One of the great tragedies of alcoholism is that so many children of alcoholics carry a great burden of guilt well into their adulthood. Especially when they are young, they can’t understand why their usually nice mummy or daddy sometimes behave so differently.
Sadly, the normal way of protecting the children is to tell them stuff like “Mummy has a headache” or “Daddy is very tired”. And , when they do discover that the change is due to alcohol, they can’t understand why the obviously love that they share with that parent doesn’t make them change their behaviour,, so that they are always nice mummies and daddies.
This is an article written by our daughter, Cassia, bravely talking about her experience as the daughter of an alcoholic.
I Couldn’t Save My Father From Alcoholism
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 about which my irrational brain tries to convince me.
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 28 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 was 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 behaviour 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 driven him to sobriety at 8, 12 or 15 then 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, he died of cancer, but all stories don’t share the same endings. There are people who can and will help and people who want to help.
And if there are any children of alcoholics reading this or the parents of children of alcoholics, I hope that by sharing my experience that it will encourage you to seek help, NOW.
Written by Cassia Davis