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How Dad's Alcoholism Affected Me

Updated on July 27, 2015

Smirnoff Vodka

Triple distilled for purity? Pure health wrecking liquid?
Triple distilled for purity? Pure health wrecking liquid? | Source

At the age of five I once climbed on the roof of my father's garage because I wanted to be up there with him while he was putting shingles on his newly built man cave. The look of horror and shock on his face when he looked up to see his little girl at least 18 feet off ground is still firmly planted in my memories decades later. I've not seen fear like that since. I just wanted to be with him and see what he was doing. He grabbed me like a football and held me with one arm going down the ladder and told my mom what I had done. Then he told her to keep an eye on me while he was working on the garage roof.

The years flew past. Mom became increasingly angry and bitter for reasons still unknown, had men calling the house at all hours, and she did a lot of absolutely horrible things before finally leaving all three of their little girls with dad so that she could get an apartment a few minutes away to do whatever she pleased...while still married. Dad chose to use his funds just as he had always, paying bills and taking care of us...without mom's help even though she earned twice as much and was quietly building a large nest egg for herself to her family's detriment.

Yet, home was finally happier due to the the absence of her nonsense and ill-doings. We all grew up and left one by one. My older sister left for college and boomeranged back to dad a couple years prior to graduating with twins in tow. That was a fun time for me as an aunt. A friend from the cheer leading squad absolutely loved playing with them too. There was plenty of room for them and dad was happy to play with them when he wasn't working. Being a traditional man, he wasn't happy with how he became a grandfather preferring his daughter be married first (I agree), but he was proud nonetheless. When his grandson came along he was elated and happy to finally have a boy in the family. After a few years, my oldest sister moved out and dad was then living alone. All seemed fine.

Consequences Of Alcohol

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One day while at work, I received a call from my sister telling me he was going to the hospital. Just about 15 minutes away, I rushed to be with him fearing the worst, knowing he never routinely visited a doctor, yet he had also never had any problems before. Not even a cold or the flu. It was found that he was suffering from end stage liver disease, it hit me very hard when I learned why. There are several causes of liver disease such as eating fatty foods, malnutrition, viruses, etc. However in my dad's case we found out extremely late that he was an alcoholic and had hidden his drinking very well. I distinctly remember visiting him often unannounced long after I'd left the nest. No matter how many times I may now mentally replay in hopes of finding a clue, there was never a clue in his behavior, surroundings, or otherwise. I simply had no reason to suspect any problem with alcohol, nor did my two sisters.

I did not know what suffering alcoholism could cause, reading books, studying the human body or learning medical terminology in a class setting is one thing. Seeing someone you love suffer physically from alcoholism is very different. In total I took about two months off from work to spend as much time that I could with him. Dad spent those months in and out of several hospitals and eventually spent the last two weeks of his life in a nursing home at the fairly young age of 63 because of his condition. He was too fragile for a liver transplant and it was very hard to see my dad suffering this way. I had always told him that I loved him every time I saw him or spoke to him and during this time it could simply not be said enough.

How Alcohol Attacks The Brain

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I remember my dad not as an alcoholic but as a man who would cut the elderly neighbors' lawns on our street without ever being asked. He knew who was genuinely in need of help and did it simply because it needed to be done. He wasn't looking for anything in return and was truly a do unto others type of man. I have yet to see more than one other person like this in the world firsthand but my dad has inspired me to do the same through his example. My dad would do anything to make sure his three girls had the things they needed and often looked out for others in the neighborhood. He took us out on his boat and he was a master of all things construction and auto related. Once he completely disassembled then reassembled his truck and drove it for well over twenty five years even though he had a car and later bought another.

When we were children, he enlarged the size of the little house he bought to three times it's original size to make sure that we would be comfortable as a family. This was done before my mom went nuts and chose a variety of other men over all of us. Dad tucked us in at night, told us he loved us at least twice a day, gave us big bear hugs daily, and would give us his last dime if need be. This is particularly in contrast with our mother who openly cheated on him (and us in my opinion) and never showed any affection/love or even said that she loved any of us. However, dad will always be held in very high regard by his children, extended family, and many others in our old neighborhood. There was standing room only at his funeral, something I would have never thought of (who would) but it made me feel good that he had so many people's respect. Our old babysitter walked in the rain to be there. However, dad was human and he made the mistake of being an alcoholic and not seeking help. He paid for it with his health and later, his life.

About 38 million adults in the U.S. drink too much

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During the last two months of his life, the decline was frightening and fast. At times, when he first arrived at the nursing, he would stare at a blank wall. I promptly put up pictures of family in his room. That sight was very painful and I felt guilty not having the tools to take care of him. He kept saying he wanted to go home. He needed round the clock care that even the tag team of my older sister and myself simply could not provide. I never thought that I would see my strong, independent father reduced to this. It was unnecessary, painful, and unfair. Nevertheless, there were a lot of things that needed to be done in case he died and it did not look as if he was going to get better.

One day, I asked him where his will was. He told my sister and I that he had some papers at the house in his bedroom. They weren't in the nightstand that we looked in so we kept searching. Seeing several stacks of paper under his bed we looked there and were stunned. Under his bed were dozens and dozens of Smirnoff vodka bottles. I was only about 12 or 13 when I had last seen him drink anything and that was a Miller beer. After that, I never saw him drink anything and could not believe the small mountain of bottles beneath his bed. My sister and I both gasped in shock. The will was immediately not important with our discovery and we stopped looking and went back to his bedside.

Popular times of the year for spikes in teens beginning to drink

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Just one week after my dad was admitted to the nursing home, he was rushed to the hospital again with a severe buildup of fluid in his abdomen. While there, I asked the doctor how long my father could be expected to live and was told two weeks at the most. I don't know what I was guessing or expecting but it certainly wasn't two weeks more. What still stands out to me as far as my reaction is that even at that point I didn't break down into a mass of tears and incoherent sobs, I immediately went back to my father and held his hand. I guess he might have been proud that during this I tried to hold my composure for his sake and was able to. Despite my tendency to cry when happy, sad, or angry, the tears didn't come. I was on autopilot, in shock and fear, but also somehow functioning without sleep.

Just days after asking the doctor that question, my father passed away. He almost lasted one full week later rather than the two that I was told he had at the most. I got the call from the nursing home that he was not breathing and absolutely raced on rain slicked highways to reach the nursing home. The lady on the line told me to drive safely and without saying it verbally to her I quipped "to hell with that." I arrived at the nursing home in less than 8 minutes or so, the trip would normally take double that or more.

Just looking into his eyes, I saw that my father was gone. I followed the ambulance to the hospital and they were trying to save him but nothing could be done. It was as if I was watching some horror movie, I reacted with fear and tears but it all still seemed unreal. I had to break the news to my sisters and my uncle. Shocked, I was on autopilot, numb until he died. That's when the tears came and several years later they still haven't gone. Since he died, not a single day has passed that I've not thought of him. I wish he was still here. I am not a child but I still need my dad for all the advice and hugs and I love you's that will never be replaced by anyone else. Perhaps I'm selfish but I've always been a daddy's girl.

© 2012 Express10

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    • Anita Hasch profile image

      Anita Hasch 11 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      Thank you for your comment. I have fond memories of him. Blessings to you and your family as well.

    • Express10 profile image
      Author

      H C Palting 11 months ago from East Coast

      It's so sad to know that people are hurting so much and this habit takes their life. Think of all the good memories you both were able to have, they are so much more special now. Many blessings to you and best wishes for 2017.

    • Anita Hasch profile image

      Anita Hasch 11 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      Thank you for sharing. What a lovely tribute to your Dad. My husband also drank too much and by dying years before he should all our dreams of a happy retirement died as well. Now I am alone but thankful for Hub Pages and the internet that has given me a new lease on life. Bless you.

    • Express10 profile image
      Author

      H C Palting 2 years ago from East Coast

      I miss him so much and still think of him everyday. I agree with you, he was very stoic and kept things to himself. On top of this, he chose to self medicate. In our case, dad was a complete professional at hiding his alcoholism and there were no signs revealed until it was far too late to help him and medical attention was absolutely required. I hope that others whose loved ones are struggling with this deadly addiction have some signs and take action and if any reader is struggling that they take action to beat this as well. Thank you so much for your response and kind words, I hope you have a great weekend.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Your story has touched my heart deeply. I must admit your Dad was very much like mine in terms of being so unselfish, caring and loving to his daughters. My sister and I had both parents in our lives, but it's always been interesting to us how I bonded closely with our Dad and she with our mother.

      In your specific case, of course you would feel a special closeness with your father and it's apparent he deserved your devotion.

      It seem to me your Dad kept his inner pain to himself and tried to numb it all with alcohol. I believe that in his effort to protect you and your sisters, he never wanted you to know this weakness.

      This is a bittersweet tale, dear lady and I'm happy you have such peace and fond memories.

    • profile image

      Brendalee 2 years ago

      I remember tnkiag tests like this when i was court ordered into programs like DAAC (Drug and Alcohol Counseling) and lying on the test thinking that i was fooling the counselors and my parents meaning everyone would believe i was alright. In all honesty the only person i was truly lying to was myself, the denial i was in around my alcoholism and the unmanageability in my life was hurting no one but me, the counselors didnt have a bad day because i wouldn't be honest with myself, they probably didnt think anything of it once i was done with the program. But the dishonesty i displayed with myself allowed my drinking and use to go on for much longer than it needed to, losing a lot of what i valued in life along the way. It makes me smile now looking at the test and being able to honestly say i answer yes to all 10 questions. It took what it took with me though to get to the point im at today, im happy with my life, my job, my friends, and myself thanks to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous! If anyone is reading this who has yet to take the test or somewhere inside of you knows that you omitted and didnt answer truthfully to some of the questions try tnkiag it again in your or by yourself, be honest with it and if you dont want to share the answers with anyone dont do it, its for you to know and do with what you will.

    • Express10 profile image
      Author

      H C Palting 5 years ago from East Coast

      Thanks Vespawoolf. He was very protective and good natured. If only he could have been more so for his own sake. I still think of him everyday and think of all the things he did for his children and for our elderly neighbors without ever being asked. I know only one other person in my life with a similar heart of pure gold. I am quite lucky that he is my beau.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a very moving tribute to your father. I guess I really never understood the meaning of the term "closet alcoholic". I'm glad you have such sweet memories of your father, though. It makes me so sad he never sought help for his sickness. Of course, it's a complex problem so we never know what causes a person to turn to alcohol. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    • Express10 profile image
      Author

      H C Palting 5 years ago from East Coast

      You are so right, memories are to be treasured the most. Thanks for sharing your experience as well, GOD Bless.

    • CBartelmey profile image

      CBartelmey 5 years ago from Colorado, United States

      This was touching. I am close to my father so can understand what this must have been like. “I am not a child but I still need my dad . . .” I could not agree more. I think the people we make those types of bonds with we will always need, even when they are not here. I lost one of my younger sisters four years ago, and never has anything made me realize more that the time you spend and the memories you make could not be of greater importance. For there will come a time when memories are all you have.

    • Express10 profile image
      Author

      H C Palting 5 years ago from East Coast

      You are so sweet Peggy W. I hope that people who have the chance, who have the clues and signs, take the opportunity to discuss it with their loved ones. Because there were no clues or signs of alcoholism, I never even had the chance to discuss his problem or try to help. Thank you very much.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      So sad that your dad died so young and that it might have been preventable. We all have our coping mechanisms and that was apparently his. He was obvously a good father to you. Just cherish his memory, as I know that you do. My heart goes out to you.

    • Express10 profile image
      Author

      H C Palting 5 years ago from East Coast

      I was touched by your personal story as well and glad to see you stopped by. Thanks.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A powerful message and a painful glimpse into your life; thank you for sharing and hopefully it will help someone who has a family member going through this or possibly it will help an alcohlic. I admire you for writing this.

    • Express10 profile image
      Author

      H C Palting 5 years ago from East Coast

      Thank you.

    • sarcasticool profile image

      sarcasticool 5 years ago from New Zealand

      I got here from reading one of your other hubs, but this is a really touching story and it has great lessons to teach as well. You are a very good writer and I know your dad would be so proud of you. Keep up the good work. I will follow you and vote this up for sure. Thank you for sharing this! :)

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Thank you for this hub. I hope more people read it, and it helps them.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      a very good Hub.. alcohol affects so many not only the user.. this hub is clear on that fact great share :)

    • SimpleGiftsofLove profile image

      SimpleGiftsofLove 5 years ago from Colorado

      Great hub, and beautiful tribute to your dad, this hub will save someone's life by presenting alcohol as it really is, like every other addiction, "A Banquet in the Grave." My stepfather was an alcoholic, and it affects us, no matter how nice they are or aren't. Beautiful, useful and interesting. Great job.