I wanted to blog about happy things - show you pictures of my barn, tell you of the random and probably age-inappropriate interests of my kindergartner, or...or...talk of other things significantly more engaging and lighthearted than my father. My father, the (not-so-recovering) alcoholic, PTSD suffering Vietnam veteran who has - PROUD MOMENT COMING - now graduated to domestic violence and attempted suicide.

I've blogged about him before, and I have recently tweeted about this drama, as it is one of those non-Facebook-type subjects for me. Re-reading those posts from a few years ago, I have just realized that this post does not have to be as long as I originally anticipated it to be, as I don't think I can better summarize my thoughts than what I have already written. I guess it is amplified now perhaps, with the two new elements of abuse and attempted suicide adding a bit more gravity to an already grave situation.

Since 2008, when I wrote about my Dad before, he moved out to California to live with his girlfriend. I have never met her, but my brother has been out to visit them and ascertains that she is quite possibly the kindest person one could ever meet. She has put up with repeated drunken nonsense from my Dad, and for some unknown reason she stood by him throughout what my Dad terms "slip-ups" - a vastly inaccurate term if ever there was one. My brother was always candid with my Dad's girlfriend; he told her after every "slip-up" that my Dad was never going to change. His issues have remained the sole constant in his life for the past 40+ years. They stayed ever-faithful through his marriage to my Mom, and a number of relationships since then. In my Dad's own words, those relationships ended due to various problems instigated by the women. It never had anything to do with him being a paranoid drunk unable to stay sober.

Last week, my brother and The Dude broke the news to me in tandem that my Dad was in jail. DUI? Old news. Dad had moved on to bigger and brighter things like kicking his girlfriend and smashing up her house. She took out a restraining order against him, which we applauded and supported. A day or two passed, and then we found out that my Dad tried to kill himself. This also, is a new development in his pantheon of Bad Behaviour. Even now I'm not sure how, as we have not been able to get through to him at the VA Hospital he may or may not be in. Well, he is there, as mentioned by a staff member the other day who spoke with my Dad to confirm that I could be added to the contact list. However, subsequent phone calls have yielded no response from anyone other than "Ma'am, we can't say whether he is here or not." I have pointed out that I don't need them to confirm, as I already know he is there as he was spoken to by a nurse while I was on hold previously, which would indicate, oh...I don't know...maybe that he is there?

I'm glad of course, as I really need this situation to be complicated further. I have been wrestling with what to say to him if I was put through to the room he may or may not be in. My Dad has never addressed his problems with me. Ever. We gloss right over them and pretend that things are normal. Alcoholism and its effects are the subtext we disregard. Dad is a gruff ex-Marine not prone to discussing feelings, and I have both a fear of confrontation as well as the annoying habit of not wanting to upset anyone. I'm not going to go the route of my brother, which is to usually start these conversations with, "What the fuck is your problem?" I would say something stupid like, "Wow, you're a hard person to get ahold of!" I can type a novel here about it all, or rant to The Dude as to how complicated all of this is, but all I'll ever be able to say to my Dad are polite trivialities.

What if I did manufacture a spine and tell my Dad how much I want to shake him for being so goddamned selfish? Is it fair to do that to someone who has just decided that life isn't worth living? It seems kind of mean to go off on one with someone who has survived a suicide attempt, but then again, we have been tiptoeing around his bullshit for 20 years now. I can agonize over these things for hours, and occasionally I come to the conclusion that all of that thinking was for naught. This illness is too ingrained, too settled in. It's here for the duration, isn't it? The duration was almost up to two days ago, and who knows how much of an extension has been granted. I would love to read about intervention miracles whereby those who have been addicts for decades get better, but I don't read about them because they don't exist. If it hasn't happened now, by his 66th year, it isn't likely to. What stark realization will he have? People talk about needing to hit rock bottom - he presumably hit that in 1996 when he and my Mom split up for good. He was confronted for squandering my college fund, such as it was, and was out of our lives for years. As a parent, I would think rock bottom is not seeing your kids for YEARS because you are too fucked up to be around them. Does it get worse than that? We are years beyond that point now, so I'm not sure what happens next.

I apologise for all of the rhetorical questions. I don't expect answers. I know there aren't definite ones. Re-reading the comments on my old posts on this subject makes me realize that this is the only forum in my life that I can look to for genuine comfort, so thank you - even if you don't know the "right" thing to say.


Thalia said...

Well, first of all, what an awful thing for you to have to deal with. Awful. I feel for you.

Second, rock bottom is probably worse than anything already - on teh streets, nothing to eat, unable to stand...he's done awful thngs and been in awful situations but there are probably places he has not yet been to. And I thikn (I dunno this stuff well)that rock bottom might have very different definitions for different people.

I think the most important thing you can do is to do whatever you need to do to survive this, because there is probably very little you can do for him directly. And anything you might be able to do might make things worse for you, if not for him.

Thinking of you my love.

Tommie said...

This is so tough. I'm sorry you're having to deal with a parent who won't confront his own demons. My dad, while not an alcoholic, is passive-aggressive, depressed and so very, very frustrating because it's always someone else's fault that his life didn't turn out the way he'd planned.

Like Thalia, I think the best you can do is survive with your own sanity intact. You and your sweet family are the important thing right now. Your dad has made his choices and sadly, they really have nothing to do with you.

Again, I'm just so sorry.

Jen said...

I'm so sorry. This just sucks. It sounds like you have done everything you could--I just hope there is some peace in that knowledge. Sending lots of good thoughts your way.

electriclady said...

I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. The hard thing to realize is that an addict is an incredibly selfish person who's in a lot of pain--a horrible combination. The addiction is always the most important thing for the addict, and its gravitational pull tends to make it the most important thing for the people around them too.

Try to take care of yourself. You're an amazing person with a beautiful family and your dad's problems don't need to become your problems. He made his choices long ago.

Nico said...

The whole thing just sucks. I'm sorry you have had to deal with this for so many years, and have been cheated by his addiction and refusal to see it or get help out of a real father. Suckage.

May said...

I'm sorry, so very sorry. It sucks so very hugely and almightily and it's SO hard to watch a parent fuck up this spectacularly (DUI and assault) and know that they are in despair (suicided attempts OMG, girl, I want to run across the Atlantic and hug you), and they are really not going to change.

I have got to a head-place in my relationship with my own Dad (also has a history of 50-odd years of alcoholism/arseholism) where I have no hope at all he's going to change. But he still breaks my heart. All that talent and energy and charm, and he wastes it all being wasted and then being vile to his children. It's awful. I am so sad you're going through this, and worse. And I have no answers at all, just fellow-feeling, with extra concern and love, because this current crisis your father is putting you through? Is HORRIBLE. And I have no idea whether confronting him or skating over it and staying cordial is the best thing to do - haven't worked it out in own situation either. *sigh*

Many hugs. Thinking of you.

Caro said...

I'm so sorry to "hear" this.
Thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

So very glad you have this forum in which you can work through this complicated stuff. My dad died when I was a child. I found as a young adult, I had to manufacture the (one-sided, for me) conversation you are musing over in order to move on from the crap he left in my life.
Wishing you all the best as you find the best way to deal.

mm said...

BTDT. Here is what I've learned from years of therapy and self hatred... You have to get to a place where you truly accept that there is not one goddamned thing you can do for him. You can't help him and you can't hurt him, either. All you can do is protect yourself and your family. Maybe that means finally confronting him. Maybe that means paying a social worker type to advocate for him so you don't have to. Maybe that means doing nothing at all.
He's the father. It's his job to shield you from harm. He's done the opposite for 30ish years. No more chances.

Eva said...

So sorry that you're dealing with this. Not much else to say except know that you have friends in the internets.

HFW said...

Ehhh, lovey. I'm so sorry. Poor you. Poor dad's girlfriend. I feel sorry for your Dad, but I feel sorry for the rest of you first.

Rock bottom is very different places for different people, my honey. For some people, no, they don't find it in this life. I lived with an alcoholic who stole from me, my friends, his colleagues and our families to sustain his habit. That wasn't rock bottom. I bunged him in psychiatric hospital with what the shrinks termed depression, but what I think was essentially just full-blown alcohol addiction. The psych ward, although it scared the living daylights out of him - and me - wasn't rock bottom. He took pills on a couple of occasions, although I note that he was careful not to take enough of a type that would damage him properly. Not RB. Lost two jobs, in excruciatingly awful fashion. Not RB. Broke his leg, drunk. Not RB. Fell down the stairs, drunk, knocking both of us unconscious. Not RB. The day I left, he tried to kill himself (again) and managed to get himself arrested for his own good. I refused to stir a finger except to identify the various drug packets: I was beginning to learn sense. Still not rock bottom.

I have no idea whether he is alive or dead by now. The last I heard from him he was sober, and I hope for his sake he is still, but I have zero actual caring capacity left in me. Which is unlike me, really it is, but the pattern is just so tragic, so predictable, and, ultimately, so 100% unstoppable by anyone stood around doing the caring part.

There is nothing anyone in your Dad's life can do, other than ask themselves honestly what part they want to play. Often, the most ultimately helpful thing you can do is withdraw help and support systems altogether, as they simply prolong the rock-bottom reaching indefinitely. It's no use putting someone in rehab or psychiatric hospital, none whatsoever, unless they *want* to be there. Unless they are *desperate* to be there. When they get to the point that they want help more than they want to pursue their addiction - and it often gets quite close to the latter, and sometimes the addiction wins: they'll seek it out. Excellent addiction support is there for them to find.

I'm now sat re-reading and wondering if I've come across brutal and unkind; God knows, I don't want to be. No addict deserves their addiction, and it IS an illness. It's just... ehh, I dunno. I just want to say that, whatever you do, it's ok to do that. You have a right and a responsibility to keep your personal life free of abject misery. If your father makes you feel that way: keep him at arm's length. If you're not happy fielding his addictive behaviour, it's perfectly ok to do that, and you shouldn't feel guilty about not wanting to engage in communication about it. It's ok to tell him to come back when he's together, or not at all. It IS ok.

(In 2 parts, coz I is Too Wordy and breaking Blogger)

HFW said...

Giving yourself permission to back off is hard, sweetheart. Hard, hard, hard. I once had the emergency GP out in the night, as he was so drunk he was beginning to get depressed respiratory stuff happening. The GP, whom I very much took to straight away, after examining him commented abruptly: 'My father died of this. Thank you for caring.' And then blagged a hospital admission for Drunk in order for me to get some rest. That comment, playing as it did straight to my pitying emotions, kept me in a miserable no-hope relationship for another year or more, and I wish to almighty God he'd never said it. Eventually, I had my first experience with formal counselling. Almost immediately, someone whose professional view I respected, told me that it was 100% ok to leave if I wanted to leave, that if I didn't want to be there any longer I shouldn't be, that I owed nothing to anybody at this stage, and that I was doing him no favours by staying. How I wish, oh GOD, how I wish, that I'd had that conversation sooner.

I'm thinking that this hasn't necessarily been the 'right' thing to say, possibly by quite a margin. A Dad is not a boyfriend (urge to make deep south remarks quelled) and the parallels aren't quite the same. Except that with alcoholism, it's all within the same parallels. And it's a proper, proper shit of a thing to be happening, and I really do wish it wasn't so for you all.

A xxx

PS reading the comments, mm said everything I wanted to in a 50th of the words.

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mm said...

So, um, hi. A lot of nerve I've got coming here and asking if you're ok. I'm the person too lazy to attend to my blog for over three years now... But I do hope you're heading for some healing. Sounds like you've been through the ringer, my dear. I'm so sorry for that. Check in if you feel like it, mkay?? -mm

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