Helping A Parent with Alcoholism: Dealing With My Dad's Alcohol Disease
Alcoholism and my Father: A daughter's Side of the Story
I sense in our society that bringing a love one to an alcohol rehab has to be a secret. The thought of validating a family member as an alcoholic feels embarrassing and disgraceful.
Let me start by saying my father is an alcoholic. He has been for more than thirty years. The bottles he bought didn't have a label that explicitly warned him ahead of the damaging addiction.
I wrote this article to share my personal experience with alcohollism. It is also a tribute to my mother for what she has endured for her family. This hub is the daughter's side of the story.
My father was born an eccentric artist. A talented photographer and businessman in our city, his skills is sought after by many prominent families. His talents include photography, airbrush painting and watercolor drawing. He paints an object beautifully just by looking at it.
Their business flourished a few years after I was born. They had several employees working for them for many years. At the peak of their success, my father started living the high life; drinking, women and gambled their money away. The vices were developing more seriously as the years went on.
My mother did not involve me in their roller coaster marriage. She tried her best to maintain acceptable relationships at home. The major concern was my relationship with my father. I should say, my mom did a very good job. Despite the chaos, she dealt with our family situation patiently.
The most important thing I remembered while growing up, my mom is around when I needed her. A constant presence in my life who reassures me in times of uncertainty. With her steadfast support, I maintained my honors standing in school and finished my college degree as a university scholar. I enjoyed healthy company with friends and family too. I pretty much grew up as an ordinary teenager but was very serious with my studies despite my father's affliction.
The money eventually ran out. My father got away with his vices but the effects of alcohol stayed with him. It became a chain around his neck.
The Daily Routine
My father's daily routine starts at 3:00 in the morning. He drinks his coffee and smoke cigarettes. He will go about with his morning activities; reading the newspaper, planting vegetables or tinkering with his Volkswagen. When he is not intoxicated, I only used to see him sitting down when reading something. He is usually up and about, a physically active man.
Around 6am, he will start to drink his first bottle of beer. As the day wears on, he continuously drink beer or a glass of local wine. He drinks his alcohol successively. Come dinner time, he is so drunk and looks so "wasted". His speech becomes slurred. He is either slumped on a chair or lying on the floor. He can't walk straight and will definitely fail the sobriety test ten times over.
My father always find a way to be in the middle of trouble when drunk. Friends bail him out from fights, complaints and misunderstandings. Even if I am not present in the scuffles, I feel the confusion and humiliation. I always ask him, "why do you do that?"
The mood swings were severe. When he is sober, he is the nicest man that exists in the planet. But once consumed with alcohol, he transforms into his darker self. His words become abusive. He offends everyone that he speaks with. Many people fear and resent him.
What puzzles me most through the years that he has been drinking, he didn't acquire a severe medical condition. It could possibly be attributed to his strenuous daily physical activity. Statistic shows that in 2011, alcoholism is the world's third largest disease and its harmful use results in 2.5 million deaths per year (World Health Organization, 2011).
My mother made sure peace was maintained in the house. She developed the ability of pacifying my father when drunk. As soon as he starts to deliver his unbecoming antics, she will not stoop to that level. With a stern voice she will ask him to leave or to go to sleep. Things will calm down and we'll all be able to rest quietly. Tomorrow will be another day.
Ultimately, his alcoholic years wore me out. I wanted to work away from home. And so I did.
After college, I started to build my career and my own family. Things were working out well with me so far. But I have to take the responsibility on my aging parents. I need to face the circle of life. After 10 years of living apart, I asked them to come and live with me. This way I can take care both my parents and children together. Spending time with my parents before I migrate abroad was important as well. The extended family culture sounds so Asian, doesn't it?
Fast forward 30 years, I found the acceptance and strength to bring my father to rehab. My patience and understanding on his alcohol addiction ran out a long time ago. I searched for a facility that was not too far from home. The kind of rehab that have a good program or track record for recovery. I want to do everything I can to help him. If possible, I don't want my own children to witness his personal struggles.
It took me months to convince my mom that he will be okay in the rehabilitation center. This kind of institution was never been heard of before in my city. My mother's perception regarding this place can probably be different but I will not know the answer to that anymore. What matters most is, she finally agreed to bring my father to rehabilitation. As soon as she consented, I scheduled my father for rehab. She cried silently on the day he was taken from home by the medical team from the facility.
Looking at my mother's journey in life, she shielded her emotions with her strong faith. I saw her meditate every night. Her prayerful life was constant. After her retirement from the government office, I haven't seen many of her acquaintances around. She attends parties mostly with family members only. Maybe she enjoys staying at home more than socializing with her friends. She is not like me, I like doing both.
Enrolling my father in rehab for eight months was not a cheap feat for me. The monthly bills, prescription medicine, doctor's fee and food were expensive. But since I can now afford to do so, I want him to overcome his addiction with the help of qualified experts. He already did many things to himself to cure his alcohol addiction but always lost in the end. This time, I wanted to help my father break free of alcoholism inside a medical facility.
During his stay in rehab, I came to understand many things about him. At one point in our session with the therapist, my father admitted that he had a difficult childhood. The physical and verbal abuse by my grandfather was rampant in their house. He also became frustrated with himself. His failed business and becoming an alcoholic got the best out of him.
I remember one of our psychologist friend telling me, "Don't get angry at your father because he is not a bad person. He is just sick".
Coming to Terms
Alcoholism is a disease. It doesn't choose its victims; young or old, rich or poor, highly educated or not. No one has the right to ridicule an alcoholic. Nobody should judge the person or make them feel an outcast either because an alcoholic belongs to somebody's family.
In reality, the "battle" against alcoholism is not for the alcoholics only. It is a battle for the whole family. And alcoholism have very long arms too. From my point of view, it punched a hole for two generations, myself and his grandchildren. It affected our relationships adversely. Confusion, anger, destitution and fear were present in our household. My father seems not to understand what he is doing is wrong. He may have been denying it for the longest time but still I couldn't turn my back at him.
After rehab, he went to relapse several times. He always tells me that he is in control compared before. His pet peeve in rehab was "Mr. Respect". Maybe he did remember most of the things he learned from his eight months stay in the facility.
Today, our relationship has gradually improved. We now communicate more frequently. He gained weight and looks better. He became amazed with the present technological evolution. He asked me for a cellphone because he wants to learn to "text". He said that people who uses cellphones looks learned and modern. He is now so into it and I guess there's no 'clinic available' to treat this one yet.
From what I witnessed from my parents, I came to my resolve as a personal choice, I will not marry someone who "drinks". When I questioned my mother's motive why is she staying in her marriage, she stared at me for a long time and said, "half of this is for you". I came to accept her unrelenting sacrifices is a decision she made out of love for me and my father.
The biggest consolation my father did is that he took care of my mom. I saw love for his wife. In her last days, he was bringing her back and forth to the hospital every time she got sick. He personally carries her to the emergency room, or to the car, or back home. He did everything by himself.
My father literally stayed with my mom throughout her ailing months. He was always around her and was swift in action taking care all of her needs. After all the years, he never left her side too. My mother died in their bedroom, sleeping besides him early in the morning of November 3rd.
Copyright © 2012 The Girls. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without permission prohibited.
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World Health Organization (February 2011). Alcohol, Key Facts. Retrieved March 12, 2012, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs349/en/