May 26, 2018 | By Tim Stoddart

5 Lessons I Learned From My Father’s Alcohol Addiction

Personal Addiction Recovery Stories Recovery

I had a great childhood. At one point, my Father was my best friend, and the amazing times I had with him will be forever etched inside my mind. We went to countless baseball games, he taught me how to drive, picked me up after school and took me to the movies, and no matter what, loved me unconditionally and believed in me more than I believed in myself. However, despite all those wonderful times that I’ve held onto, some of the clear and vivid memories that stay stuck in the back of my mind come crashing down like a stone thrown onto a sleek reflective pool.

There was that time at 13 that my Father and I took a trip to Boston to see Fenway park and I had to pour his wine down the drain because I was afraid of what would happen. There was the time at 14 when he fell off of the couch from being so drunk and got a black eye and blamed it on someone else. There was the time that my Dad dropped me off at my guitar lessons and went to the bar for a couple of drinks and picked me back up with liquor on his breath. There was also the time when I was 17 and my Father slept walk into my room naked because he was piss ass drunk and peed in my closet.

If My Dad Didn’t Get Sober, Why Should I Have To?

Despite all of the negative and traumatic memories in my mind, my Father was a good man. However, there was also that important time in my life when I had the mentality that if my Dad didn’t have to get sober and practice a program, neither did I.

I thought that I could fix my father — like in the movies, when the character you love is about to die and there’s a dramatic scene right before the bad guy surrenders. In the end, everyone lives happily ever after. I however was definitely starring in a different movie – and the movie had a surprise ending, and then I found out I couldn’t even fix myself through my own addiction. 

My Father passed away a year and a half ago. I stood next to my Dad in his hospital room when he passed. I combed his salt and pepper black hair with my fingers as he took his last breath with not the least bit of resentment. After my Father passed away, the stash of alcohol and pill bottles I found was disturbing. Having a parent with alcoholism can be an endless disappointment. However, even in their darkest moments, they’re still your hero. I loved my Dad for who he was. I had always hoped that he could get sober despite his demons.

In the years of growing up with and without a father who drank and wondering if alcoholism defined “me,” I’ve learned a few things, often the hard way. These lessons, which I live by now, all resulted in a better, healthier “me.”

I Am Not My Father, Or His Addiction

I am my own person. I have my own life, and my Father’s choices don’t define who I am as a person. I can’t control anybody else’s actions, so I’m going to do what I can with what I have to live the best life of my own.

Forgiveness Is Key

Hate never wins, so love your loved ones through their troubles. That’s what I did with my Father and what others did with me. The person needs to want it.. If they don’t come around, at least you’ll be at peace with yourself knowing you did everything within you that you could.

I Can Change My Story

Just because my Father didn’t attend meetings, live a sober life, doesn’t mean I have to choose to do the same. I thought for a long time, “my Father isn’t sober, so why should I have to go to treatment?” That type of thinking kept me at a disadvantage from experiencing all the gifts that sobriety had to offer.

I Don’t Compare Anymore

It can be easy to be bitter when life feels, “unfair,” or when you feel you’ve pulled the short end of the stick, but life isn’t about what’s fair. My story is my own. I don’t feel the need to compare or invite others to my pity-party. You might feel like you’re being duped because the person you care about isn’t doing what’s obviously right, but getting worked up about these choices won’t affect the other person. It only affects you.

He Lives On In Me

Today, my Father lives on in my life. I am able to use his mistakes and lessons to live a life that he would want to live. In my own opinion, I was predisposed to an addiction because of my Father. Today I can look back and actually be grateful for that. My Father loved me as best as he could and knew how. Without my addiction, it wouldn’t have led to my recovery, and without my recovery I would never be able to have the most amazing life and be forever grateful for everything I have, including him.

3 responses to “5 Lessons I Learned From My Father’s Alcohol Addiction

  • Judith Stefencavage

    6 years ago

    Thank you so very much for that….my father was an alcoholic and despite his addiction I loved him dearly, even desperately (my mother & I had problems from the gitgo). I used to throw his beer down the drain, and beg him and my mother to stop when they fought about his drinking. It usually turned physical quickly. I swore I would never drink, felt very, very strongly about it. Strangely he never did anything with me, as yours did. But – I think because of my lack of a relationship with my mother, I clung to him, as I said desperately.

    I did, however drink; started in high school and it quickly progressed. I drank until I was 60 yrs old, then went into recovery. I am now 73 and have 12 years, by the Grace of God and A.A. My mother always compared me to my Dad, used to tell me I was a drunk and a liar like my father.

    But, my father never defined me either. And I never realized it until I read your piece. I am my own person. I drank for my own reasons. I never stop learning and today I learned something new.

    • Catherine Herbert

      6 years ago

      Hello Judith,
      Your story resonated with me! I loved my father dearly, and I know he loved me. In fact, I believe I was the only child he had that loved him unconditionally throughout his life. He did take me to movies and museums (after my parent’s divorced), though his driving was always an adventure (it made me into the talker I am today- I talked and asked questions to keep him awake!) I too did not have a great relationship with my mom, in spite of the fact that I lived with her for many years. I heard that I was going to grow up to be a “bum” just like my father. Luckily, we repaired our relationship 5 years before she passed, and we closed out her life in love. I started drinking about 7 years ago, when I realized I had married a “boy” trapped in a man’s body, my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I was working on my Ph.D., all while being the sole breadwinner (like I said, I married a man baby). It became a habit. I’ve had other habits I’ve quit, and it’s time for me to do so once again. I am on the way!
      Thanks for your honesty!
      Dr. Cat

  • Lisa Barrett-Gerardi

    4 years ago

    I believe that it’s in your genes it’s your choice after awhile you can’t help it. I chose to not let it take over my life. My father is an alcoholic my brother my 2 sons are my grandfather was and my sons father is so my sons have it in their genes on all sides. I didn’t talk to my father for many years because he was physically abusive to my mom and step mom but then one day he came to my house for my birthday and never left. I had a hard time excepting him back in my life but I love him dearly today and he is in a nursing home today with many health problems and he has helped me out in my adult life more than I was a child! So I forgave him somewhat for the things he has done he can’t remember anything now! So please if you have alcoholism in your bloodline don’t let it take over your life or don’t even start drinking! Or doing drugs!

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