If you’ve been reading my blog you already know that I never had a relationship with my dad until recently. My parents separated when I was 9 years old and it was hard for me to figure out a way to cope with a man who chose to forget about me instead of love me.
It was many years and many failed relationships that I realized that I needed my dad. I needed him because he was the missing link in my life. I was broken and playing at being whole, but deep down inside my daddy was what I wanted and needed. I had to forgive.
Forgiveness is a process for me. It takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. I am stubborn. I get that from my mama. But, I needed to truly forgive the man who abandoned me.
I can honestly say after three years of trying to forgive, I have. It happened when I went home last month for Mother’s Day to Tennessee. I went to visit my dad.
My son wanted to meet his grandfather. I had been nervously wondering about this meeting because munch is my everything. I didn’t want to allow my dad the opportunity to meet the little boy who was God’s greatest gift to me only to abandon him like he did me. I was afraid. I let that fear lead me. When my son asked, “Mommy, can I please call Mr. Frank grandpa?” I replied, “No, munch. Not yet. Let’s meet him first.” He responded by asking “Why? Isn’t he my grandfather?”
You see that? My fear was allowing me to control what my son wanted to have…a relationship with his grandfather. I let the conversation drop and went to visit my dad the Monday after Mother’s Day. I sat there nervously wondering how my son would react. My dad was creepy looking. I love him, but he hadn’t aged well and he actually looked like a burnt out Dick Gregory. But, I held fast to the belief that this was what munch wanted.
We got out of the car and I held his hand tightly. I walked him over to introduce him to my dad and he let go of my hand and ran to him and wrapped his arms around his neck and said, “Grandpa! It’s so nice to meet you. I’m Brennan!” Just like that. My son’s acceptance of the man he didn’t know but already loved allowed me to truly forgive my father.
Love. Acceptance. Forgiveness.
I love him for the person he was, but more importantly for who he wasn’t. Because I think my life turned out the way it was supposed too.
I accept the fact that my dad is an alcoholic and his monkey will never leave his back. He’s not hitting women anymore, but he still hits the bottle. Alcoholism is a disease and I accept who he is.
I forgive the man who abandoned me when I was a child. Who walked out of my life and never looked back. The man who created other children with other women and abandoned them as well. I forgive the man who stands before me because I see him not as superman but simply a man. My dad. Broken and all. I love this man because he is me and I am him.
So, this Father’s Day is actually pretty awesome because I’m openly loving the man who had publicly abandoned me. Telling the world that I forgive this man and love him. I’ve sent him a Father’s Day card for the first time in my life.
My dad was is an alcoholic. Whether he knows it or not is a question for him. I knew it at the age of 8. Countless nights of violence or not coming home or hospitalizations for his abuse left me confused and thinking what was wrong? His love of alcohol was killing him. Slowly. Softly. Right in front of my eyes.
Alcoholism was one of the things that destroyed my childhood. Fragmented pieces of missing activities, tea time and chasing the ghosts away were replaced with loneliness and make believe because daddy was supposed to be there. His drinking was one of the reasons that I say he was broken. Not the only one, but one of the reasons. He was a warning in my household.
My mother would say, “Remember, your daddy was an alcoholic” anytime we would reach for a glass of wine or champagne or talk about our latest parties where we got drunk. Loudly. Resounding words filtered our ears and alcohol hazed brains. Reminding us that we didn’t want to be like daddy. Daddy was a drunk and drunks are mean.
So, I became a social drinker. I drink an occasional glass of wine (maybe twice a month) and once in a while if I go out to dinner. I don’t want to be the angry drunk. The mean drunk. The one who blacked out and forgot school programs or to play with my kid. Alcoholics are different from social drinkers.
Alcoholism runs in my family. I’ve heard it countless times. I’ve seen it. I learned from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) that “Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk for alcoholism. Therefore, genes alone do not determine whether someone will become an alcoholic. Environmental factors, as well as gene and environment interactions account for the remainder of the risk.*
Multiple genes play a role in a person’s risk for developing alcoholism. There are genes that increase a person’s risk, as well as those that may decrease that risk, directly or indirectly. For instance, some people of Asian descent carry a gene variant that alters their rate of alcohol metabolism, causing them to have symptoms like flushing, nausea, and rapid heartbeat when they drink. Many people who experience these effects avoid alcohol, which helps protect them from developing alcoholism.**”
But, not all of it is genes. Half of it. But, that’s 50% right? Too much of a risk. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with my future. I don’t like to gamble. I don’t like to lose. Genetics. Propensity to become an alcoholic. Phrases that conjure fears of craving a bottle instead of my son’s laughter. These things keep me straight. Scared straight.
“Whether a person decides to use alcohol or drugs is a choice, influenced by their environment–peers, family, and availability. But, once a person uses alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing alcoholism or drug dependence is largely influenced by genetics. Alcoholism and drug dependence are not moral issues, are not a matter of choice or a lack of willpower. Plain and simple, some people’s bodies respond to the effects of alcohol and drugs differently.”
-The National Coalition on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
My dad is an alcoholic. It was inherited through genetics. His body isn’t strong enough to fight the “monkey”. So no, I’m not an alcoholic. I am a social drinker. I will decline alcohol, not because of my religion, but because of my desire to not have that “monkey” on my back. Genetics. Sometimes they suck.