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My Life with an Alcoholic Father

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I grew up with an alcoholic father.

And let me be perfectly clear, he was an extremely mean, stumbling, yelling, nasty, slobbering DRUNK.

That being said, I need to also tell you that I loved my father. When he wasn’t drinking he was one of the smartest funniest men I’ve ever known.
He was supportive of anything we wanted to do. “I don’t care if you want to dig ditches for the rest of your life, if digging ditches makes you happy, then so be it!”.

He encouraged us to think for ourselves, not just take his opinion as our own.
He taught me to play chess, He told me not to let anyone tell me I couldn’t do something just because I was a woman. For a republican in the 60’s, I’m pretty proud of him for that.

So, it’s hard for me to reconcile these two people. The amazing, smart, funny, supportive dad, and the awful mean-spirited ugly man that vodka made of him.

Mom said he was the guy that could drink everyone under the table, and didn’t even get tipsy.

One day, I don’t know when, one horrible awful day, that changed. Dad started getting drunk from the alcohol and turned into MeanDad.

Now, there was never any physical abuse when he was drunk. In fact, I cannot remember a single time he ever hit me or my mother.

But he would yell and say really awful things for H O U R S.

One of my worst memories EVER was one night when he was having a particularly nasty fight with my mother. And I heard the entire thing because I used to hide in the living room (I had a great spot, where I could crouch right beside the stereo and the wall and I could hear everything they were saying). I used to sneak out of my bedroom and listen to their conversations all the time. I remember once I heard them discussing me. Dad said that my brother Jim was too confrontational, that my brother Bob wasn’t confrontational enough but that I had just the right ratio of respect/questioning of authority. That was a great night, I can still hear him saying that in my head.

But this night, this really awful night, was definitely the opposite of great. He was MeanDad and he was in a rage. I don’t remember what the fight was about, I was
in my spot and they had no idea I was listening. Dad finally wore himself out and stumbled down the hall to bed. He was like a ping-pong ball ricocheting off the walls down the hall.
He fell down twice.

I snuck around the corner to see Mom crying at the table, her head buried in her hands. I began to creep up to her, the desire to comfort my mother beating the fear that I would get in trouble for sneaking out of my room when I was supposed to be asleep. I was seven at the time. Anyway, just as I was about to make my presence known MeanDad came back out. I hid behind the french doors. You know the kind, white with slats that you can look through. I watched as MeanDad walked up to my sobbing mother and grabbed her breasts, squeezing them twice and lifted his eyebrows in a “come hither” way. Then he stumbled back to bed and Mom just sank into despair.

I went to bed, she never knew I was there. I wish I would have gone to her, but I was scared of MeanDad and I think now that she would have been more aghast that I saw that whole thing and it would have made it worse.

That’s what I tell myself anyway.

This is what nights were like for us, 2 to 4 times a week for years. But, the other nights he was perfectDad again, funny and smart and truly a delight, you would have liked him.

Things got worse after Mom died, he had no reason to not drink.

I tried once to convince him to go to AA. I sat down with him and started talking. He listened for about 3 minutes and then screamed “I’M NOT INTERESTED” at me. Suddenly I was seven again and that yell just went right through me. I ran to my room in tears and never brought it up again. To this day I will burst into tears if you yell at me. A little lifetime gift for me from MeanDad.

I’ve tried a bunch of different ways to come to terms with my life growing up with a drunk.

First I decided that there were two of them, MeanDad and NiceDad, and If I just think of them that way it’s easy to like NiceDad and hate MeanDad. Then I decided that wasn’t fair, he was a flawed individual, but he was my father and I loved him; I should just accept him as he was. That works up until somebody yells at me. Many people have suggested I go to ACA, and I thought about it, but I never did.

Do I drink? Yes, I do. But, I swore I would never get to the level my father was, and so far I have honored that promise. I did get close once, I got to the point where I was drinking 1/2 a bottle of Amaretto every night. One night I got mad at my son for something and I caught myself on the verge of becoming MeanMom. That will NEVER do - so I stopped. I’ll have a few beers now & then but that’s it. So, my life is pretty dang good and all that nastiness is behind me. You would think.

Then tonight, on a flight home from New York, I found myself seated next to a drunk. This really was the first time I’d been around an actual drunk person in years. A three hour flight and I lost count after 2 bloody mary’s and 5 glasses of wine. She would NOT shut up. At one point she turned to me and said “WHAT am I doing in Portland!!?!?! (*#(*&”. She would put her head on my shoulder and say “Are we there yet, Mom?” and then laugh hysterically at herself.
She would apologize for disturbing me, disturb me again, and then apologize again.

The whole time I’m thinking… “My responsibility to deal with alcoholics died with my father, I DO NOT have to put up with you”. “Please leave me alone”. “Please don’t talk to me.” What did I actually say? Nothing. I was polite to this slobbering disgusting drunk sitting next to me. Because confrontations with drunks are NEVER a good idea in my world.

But all the pain and anguish of those years just came flooding back in a tidal wave of emotion. So, that’s why I’m writing this. To purge this crap. I'm laying it right here at your feet, my dear fellow forum members. And, if you made it this far reading this, I thank you.

But, you want to know what the ironic thing is? I could REALLY use a drink right now.

Updated 02-07-15 at 07:19 PM by Faydra

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  1. Gathomas88's Avatar
    Thanks for sharing. I know it must not have been easy.

    Your upbringing sounds like a difficult thing to live with. However, you seem to not only be taking it in stride - something a great many people under similar circumstances cannot claim - but actually thriving in spite of it.

    If nothing else, that is something to take pride in. You have weathered a storm, and come out the other side unbent and unbroken. :)
  2. Faydra's Avatar
    Thank you for the kind words
  3. Risky Thicket's Avatar
    Faydra, the best thing you could have done for the alcoholic woman sitting next to you would have been to tell that she was disturbing you and to "please pass out or be quiet". Enabling them does them no favors.
  4. Faydra's Avatar
    Oh Her... The person I most felt sorry for was her daughter, who was at the airport to pick this woman up. Drunk was there to meet her 10 day old grandchild....
  5. DifferentDrummr's Avatar
    Some people get hit much harder by alcohol when at high altitudes. Without even realizing it.

    Of course, maybe the woman was a genuine alcoholic, but there's also that variable to consider.
  6. Faydra's Avatar
    That's a good point, DD. And it makes me wonder.

    If you get hit harder while you are up in the air, does the effect 'wear off' when you land?
  7. DifferentDrummr's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Faydra
    That's a good point, DD. And it makes me wonder.

    If you get hit harder while you are up in the air, does the effect 'wear off' when you land?
    As far as I know, the rate at which you normally metabolize alcohol comes back when you're on the ground again. Not sure how long the transition takes, though.
  8. Henrin's Avatar
    The father you love and admire was your father, not the broken alcoholic man that plagues your childhood. Remember your father for the funny loving man he was and know that who he was when he was drunk was not him.

    That is all the advise I got. Hopefully it didn't suck.

    From what you said it seems like he was depressed even before your mother passed, and with her passing that last little bit of strength was stripped from him, so he drank to appease the pain in his heart and the torment in his mind. There is no greater ally and enemy than our ourselves and I think your father learned that lesson the hard way.
  9. DDD's Avatar
    Very nice of you to share this Faydra, it should help you feel better.
  10. Faydra's Avatar
    Thanks, DDD. Writing all that down helped me a LOT. More than I ever would have imagined, honestly.


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