Continuing our excerpts from Heroes in Recovery, today’s post is about how addiction affected the children living in a home controlled by addiction.
I’m not in recovery personally. It’s ironic that I’ve actually never tried a single drug and never been drunk, but I feel like I’ve been through addiction — in some ways I feel like I’m still in it. My grandfather was an alcoholic, and that disease colored my mother’s childhood in ways I’ll never full understand.
It continues to affect her and her siblings, and that dysfunction trickled down
into my childhood, too, coating it like a syrup that stuck to everything. My grandpa never got help for his addiction. In the small Montana town where they lived, my grandma would call the local bar and tell them to send her husband home for dinner. One of my aunts then married an alcoholic who drank until the day he died as well. I guess it’s true that sometimes, no matter how much you swear you’ll do things differently, you fall into patterns that feel most familiar. Addiction continues to wreak havoc on the next generation of my family … and the next.
As I type this, I don’t know where my brother is. I literally don’t know. His cell phone was turned off a month or two ago and we don’t know where he’s living, so once again he’s off the grid. He’s 47 and has struggled with addiction for most of his life. There have been clean periods where we’ve been really hopeful, and then there have been really bad periods. I used to be bitter that the mood of every holiday was contingent on whether or not he showed up.
Now I’m just sad that so many of my calls home to my parents include the question, “You haven’t heard from your brother, have you?” I wish I could make him understand that while he can’t change the past, it’s a tragedy to let it rob him of a future. I wish he’d see that our family isn’t whole without him. That his kids miss him. That he’s worth saving. It’s heartbreaking, but it gives me hope to know that great treatment options exist and that there are people at companies like Foundations, so that one day, if he’s ready, when he’s ready, there will be someone there to help.
My father is an alcoholic. I hated how it affected our family when I was growing up; sometimes I hated him. I always thought if he really cared, he wouldn’t put us through the fear and sadness of his drinking. All he had to do was stop. He never did. I went into a blackout the first time I drank. Drinking was an easy way to “belong” in college and I saw no reason to stop. I always drank to intoxication; that was the goal. Regardless of failing grades and embarrassing blackouts, I continued.
After college, morning shakes became the norm. I lost weight, ruined relationships, hated myself. I didn’t have a drinking problem, but I did have an alcoholic father. ACOA was an organization I decided to check out. These were other adult children of alcoholics and it was freeing to talk about the impact drinking had on us while we were growing up. I went to meetings regularly. I bought fifths of bourbon on the way home. Around that time alcohol stopped working. I was more depressed than ever and started contemplating suicide. I went to therapy. I went on medication. I stayed depressed. I will always believe it was a God thing when I called the AA Intergroup number one night while drunk, looking for an ACOA meeting that would fix my soul. The blessing was that I remained sober enough to remember the conversation, but greater still was the man who answered the phone. He encouraged me to attend an ACOA meeting where he went to AA. He was kind and accepting and told me he would meet me there. I wanted his calm and peace. He was so comfortable with himself; so loving toward others. He invited me to AA.
That was 23 years ago and I have been blessed with sobriety since. The gifts are like nothing I could have imagined; the peace and self-acceptance are a true gift. The people in the program loved me until I could learn to love myself and I will be forever grateful. I see my father differently now. I wish he was in the program. I love him unconditionally and I thank God I found the program, even through the side door. The beauty of recovery is that it’s always there. The other side is possible and you can’t know how wonderful it is without walking through.