Part I – High Risk
A huge aspect of alcoholism is the effect that a close family
member’s alcoholism has on the rest of the family. This is obvious and
has been the subject of what are probably innumerable articles, essays, stories
and studies. All of these studies, essays and articles are good and worthwhile.
However, they mean nothing to me. Why? Because I have my own story, as well
as my own up-close study. In other words, I know what addiction is like, and
it is hell!
So in the interest of possibly giving someone else out there
some hope or the understanding that they are not alone, I decided to tell some
of my story here. I can only hope it helps.
My father has been an alcoholic for as long as I have memories.
Similarly, my father’s father was an alcoholic. Moreover, my father’s
aunts and uncles were alcoholics. Unfortunately, my Dad was always haunted
by his fears and insecurities. There was always someone out to get him, out
to hold him back from what he deserved; there were always people against him.
He even felt weak and sick constantly. I felt sorry for him.
I always wanted to know my father, always wanted his attention
and approval. It was hard for me because he could not give me the attention
or approval I needed and deserved. He only had time for himself; his fears
and his medication to escape those fears: alcohol.
My dad drank beer. He might include me in things he was doing,
but only to the extent that I could be included in things that he wanted to
do. Still, I liked doing those things with him. It was all I had, so I cherished
the time, things like trips to 7-11 for coffee, smokes and a newspaper on the
weekend mornings. Of course, he just wanted the coffee, smokes and paper, but
at least I could go with him, as long as I did not interfere or get in the
Dad was chaos and instability. You could never, ever know
beforehand what his mood might be until he walked in the door. But when he
walked in that door – watch out! Then it was time to be very acutely
aware. I remember my father coming home and storming back to my parent’s
bedroom, yelling and screaming. My mother would have dinner on the table. He
would ignore it, remaining in the bedroom yelling and screaming. Oh, I am sure
that he had his reasons, but they were totally indecipherable to me. My mom
would shepherd my sister and I to the dinner table, and we’d eat as normally
as possible as my father continued screaming and yelling in the background.
He was the 800-pound gorilla in the corner, the one that
you tried so hard to ignore but never really could. His fears, insecurities
and addiction, however, prevented any warm and loving part of him from coming
out. It was very sad. He went to all my baseball games drunk. He yelled at
the umpires. It was embarrassing because I was a pitcher and he would yell
at the umpires every time he thought a call didn’t go my way.
As a child, I was fairly precocious and very smart with the
good grades to prove it. Additionally, I was good at sports. It was all a source
of pride for me. And my mother showed me that she was proud. On the other hand,
my father tried but could not. I never looked at my father’s or grandfather’s
alcoholism, nor did I think much about it. Similarly, I never thought that
it was something that allowed an escape or a coping mechanism. Rather, it was
just something that was. Furthermore, it was never discussed.
And this, really, is the crux of the story. For me, this
is where the damage started and had to stop. Daily life in a family with an
uncontrollable alcoholic is hell; it is fear and utter chaos. Moreover, it
is so often hidden away, ignored and simply not acknowledged. This is where
the seeds of later, monumental problems are planted. When I was young and couldn’t
understand the invidious disease of alcoholism – when I was most vulnerable
to its terrible effects – I just ignored it. I told myself not to notice
or even acknowledge what was the scariest, most intense, most disturbing part
of my life.
The long-term problems that such a disease has caused me
are too numerous to list here. Just know that I am dealing with them and will
have to do so for the rest of my life because I, too, am an alcoholic.