My dad always had his relapses. We always tried to get him into rehab centers, but most rehab centers won’t take you if your blood alcohol level is too high. They send you to detox, which will most likely be your local hospital or a hospital nearby, or a holding cell in a police station. So my dad would detox, come out sober and say he didn’t need to go into treatment. He had gone to rehabs, but it was mostly detox vs. rehab. Or it took calling the police when it got so bad to take him to detox because he wouldn’t go on his own. He would attend AA every now and again, but he just couldn’t find one that he “liked.”
One thing I’ve learned looking back, is that he did the bare minimum. And when he was in detox or rehab, he always found someone else to mentor so he wouldn’t have to focus on his own issues. He was great at deflecting. I’d write letters, but I know he didn’t read all of them. Even when my mom begged him to read them, he never wanted to face what he’d done or had said while he was drunk.
Time is a hazy thing and I can never remember how long each ‘stint’ was. But I do remember the big don’ts of when you transition out back into the real world. The ones that go for all addicts. 1.) NO dating for over a year (if you’re single, so my dad needed to think about that one after his divorce later down the road) and 2.)No parties, or weddings for the first year. Temptation at parties is always the hardest.
Well to cut to the chase, my cousin, Jill was getting married, and I was a bridesmaid (I was so beyond excited). My cousin and I have always been close. More like a sister I looked up to too. Later in life, she became another crucial person in my life who gave me a place to stay when I needed to get away from the craziness, or needed to clear my head. She was someone who accepted that I needed time to myself to think. And that I needed a place to get away from what was happening back home. Her home became a safe haven.
Now my dad initially had been invited to the wedding, but my mom didn’t want him going as he only just sobered up. And the one year mark was certainly not up. Yet he decided he would come anyway. He took his car, got on the ferry and just showed up. At the time, I didn’t know what the rules were when it came to the do’s and don’ts of recovery. I was still adjusting to life with an alcoholic father. But I knew that my dad shouldn’t have been there. I remember my mom purposely told my dad not to attend. So when I saw him come in, I knew something was off.
Luckily I was having such a good time that I didn’t notice my dad started taking drinks off of other peoples tables. And I mean random peoples glasses of who knows what was in it. He didn’t care; he just kept drinking. I didn’t know it at the time because I wasn’t really paying attention to what my parents were doing. Until I could see my mom talking to my cousin Stacy with a face, I recognized as sadness. Next thing I knew they were gone. They left, and didn’t say goodbye.
My cousin Stacy came up to me to tell me that I’d be spending the night at her place. It was okay, I loved being with my cousin Stacy, she was funny, and she talked straight with you. She didn’t sugarcoat things and probably the only person I felt sometimes treated me as a person and not a little kid. But I knew that if I was staying at Stacy’s that night, something was wrong. Mom and I had a hotel room that had all my stuff, and I couldn’t get to any of it.
My mom has helped me bridge a gap in my memory because I couldn’t quite remember if the next day he went home on his own, or if I had stayed at my cousin’s. There were so many times I had to stay in Long Island because of these situations, that they tend to blur. But with talking to my mom, she said that my dad, because he had his car took the ferry home, where he clipped another person’s car driving onto the ferry. So as you can see he was probably still drinking or found a way to drink after spending the night with my mom. I know near the ferry there are plenty of places to get a drink. So I am sure while waiting he went to a bar and got a drink.
There is that disappointment, that yet again he couldn’t stay sober. The fact that I knew the anger would be there from him knowing he messed up when we came home. Which he took out on us. Never physically, but mentally and that is just as bad. The names, the denying, the trying to get him to get help, and him refusing. He all passed it off as it was just another spill, and he would be fine again. We all knew that wasn’t true.
I have realized AA obviously had these outlines of rules for a reason. AA has been around forever, and I don’t think they would tell you what to do and what not to do if there weren’t actual backings of that it works. You have to do the work to get better. So you can learn you are not alone. To know you have a disease and how to fight it. I don’t think he could see that, and you won’t if you don’t want to change or feel you can’t. Hell half the time he faked really participating in therapies or AA.
There has to be a rock bottom, and he was nowhere near it.
I can’t say I know what went through my dad’s head, but he didn’t take what his rehab or detox center or AA told him to do seriously. Ever. How can you stay sober when you don’t take recovery seriously? You won’t. I wish I learned more about how it was a disease. I just saw a man I did not know anymore, and I was too angry to see that he never purposefully drank. But I couldn’t see that at the time, that it was a sort of cancer. It’s so hard to navigate the world of addiction. And at that age for me, I understood nothing… I would eventually, and let me tell you it isn’t easy.
“The capacity to learn is a gift; The ability to learn is a skill; The willingness to learn is a choice.” – Brian Herbert