In the UK, we celebrate National Children of Alcoholics Week in November. Agreed, this is not an occasion that has penetrated the world’s consciousness in any big way, There is no bunting in the street, no fireworks displays and no public holiday. But it is an important recognition of a large group of the population that is sadly neglected in the UK and all other countries. This moving piece was written by Cassia, Lou’s daughter and my stepdaughter, about her relationship with her dad. In it she eloquently provides us with a glimpse into her burden as rescuer of the dad she loved so much and who loved her in return. This is her story in her words and I am so proud of her for exposing her vulnerability in such an generous way in an attempt to alert us to the hurt that children of alcoholics can feel that often goes unnoticed.
I Couldn’t Save My Father From Alcoholism
And trust me, I tried.
Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday. — Mary Schmich
There are countless times in my life where I refer back to this quote by Mary Schmich. Some of you will probably recognize it better as a song by Baz Luhrmann and without this song, I would have never known about this essay either.
Today, I quote it from a very serious place. I suffer from anxiety and I worry about a lot of things, often silly things. This includes convincing myself that if I don’t have my feet under the quilt, I will be attacked by the monster that lives under my bed. I don’t believe in monsters; it’s just something my irrational brain tries to convince me of.
My brain also, on occasion, has tried to convince me that if I had tried a little harder, or fought a little longer, my dad might have stopped drinking. He might have looked into my tear-filled, sore eyes and have actually meant it, when he told me he was going to stop.
I would even believe him, not once or twice, but over and over again…until the next bottle showed up in the outside bin or tucked at the back of a bedside table. Then the slurred speech, the arguments, the slamming doors would all re-emerge and the cycle would begin all over again.
I’m 30 now, and of course, life has moments that get me down or leave me feeling teary-eyed, but nothing leaves me in a crumpled mess of tears like remembering my dad, drunk and changed. This man was my everything. I trusted him with all my fears. He was the first I went to when I was upset, and his knee the one I sat on when I felt alone.
I felt like a princess, his princess, yet somehow, I never made the connection that his destructive behavior hugely contributed to my childhood anger, which I projected onto my dear, darling mom instead.
As someone he treasured so greatly, I felt like I was failing him. If I could not stop him drinking himself into oblivion, who could? I felt my one job was to save my dad and I couldn’t do it.
I know now I’m not to blame. Everyone copes with things in their own way. I eat. He drank. It was his choice, albeit a bad one. I genuinely believe he wished he could stop, but it was his choice of coping mechanism and it took a hold of him.
I could no more have saved my father from alcoholism at 8, 12 or 15 than I could solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. It’s ok to ask for help. In fact, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I implore you to seek help. I am only just seeking help for my past — 18 years of repressed feelings.
My story with my alcoholic dad doesn’t have a happy ending, but stories don’t share the same endings. There are people who can and will help and people who want to help