Before I continue writing, I need to say that I love my dad very much. He is my role model, and I admire him more than anyone in the world.
Struggling with an addiction is not his fault. It is never a person’s fault. It is a disease.
He was, and always will be, an absolutely fantastic dad, and our bond is stronger now than ever before.
I grew up in an alcoholic household. I have had people ask me what life is like growing up with an alcoholic parent.
Honestly, I never thought my dad’s drinking was an issue, until I was nineteen years old, and he walked into my room to confess that he had a drinking problem.
I was completely shocked.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but I thought drinking multiple beverages, every night, was normal.
(Side note: You do not have to drink every night to be an alcoholic. You do not have to be dysfunctional to be an alcoholic. There are many different ways that alcoholism manifests itself in an individual. I can further elaborate in another blog post).
These behaviors were what I saw growing up with my father.
It was what I saw growing up with many of my relatives.
My mom even believed it was normal. Because it was; it was our normal. We did not know anything different.
(Side note: I whole heartedly believe that addiction has a genetic component).
Anyways, my dad came into my bedroom when I was nineteen years old and told me that he had a drinking problem.
I was caught off guard. I had no idea what to think or feel.
I felt numb.
I was angry.
I was upset.
I was extremely scared.
So, I decided that I would binge and purge compulsively for the rest of the night, so I could sink into oblivion and forget what he told me.
Two days later, I was flown out to Tucson, Arizona to receive treatment at my first residential program (2009).
My parents flew out for family weekend and we did a family therapy exercise.
I had to place each family member where I believed they belonged in my family. I had my mom and sister close together, my brother in the back corner, my dad in another corner, and I was just floating around.
My dad started to cry. He always says that this was a pivotal moment for him. Since that day, he stopped drinking.
He has been sober for almost eleven years.
Even though he stopped drinking that day, he had a long and difficult road ahead, but he never gave up.
He fought hard.
He is dedicated to his recovery.
Through the grace of God and Celebrate Recovery, which is a 12-step program, my dad has made amazing progress.
I am grateful that my dad is so open about his recovery and sharing his testimony (I asked his permission before I shared this blog).
Looking back on my childhood, I can see times that my dad was under the influence.
When I was five years old, I remember running around our kitchen island. I hit my dad in the butt because I thought it would be funny. At the time, he was pouring a beer.
He became so startled that he threw his glass in the air, spilling the beer everywhere.
He screamed at me. I had no idea what I did wrong.
He sent me to my room. I cried and cried. I was just trying to be funny.
I held that memory with me for a long time. Finally, when I was in treatment in Arizona, I brought the situation up to my dad.
He said he does not even remember the incident. He sincerely apologized. He told me it was not my fault at all, and that he was probably just irritable because he hadn’t had his first drink of the night yet.
I am so blessed to be able to experience my father in a sober light now. He is 100% mentally present minus times when he is hungry (lol!), and this is the best gift I could ever ask for.
I cherish every moment that I get to spend with him, especially now that I am recovered as well. We are both present.
My dad is a funny guy. I love seeing his true personality shine through. He always makes our family laugh.
My sister loves who my father has become without alcohol. She used to spend a lot of time in her bedroom watching television, but now she prefers to be out of her room hanging out with my dad and mom.
My sister still gets paranoid whenever she sees alcohol. We rarely keep it in the house. We only have alcohol in the house if we are expecting guests.
We have had to educate her on the fact that not everyone has a problem with alcohol, so it is okay to see other people drink.
My sister told my dad that if we have any alcoholic beverages in the house, she counts them to make sure that he is not drinking them.
When my dad was early in recovery, I remember him saying that he would probably want to have a sip or two of champagne on my wedding day to celebrate with me. Because of this comment, I had a lot of anxiety thinking about my wedding day, even before I was in a serious relationship.
Leading up to my wedding day, I noticed my ever increasing anxiety. I decided to sit down with my dad and explained my fear of him relapsing at my wedding.
He said he had no intention of drinking at my wedding and that he should have never made that comment.
I was still nervous when my wedding day arrived, praying that all would go well, and that he would not drink. We both celebrated my special day sober, as I was five months pregnant.
It was great. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
As a result of growing up with an alcoholic parent, and struggling with my own addiction for over a decade, I have develop a strong passion for helping others that struggle with addiction.
This is one of the reasons that I love working at a psychiatric hospital.
I recently accepted the position as charge nurse on the rehab unit, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for this opportunity.
Addiction is hard.
It destroys relationships.
It tears families apart.
I am forever grateful that my dad took the first step towards recovery over ten years ago, and has been moving forward ever since.
God has truly taken our messes and turned them into huge blessings.
I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world. We have learned so much throughout this process and continue to grow closer together.
Every day is a new day.
Take one day at a time.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction, know that recovery is possible.
It is one hell of a battle, but it is worth the fight.
Cary Tracy says
Thank you!! Love you!!
Linda K says
You are an AMAZING human being, Shannon… And an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your (and your father’s) journey! #ODAAT
Thank you so much! I so appreciate you taking the time to read my blogs 🙂 Yes always ODAAT!!! Love you!
Aunt Karol says
I was blown away by your blog, you are really a talented writer.
My kids and I grew up in an alcoholic environment, because their father, my
Ex- husband was and is an alcoholic. Our outcome was not successful like yours was. We had great faith that the Lord would get us through, he did finally, but not without a lot of damage to the family!
I can say now that the girls and I are in a good place. Both girls are happily married and have children. My Grandchildren keep me happy, and everyday I am thankful for our blessings.
We are whole again, Praise the Lord!
Thank you for sharing this Aunt Karol – It is so tough. It is for sure a family disease – everyone is affected by the addict. I am so grateful that you and the family have found joy from this pain and are making positive memories. I love you so much!!
Patricia Lawlor Morgerson says
Thank you for sharing your dad’s recovery. He’s a great guy. I too grew up in an alcoholic home, my dad chooses not to get help. He is now 85, He cannot live on his own anymore. Had a drinking binge a few weeks ago, he has no memory of it, nor any memory of his falling downs, ER visits, Hospital stays, stitches. And he cannot even remember his grand daughters name. It’s a horrible disease. , My siblings and I have been taking turns babysitting him these last 3 weeks. He has cirrhosis and chf. He’s maxed out 4 credit cards, dwindled an inheritance. He now will be placed in a nursing home through Medicaid. Not a very good “legacy” . So happy of your dads as achievement to be sober and your achievement too. It’s a lot of work. ❤️
I am so sorry to hear about your father and the pain it has caused. Addiction is beyond words. It is definitely a family disease – it effects everyone not just the addict. I will keep you and your family in my prayers <3