Today, I write this because I felt the need to in my heart. It won’t be perfect... shoot, it probably won’t even be close to perfect because let's face it I’m not that good of a writer and never have been. There will probably be commas in the wrong places and sentences with the wrong sentence structure, but that’s ok. I wanted to share this because I think it’s important. Especially, for this month. Anyways, let’s get into it.
This month is Alcohol Awareness Month. A month that I didn’t even know existed until today when I happened to google it to see if it was actually a thing. I wanted to know if there was a month dedicated to raising awareness about alcohol because I wanted to know when the best time would be to write a story on it and how it has affected my life. It’s pretty weird that the day I felt the need to write about it, was a day that occured in the same month dedicated to raising awareness about it! In fact I truly believe this is God’s timing. God’s timing of placing certain things in your heart that you feel compelled to share. You’re probably wondering why I feel the need to share my experience with alcohol because I’m only 17, right?! Well, technically, it isn’t my personal experience with it, but how someone else’s experience with it has affected me. That someone else being my father.
A lot of my experiences growing up with my dad are probably similar to your experiences with yours. Looking back I remember playing my little leap frog game on the TV with him, baking things on my little easy bake oven with him, going to the gym together, and the usual yelling at him to turn off his country music because “I want to listen to my music” (aka high school musical). I also remember him saving my life after I almost died choking on a mint. Ok, maybe not almost died, but when you are three years old and you start choking on a mint because you are running back and forth from the table to your colors (markers), it feels like you almost died. Anyways, I’m so thankful for these experiences and hope that I’ll never forget them. But in addition to these amazing memories, I also have some pretty vivid ones. You see my dad wasn’t just a father who played leap frog with his daughter, or baked brownies with her, or made her listen to country music. My dad was an alcoholic. Growing up with him always felt normal because that’s what I was used to, but looking back on it now, it’s clear it was not normal. It was not normal to have someone in the family drinking non-stop. It was not normal for your dad to be drinking while driving you to preschool. It was not normal for a 5 year old and a 7 year old to be having discussions about whether it it’s safe or not to be in dad’s car. It was normal then, and it is not normal now.
My parents split up when I was really young, and as my brother and I got older we saw our dad less and less. He wasn’t around to take us to school, or come to my basketball games, or my brothers football games. He wasn’t really around to celebrate our awesome report cards or birthdays, either. Yeah, there would be times when we would see him on the weekends, but that was rare. I was mad and frustrated that my own father didn’t want to be a big part of my life. I was also mad that he missed every single one of my basketball games except for one. One! I couldn’t understand why someone would choose to do that.
In the summer of 2016 my brother and I went to stay with my dad for a week. He had just gotten out of rehab and had been clean for a while. It was the first time where I felt like I knew who my dad really was. Not my dad as an alcoholic, but my dad as my dad. I saw how funny he was and how compassionate he was for others. He cared so much about everyone around him especially for my brother and I. He talked with us about his past, and about drinking and driving with us, what he had to go through to get clean, rehab, and everything else. He said he was sorry from the bottom of his heart for putting us in those dangerous situations and he shared with us how thankful he was that he had never hurt anyone. We all cried together and ended up bonding that whole week.
I left my dad’s place realizing that my dad didn’t choose to be an alcoholic. It was something that stripped everything he had away from him and ended up controlling his life.
That year my relationship with my dad grew stronger. Even though we were 10 hours away from each other we made it a priority to talk on the phone every Sunday. I looked forward to talking to him about everything, from sports and recent games to school.
However, in the beginning of December of 2016 I stopped hearing from my dad and there were no more Sunday phone calls. A couple Sundays passed and there was still no word from my dad. When Christmas came I still hadn’t heard from my dad. There was no card in the mail and still no phone call. There was nothing.
On January 10 of 2017 I got the news that my father had passed away.
My dad had relapsed again, and God decided to take him home. Home, where he didn’t have to suffer anymore or worry about a bottle that was trying to control his life. He was finally safe. Safe from everything.
As I sit here writing this I remind myself that my dad is constantly with me now, and I know that he isn’t missing out on anything that is going on in my brother and I’s life anymore.
I didn’t write this to get sympathy for what happened to my dad or my family. I wrote this because I felt the need to share this story and raise awareness about what it is like to be in a family with someone who struggles with alcohol. Maybe you’re in the same situation that I was in, or maybe you know someone who is. Whatever the case may be, I hope you understand that alcoholism is a real thing that affects soooo many people. If you, or someone you know, struggles with alcohol, you don’t have to go through it alone. You can get hep. There is help out there for anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 70 you can still get treatment and change your life for the better.