real life

"I ended my relationship with my alcoholic father, and I don't regret it."

When someone says their father was or is an alcoholic, the first thing that springs to mind for most people is violence, yelling, and abuse.

My own father was, and still is an alcoholic, and is no longer a part of my life. Although he was never violent, his alcoholism still deeply affected and damaged our family, and me.

When I was younger, probably through to my teens, I thought all the dads drank beer every day. I thought all dads drank a lot of beer, got paid by mates for work in slabs of VB, and drove with an open can of beer between their legs and another cold one under the seat.

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If I was in the car with him, I’d feel pretty special that he’d let me hold his beer while he changed gears – and even take a cheeky sip!

I thought all the dads dropped their kids off at school on Monday mornings reeking of last night’s beer and no doubt unfit to drive. And I thought all the mums probably yelled and screamed at the dads when they lost their licences for drunk driving for the third or fourth time, and resented the amount of household money that went to the slabs of beer stocked high in the fridge in the garage.

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Looking back, I legitimately thought that my friends’ parents were the odd ones. The odd parents were the ones who spoke to each other with respect, and who took an interest in their kids’ lives, not passing out in the armchair in front of the telly by 5pm, a can in hand and empties already lining up on the kitchen bench.

I guess I was blind to my dad’s alcoholism because all the men in his family were alcoholics too, so it seemed normal. It was normal to them.

The first time I was truly humiliated by his drinking was when I had one of my high school friends over for a sleepover and she got to witness my dad vomiting in the kitchen sink after coming home drunk. Another time, he was so drunk that he forgot my mum’s name.

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In the end, his alcohol dependence destroyed my parents’ marriage, and what little relationship I had with him.

The enormity of his dependence didn’t hit me until I turned eighteen.

While all my friends fathers were playing the part of the reliable (and free!) taxi driver, coming out at all hours to collect them from clubs and pubs and house parties, my dad was calling me, newly licenced, to come and collect him. Often I’d be dropping his leering and pickled friends off home too.

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In the end, his alcohol dependence destroyed my parents’ marriage, and what little relationship I had with him.

I carry a lot of guilt for ending our relationship because he wasn’t, and isn’t a bad or evil man, but his addiction was toxic and caused me severe anxiety and depression.

I had to choose my own health and happiness over having a dad, and while it was difficult and probably always will be, his problem is no longer my problem.

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