Alcoholism: truly a family disease

I have so much to say and no legitimate place to say it. The blog must suffice. I received a call from my daughter who told me her alcoholic father is drinking again. Sounds benign, doesn't it? In reality it is a statement fraught with heartbreak, betrayal, loneliness, and a name for a family illness that is so deceptive, so powerful, that it has the audacity to ruin entire generations, crush the strongest psyche, break the most forgiving hearts.

How can others not see? The fume-laden breath, the slurred words, the stumbling physique...the signs add up to a sum that some don't recognize, some refuse to recognize, and some recognize, but are stunned with so much pain that they lose the power to objectively protect themselves, or communicate with...the rest of the world.

In her usual fashion, daughter goes through fire, retires, and takes one to three days to synthesize and take stock of the situation. Only then will she contact me, armed with a possible solution, hurt to the quick, but reaching out for some semblance of support.

I, removed from the situation by geography and time, am more able to support her actions, fortifying her decision to refuse any communication until the father takes control of his own life. I urge caution, attendance to that which makes offspring healthy and happy, no matter what the parental behavior manifests. Karma will resolve itself.

The ultimate enabler, now that the divorce is resolved in psyche as well as in fact, she is his most vital relationship, more important than new wife and children. The betrayal of parent to child, never appropriate, never positive, weighs heavily on the both of us. The final straw, "Don't tell B (the new wife)," reminds me of a series of "Don't tell this person that," as if by denying, it ceases to be true. Living a lie is one of the saddest and most toxic conditions of the human experience.

The ultimate heartbreak is that there is real love. The disease of alcoholism is so devastating that it blots out all reason, all care, all appropriateness. It becomes a recurring nightmare, feeding the disease and leaving a tale of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and stress-related illnesses behind it, more often felling the family rather than the alcoholic.

All I can rationally do is support daughter's plan of action. What I WANT to do is fly to Princeton, and protect my child in a flurry of accusations, threats, and words of sharpened stainless steel. Annihillate the cause. Put it out of it's misery, and the pain that it causes others for whom the afflicted declares love.

This is not a a viable option, for her sake or mine. Instead, I reach out to a sister who has suffered the same pain, the same anxiety that her child is being consistently devastated by a parent whom they love, but are continually hurt by. They deserve better. My maternal instincts and hormones are bigger than life. I could easily overwhelm the transgressor and annihilate him in a holy jihad.

But this is not to be. I cannot fix this. Daughter must find a way to survive the frailties of the parent on her own to be authentic and to survive. All I can do is offer love, support, and understanding. It breaks my heart.

Mommy blog, indeed. A far cry from diapers and teething and first day of school. But more visceral, more instinctual, more protective. From a force that I have no control over, nor does the father, or the daughter. My instincts are raging, yet I must find my own way of discharging feelings of helplessness, being out of control, outrage, knowing that decisions I make while in the white hot heat of insanity must be correct and appropriate for my daughter to survive.

Humans are capable of such a polar panoply of emotions, conditions, reactions, behaviors. Would that this particular illness could be cured with an anodyne, a prescription. It isn't. It's real, devastating, and too easily perpetuated.

Deep breaths. Reminders to oneself to let go, detach with love, and simply be. Deep breath. Deep breath.


Anonymous said...

Well, I first have to say that you write very eloquently! Then, I have to say that I do not :)

I feel for your situation with the alcoholic father, your daughter and you.

I wrote an abbreviated version of my mother's life with alcohol, but it was just too long and too much had to be left out.

I will just say I know the pain and disappointment of having an alcoholic parent. I lost my mother to alcoholism in December 2006. She was only 59. My sister is 31 and I am 37. I carry her heart in my heart. I told her she was dying and that surprised her. It's amazing how they lose the ability to feel and recognize certain things.

She was alone when she died, and had been there for a few days and my sister had the torturous task of finding her, face decaying and body bloated, bottle right at her side on the floor.

I miss her so very much. I'm actually surprised how much I miss her because I couldn't allow myself to love her or see her, in order to protect myself. Now I can love her as much as I want. It's so unfair. I want her back. What happened to her bottom? Why did losing everything not make her want to be sober?

I don't know, but I do hope that your ex-husband wakes up and realizes the pain he is causing your daughter and she will NOT stop trying, I hate to tell you. And she will always love him and you no matter what. Worst of all, she will miss him terribly if something like this happens to him. And she'll second guess herself, wondering what she could have done differently or should have done differently and if it would have mattered or made a difference. Probably not.

Alcohol is an awful thief of life and love and family.

God bless you and your daughter,
A. Collins

kokopelliwoman said...

I am so sorry for your and your sister's loss. Your comment was no less eloquent, and I appreciate that you are willing to write about it so honestly. It's a tenacious disease, and just as with your mother, those who have it are so overcome with the addiction they might never realize the very real damage they cause for the rest of the family. I hope you do continue to write about your experience, for your own sake, and for the benefit of others who are experiencing the pain. AlAnon helps, when you find the right group. Thanks again, Claudia