Dear Dad,

Today, while listening to a podcast, I heard a conversation that was recorded between the host of the show, and one of the subjects of the show. The host called him to find out why he wasn’t going to make it to their appointment. Turns out he was drunk. He had relapsed many times, but seemed to finally be on a really good path to sobriety. And then suddenly he wasn’t.

Sounds like something I have heard so many times in my life. I used to have to deal with my father getting drunk constantly when I was a very young child. I remember him yelling and throwing things, making me terrified as a 5 year old. I remember him going into rehab, and me visiting him when I was around 6 or 7. I was far too young to understand what was going on, but I always knew that I was scared. Scared of him and the situations that would develop around him.

This is a transcript of part of the podcast that made me almost start crying in my way home. Remember, the guest was completely drunk at this point.

Host: “What was your dad like?”

Guest: “He was unpredictable. He sometimes came home at night, sometimes not…”

“He was just…a shitty person.”

Host: “You didn’t want to be like your dad.”

Guest: “No, of course not”

Host: “And you’re afraid if you drank, you would end up like your dad.”

Guest: “Yeah.”

Host: “Have you?”

Guest: “Oh Yeah! No! Not at all.”

This whole interaction had me choked up remembering the stupid, phone calls I would get from my father right up until I was 18. He was afraid to call me, for what reason I have no idea. But he decided he needed “liquid courage”.

Let me pause right there.

Nothing about alcohol is courageous. Nothing.

He would then drink before calling me. And it wasn’t ever just one drink. It was enough that I could tell he was drunk from the word “hello”. I don’t know if you’ve ever talked to someone while they are drunk, but there are definitely times it can be rather humorous. None of these times were funny. It’s not funny when you need to have multiple drinks just to talk to your child. It doesn’t help your relationship with them, and it certainly doesn’t make them feel inclined to trust you with anything.

At 18 years old, I demanded that he stop phoning me. I told him that if he had any alcohol at all, that he was forbidden to call me. I would only accept sober phone calls from now on. Consequently, I didn’t hear from him for almost two years.

There’s only so much pain and heartache one can take, and the damage piles up awfully quick. I knew I needed it to stop before I got overwhelmed. I always wondered if he was okay, and I had a love in my heart for him, but I knew that it was not my fight to fight. My childhood sucked, and despite me trying desperately to do my part, I knew I had to let him take his own path and figure it out.

I tried so hard to help him in many ways. I really did. I wrote letters to non-profits and government resources between the ages of 11-15, trying to understand alcoholism and learn how I could help both him, and me. Through all the other crap in my life, and even during the time I wanted to commit suicide, I still loved my dad enough to try and help.

To have him constantly reject my advice and assistance was too much to bear, and finally I gave up, in the most loving way that I could. I hoped by telling him that he could only phone if he was sober, that it would force him to be sober. When I didn’t hear from him for two years, I thought and felt that obviously he didn’t love me enough to stop drinking.

Of course now as an adult, I understand that addiction is not something you can just “stop”. I really do understand that, and yet it still doesn’t erase the hurt and the pain that I feel, even now.

5 years ago, my dad informed me that he had stopped drinking.
4 years ago, my dad informed me that he had stopped drinking.
Last year, my dad informed me that “I have quit drinking for good.”

What do I believe? I celebrated with him the first time, and knew that it would be hard for him, so I understood when I heard it again within a year. But after years of continued (although rare) conversation, I believed that he truly had stopped drinking.

When I got the email last year stating that he had quit drinking, I stopped reading and physically couldn’t go further right then. It took me a moment to process what was right there. I was lied to, again.

I’m too old for this. I’m an adult, a married man, with responsibilities and a life to live. How dare he drag me back to childhood and subject me to those same dark fears and memories.

The hurt is real. I had set a reminder on my phone to email my dad when I got home from work today. I was going to ask him how his life is going right now, about his health, etc. I was going to tell him about my vacation last month, how work is going right now, you know. Whatever.

But then I listen to something like this on the way home that sparks my heart. I am a really happy guy who is filled with a lot of joy, but I have so many levels of hurt that just sit there dormant until something like this just punches me in the gut.

I know exactly how the drunk guy in that podcast feels, in that he didn’t want to become like his father. I do have an occasional drink, but I routinely turn them down. It’s not uncommon for me to be the only person in a room who isn’t drinking. It’s not because I have a problem, it’s because my dad had a problem. I know that this hurt is going to last my entire life, and it’s something I deal with constantly and even subconsciously every time I turn down a drink.

I burn with passion though, at the last line of the quoted interaction.

Host: “And you’re afraid if you drank, you would end up like your dad.”

Guest: “Yeah.”

Host: “Have you?”

Guest: “Oh Yeah! No! Not at all.”

He admits it. Then he tries to hide it. He can’t though, because of course, he’s drunk when he says it. I don’t want to shame the guest, because of my love for my dad and my understanding of addiction. The reason why I burn with passion is because I do everything in my power to never end up in the same scenario. My idea of partying on New Year’s Eve is having 2 coolers, which usually makes people laugh. I allow myself the occasional drink but I will never, ever, ever end up like my father.

I can not, and I will not.

I still love you dad, but I will not be emailing you today.

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