From Anne Moss: Leslie wanted to post this with her full name but some family members were not in sync with that decision so she posted anonymously. She is a regular part of the Emotionally Naked tribe.
I’ve been silent for so long, I’m struggling with the words, but finding it healing.
Without treatment, addiction to alcohol is progressive and fatal, whether from liver, kidney, stomach and brain diseases, cancer, heart disease, accidents, falls or suicide. My Dad’s addiction, which grew to include the abuse of various prescription medications, took about 40 years to finally kill him at age 60, from a blood clot.
Along the way, alcoholism wreaked havoc on his life and the lives of those closest to him. According to studies from the Centers for Disease Control, excessive drinking is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among those age 20 to 64 and shortening the lives of those who drink excessively by an average of 30 years.
When they made their vows in the early 1960s, I’m sure my parents wanted and expected a happy marriage. However, alcoholism ruined that dream, and their marriage of 31 years was filled with strife and ended in divorce after multiple infidelities and broken promises on my Dad’s part.
Dad told me and my siblings he loved us, but alcoholism left him a dysfunctional and absentee parent. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents arguing.
Our days started with eating breakfast at the table, with tension and apprehension heavy in the air. Would there be screaming, or would there be silence? After one or the other, Dad left for work, usually with a slam of the door.
As late afternoon approached and Dad was expected home, I wondered who would show up.
Would it be the kind, smart, funny, softhearted man I loved so much?
Or would be it be the more frequent appearance of a stumbling, slurring, drunken man with red-rimmed eyes?
This left me with terrible anxiety that persists to this day.
My Dad knew a whole lot about nature and some of my happiest childhood memories are of him taking us for walks in the woods, identifying trees, plants, rocks and wildflowers. When I spotted the big heart-shaped leaf on a recent hike, I snapped a photo for Anne Moss’s blog. Dad also loved animals, and how we’d laugh at his stories about his pet raccoons and snakes.
I’m so thankful for the good memories I have of my father and for the fact that he was never violent.
The constant arguments between my parents terrified me and left me filled with anxiety. I turned to my beloved pets or books for comfort and escape.
I felt I didn’t matter and “laid low” to prevent more conflict
The last thing I wanted to do was bring more problems into our house, so as a young child, I evolved into a people-pleaser. I made good grades through middle school and seldom gave cause for trouble. To this day, I hate conflict and avoid it as often as possible.
Dad’s frequent drunkenness and my parents’ arguments embarrassed me and I hesitated to invite anyone over. We learned that family problems were something you didn’t tell anyone about. We pretended everything was OK, when in fact it was far from OK. I still find it difficult to share my struggles with even my closest friends.
Because I loved Dad, I also felt pity and wanted to protect and “fix” him.
As I grew older, I tried talking to him about his drinking.
He would dismiss my concerns and blame his drinking on business pressures. My parents’ marriage deteriorated steadily and they divorced after 31 years, when I was a freshman in college. After the divorce, I didn’t see my Dad much. He soon remarried and lived in a small town about 30 miles away.
The lack of effort on his part to contact me or my siblings felt like rejection and abandonment to me. My anxiety escalated and depression followed.
You may be wondering why I’m sharing my story
The reason is that help is available and I hope those of you who love an alcoholic or addict will seek out the help that I eventually turned to.
Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Families Anonymous and Alateen are life-changing and free. All that is required to attend a meeting is that you are concerned about someone’s drinking or addiction.
Meetings are anonymous (first name only), and no one will ask you questions. To say that Al-Anon has made a difference in my life is such an understatement. It has saved my life.
I know now that Dad had a disease. He did not want to be a dysfunctional husband, parent, business owner, and friend. It was not my fault, and it was not my mother’s fault or the pressure of business and life.
If you, like me, were in, or are currently in, a similar situation, help is available. The freedom you will find from realizing none of this is your fault and you cannot control anyone is incredible. I can focus on myself and my life, and trust God with my loved ones. I couldn’t (and can’t) make anyone else stop drinking or do what I may think is best.
Thank you, Anne Moss, for allowing me to share my story.