A lot seems to be going around about addiction and what effects it has on those that are the addicts, as well as those around the addicts. I care for two addicts. My father and my soon to be ex-husband.
Part One: Growing up with an Alcoholic Parent
I grew up with a father that was an alcoholic. There was a lot of pain that went with the role of being a child in that environment. My dad was never violent when he was drunk. He was just absent. He would be in the yard or barn working or at the local bar. We lived in a small Midwest town and I used to get teased a lot at school. Some of the kids in my class would see his truck at the local titty bar and just loved throwing it in my face. Ah, small towns. There’s nothing like ’em. Yeah, I hated it there.
There were many weekends that he didn’t come home or he would come home ultra late. There was one Saturday in particular that has stuck in my mind, I was about seven years old. One night my father went “bowling”. I am not even sure he was bowling. Who knows. My mother thought it would be fun to stay up late and wait for him to surprise him with a birthday cake and presents we wrapped ourselves with old newspaper.
My brother, sister and I watched TV while we waited. Every time we saw headlights coming down our highway, we would get excited, turn off the TV and get ready for the surprise. Well, 11pm turned into 12am, 12am turned into 1am… We ended up waiting up until 3am. The last thing we watched was “Apple Annie”. This movie is engrained in my mind. That movie reminds me of the disappointment. My father didn’t return until the next morning. When he decided to get up, there was no fanfare, no surprise…just “here are your cake and presents.”
He was just never there, even when he was there. His mind was absent and somewhere other than home and family. My mother finally left my dad when I was thirteen. By then, my brother had entered the military and my sister was about to graduate high school and leave as well. When I turned fifteen, my mother and I moved to California. I was terribly sad to leave my father. I wanted to stay with him and in our house. I felt like he didn’t want me anymore. But I know now, that this is just a product of divorce. I know now that he could never take care of me.
Throughout high school I received drunken calls from my dad. He would cry and cry about how much he missed me. I would get upset, filled with both anger and sadness. My mind was twisted and didn’t know what to think. I went to visit him a couple of times, but either he would abandon me to go drink with friends or we would have some argument right out of the gate and he would ignore me for the rest of my trip or both. It was miserable…every single time…even in my twenties, the treatment was the same except I could go to bars with him. Yeah, fun, right. Not so much.
The last time I visited him, we had a monumental argument. He was very upset with me. Sadly, I flew out on my 22nd birthday. I had overslept and missed my plane. It would be another six hours before I could catch another one and apparently I had ruined my dad’s plans for our weekend. What I didn’t know is that my uncle, his brother, was very sick. He had cancerous tumors all over his body. We were supposed to spend that weekend with him and his wife at a lake cabin. Not only that, when he picked me up, I was smoking a cigarette. First of all, this upset him because I begged and begged my dad to quit smoking, telling him it would kill him. And second, well, that is what killed my uncle.
Sadly, my last visit was rough. I felt horribly guilty when I finally found out about my uncle. After all, I was visiting for his wedding. Well, him getting married was the last thing he did. He got married on his death bed. I left shortly after and returned to California. By the time I landed, he was dead. I wept for days. The guilt grew and grew inside of me. How was I to know about my uncle, about the trip, about any of it? It doesn’t matter, I should not have been late. I struggled with that trip. I still do. I still feel the pangs of guilt when I think about it. My dad did not talk to me that entire trip except to tell me about his brother and then when he hugged me goodbye. We were both sobbing and apologizing, but that didn’t heal our relationship. It went down from there.
My father still drinks and his health is declining. He is now 70 years old and still has not shown any evidence of slowing the alcohol consumption. I used to be angry about it and have some serious hate towards him, but since going to CoDa (Codependents Anonymous), I have let go and accepted him for who he is. I have accepted that he will never stop. I express my concerns for his health, but I have chosen to love him anyway. Although, I do seriously limit my interactions with him. I have not gone to see him since I was 22, which was 1996. He has come to visit us plenty, but I have not made the trek out there since then. I know this upsets him, but I cannot seem to bring myself to visit. I have had nothing but bad experiences when I do. So, I stay away.
It was the only way I felt I could break the cycle.
Part Two: Marrying an Alcoholic
And then there is this. I married an addict and alcoholic. First, my husband was seriously addicted to drugs and even was the dealer to many of our friends. I did not know this when we began dating. I had no clue. I did not find out until he overdosed on Meth. He vowed he would clean up. And, he did. For a little while.
Eventually, we moved in together. I did not know it at the time, but I was pregnant. After living together for a few weeks, I took a test and confirmed that I was indeed pregnant. I was really depressed. I did not have a job and I had also realized that J’s drug use had not stopped. It seemed to have increased. He had two jobs at that time, both working in bars. One bar was as seedy as they come. He was dealing to his friends and other patrons in that bar. He would also partake in his wares. There were many times that he would not get home until early morning. There were also times he did not come home at all.
When my pregnancy was confirmed, I tried to get excited. I could not. All I could think about is how I was lonely. I had no job, no support, nothing. J was still doing drugs and drinking. How could we raise a child in this environment under these circumstances? If I left him, how could I raise a child on my own without a job? I felt utterly screwed.
J, on the other hand, was excited. He vowed to give up the drugs and get straight. That never happened. I talked to my mom, my best friends and my sister about what I was feeling. The opinions were split and I had a decision to make. I knew whatever I chose would break us up. I was ready though. I called my mom and told her my final decision. Then I called Planned Parenthood and made my appointment. I did not tell J until the day before I left to Orange County. I knew it would hurt him. But at that point, I did not care anymore.
One night, I woke up around 1:00am and was very sick. I could not stop vomiting and had diarrhea. I was incredibly dehydrated and no water in the house except tap. I dared not drink San Francisco tap water. I was afraid of it. I tried calling J. No answer. I left a message. At 3:00am, still no J. I called again and now his phone was going straight to voicemail. I left another message. I was in so much pain. I did not know what to do. The only reason I got out of bed was to go to the bathroom. I could barely walk that far, but I made it. There was no way I could make it to the corner store. It was less than a block, but I was in that much pain.
Finally, around 7:00am I was beginning to feel a little better. I got out of bed and made my way to the corner store and grabbed some Gatorade and water. I decided to walk around to see if J was laying on the street somewhere, passed out or gawd knows what. I just could not imagine that he wouldn’t come home knowing I was sick and pregnant with his baby.
After wandering the streets of San Francisco for a half hour, I went home and called his mother. She did not know where he was either but told me she would look for him. An hour later, I finally got a call from him. He had showed up at their apartment. Not ours, theirs. It was then I knew what I had to do and I was, and still am, convinced I made the right decision.
After I returned home from Southern California, we ended our relationship. A friend had returned with me and she helped me pack the truck and drive back to SoCal. I left him. He was shocked, angry, bargaining with every ounce of his being. I left and never looked back.
After moving, I got a job, an apartment and settled in and then the calls began. He missed me. He needed me. I fell for it. I told him he could come live with me if he stopped the drugs. And he did. We went through months of sweats and depression and he finally landed a job with a friend of ours. It was right across the street. He straightened up very well.
With the absence of the drugs, J’s alcohol consumption increased. He promised to get help before we married, but that never happened. I married him anyway. He would get better for a few months and then go back to the way things were. There were so many fights. So much yelling. So much cursing at each other. So much lying.
After a year of marriage, we had gotten pregnant twice, but sadly I lost both. It was heartbreaking. It was even more heartbreaking when J blamed me for the losses. This was the beginning of the end for us. Every time he got drunk, I was the bitch baby killer. With every drink, the anger grew in him.
When I learned I was pregnant again I knew he was a keeper. I knew this one was going to stick and he did! In the beginning of my pregnancy, my husband was so attentive and caring. Once the decision was made to move back to NoCal to be closer to his family and get more support, things started downhill again. J got his old job back at one of the nicer bars in San Francisco. And that my friends, was a mistake…but he needed the job and we needed the income. As time went on, J began to come home very late and…drunk. My tolerance for his drinking and behavior was very low and getting lower. My raging hormones did not help anything. I could not think of bringing my son into this world with a father that was a drunk. As the birth day grew closer, his drinking got worse and my tolerance got lower. He began ignoring my calls, going out with his friends, getting home early in the mornings….and this continued even after our boy was born.
I didn’t want my kid to experience what I had experienced. I felt rejected then, and I feel rejected now. I did not know how to get through to my husband to get him to stop. I tried everything. I even video recorded his behavior. He always went right back to the drinking and probably drugs too. I knew I had to do something. I had to change my behavior. I knew I could not control him or the outcome of his disease.
After giving birth, I had some serious postpartum depression. I sought counseling and one thing I wanted to address is: “Why did I marry someone just like my father?”
The answer my friends: to change the outcome. Well, the only way I could change the outcome is to escape the relationship and that is what I did.
I broke the cycle. I left. I only hope that J’s effect on my boy is minimal.
I moved to Georgia and J stayed in San Francisco. He did come to Georgia for a while but we could not make it work. I was too unhappy. So, he went back. I begged him not to leave his son and try to make a go of it here. He said he could not without support.
I later figured that he could not make it without easy access to alcohol and later drugs. He left us almost three years ago. Since leaving, he has not been able to hold down a job. He has “tried to kill himself” three times and overdosed at least once. He now lives with his girlfriend and still wants us to be a family. It has been over a month since he called his son. And we are going into the third month of no child support because he has lost yet another job.
I also try to break the cycle by not behaving in a codependent fashion. I cannot control my son or what and how he feels. I let him be who he is and accept his 4-year-old decisions, whether I like them or not. But at this age, his decisions are pretty easy to accept. It’s good to start small, like him not eating vegetables or picking out an outfit that doesn’t match. It’s good to take it slow so maybe I won’t be so controlling of him in the future.
It’s good to break the cycle.