helped me pinpoint the issues: my role in the family dynamic and how that was not okay. A part of me was embarrassed I think, I just didn’t want people to know what was going on at home, I thought they would think differently of me. No one was aware of how I was suffering from the private chaos that governed my mental state of being. To others I was this happy, social and studious child. But behind the scenes, when I came home from school, it was a different story.

The most difficult part of being in a close relationship with an addict is hoping that someday, somehow, the person will change. He promised me, so many times that this was the last time, and up to a certain age I believed him. I wanted to believe him and I was willing to forgive him for the harm he was doing me. My emotions were stifled, I disregarded my own needs and I thought that I could fix him somehow. I never truly believed that it was my fault that my dad was the way he was, I just thought that he didn’t love me enough to change. His behavior was harming me and I was slowly corroding.

This is the difficult thing with alcoholism and codependency. One day your parent can be the best in the world and the next they are a totally unreasonable stranger and you want to die. It was wrecking my emotions. I would come to school sleep deprived and on the brink of a mental breakdown with a smile pasted on my face, pretending everything was alright, and that I was okay.

It was a repetitive pattern, as is usually the case in these kinds of relationships. After my parents separated I hoped that things would improve, I was deluding myself. When I came home from school before he had ended work, I would search all the cabinets and every possible hiding place that I might find an empty bottle. I often came up empty handed, people suffering from alcoholism tend to become adept at concealing their dependency.

Schoolwork and extra curricular activities saved me, I could bury myself in them, a form of escapism that brought me away from my troubles. I wanted to compensate for how difficult things were at home, I wanted to be strong, independent and in control of something. I was (and still am) somewhat of a control freak. It used to be worse, my perfectionism, it served as a mask to the outer world, a persona I could put on. It was all an act, but I wasn’t fake, I like to think of it as “selective identity”. I depended on approval and positive feedback, it became the fuel I relied on to feel that I was good enough, that I was not my parents.

The older I got, the more sick I got of his constant excuses, his promises of change and not taking responsibility for his actions. He saw that I was suffering. He was sorry, but he just didn’t change. It feels like he didn’t really want to, he was depressed, stuck in a vicious cycle with a predisposition to alcoholism.

The thoughts that crossed my mind when times were at their worst were extreme, things that psychologically healthy people don’t have to combat. I hoped people would recognize my pain, because I couldn’t put words to it myself. With eating disorders, people can physically see that something is not as it should be, but signs of depression and living with an alcoholic parent is not as evident. I wanted my father to hurt me physically, then he would have to get help or I would be taken away from him. But I was so tired, and I knew that he wasn’t that kind of person, his abuse was not like that. He does love me, I think, but he just was too far down the road to change.

Becoming a skilled liar and an excellent actor were just a few of the side effects of living in a codependent relationship. It didn’t help that there was so much resentment between my parents so that they could barely communicate. I was trapped between two poles, a middleman who had to be very selective with her words and the information that she chose to relay. I wanted to avoid conflict at all cost, I wanted everybody to be happy, and in the process I forgot about myself.

I couldn’t talk to my mother about the problem, she was too emotionally attached to the issue, she didn’t want me to be with him when he had been drinking. I would often lie when she asked how things were the week I was away. I would often respond that things were fine, even though I was dying inside. The weeks I spent at my mother’s apartment were vacations from him, except there I had to face the problem of my mother’s incessant worries. In any case, I was distanced from the problem. Things were not always bad of course, but they often were, I was so alone. I had to grow up too fast and now, in retrospect, feel deprived of my childhood.

Often things were so awful that I contemplated suicide. Although I never really wanted to die. I just? wanted to get away from the pain. I also wanted to prove to the world how strong I was. I wanted to be “better” than my parents. The situation has turned me into a hard worker and made me more empathetic, a better listener. But my own voice was lost most of the time. Now at almost 18, I can think about my past more objectively. I have changed, I can stand my ground and fight for my case. Years of counseling has helped make me better at expressing my emotions and at weaving my story into a comprehensible scenario with cause and effect. But the feelings still linger, the fear of a relapse. That the wall I have built around myself will someday crash and burn.


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