A Letter to Dad and the rest of the world
We’re approaching a year without you now. The 10th of July 2021. The day alcoholism was no longer just something that you lived with. It was the day you became a statistic, a victim.
When the police knocked that morning, I didn’t even think it was about you. I’d said so many times that one day it would happen unless you got your drinking under control, but deep down I never really thought that day would come. I was pregnant and getting married in two weeks. In that moment of absolute panic, I thought I was about to be arrested over a bit of drama I’d had with a train ticket the week before! Then they gave me a half-hearted smile and asked me to sit down, and I knew. They were the last moments of ignorance before my life changed forever.
You fought so hard Dad. As I cleared out your things I found the countless lists you had been making to organise yourself and seek help. You were having more and more days of sobriety near the end and I felt like you were coming back to us. You were out walking around and people noticed how much more well you were looking. But heartbreakingly, it was too little too late.
There was so much guilt
My gosh there was so much guilt. The guilt that I didn’t call an ambulance when you told me you were poorly or try harder to get you into rehab. The guilt when I found out you were completely sober at the moment you died. The guilt that nobody knew when you actually died and the constant questioning; were you dead when I was out for dinner for my anniversary? Were you dead when I was at my hen do? Were you dead when I was at my 20-week ultrasound?
Surely I should have known at these moments if you were alive or not? And then there was also the guilt that a part of me thought your death was for the best because you had been put out of your misery. That’s something you say about your dog, not your dad, right? Very few people understood why I was so riddled with guilt, but then I realised the reason for that was because they simply had no idea what kind of life you’d been forced to live for the past few years.
Everyone thinks it’s just a few drinks too many drinks. You’d always been the joker down the pub. It’s not a problem… until it’s a problem. Very few realised when you slipped past the line of liking a drink, to hating a drink but needing it. They couldn’t see that in you, and when they could, you’d isolated yourself. I’ve been supporting someone else at AA meetings recently and it really isn’t what I’d expected.
In the beginning alcoholics can live a dual life
When I walked into that room I thought I was about to see a load of people who simply looked like alcoholics. How silly was I, because I knew you. You were an alcoholic. But you were mostly a friend, a postman, a Watford supporter, a laugh, a Dad. As a society we are so afraid to talk about alcoholism that we don’t realise it lives among us – not on the outskirts of normal life. Eventually though, it did push you out of normal life. The cruellest thing alcoholism did was stop you being a Dad. In the beginning alcoholics can live a dual life, but gradually it takes over everything and leaves you as a shell of the person you once were.
Speaking about alcoholism is what has gotten me through. I’m not ashamed to tell people that you were ill and I’m learning how many others there are out there who will speak as freely and openly as I do. I engage with Nacoa, I attend Al-anon meetings (a branch of AA for family members of alcoholics). I am dedicated to normalising alcoholism and advocating for compassion for those still suffering. I’m also quick to remind us family members that we are not alone, and it is not our fault. If I didn’t, you died for nothing. What was the point in losing you if nothing good blossoms from it?
I’m not alone
These days I’m working on embracing the guilt instead of attempting to rationalise it away. Guilt is no longer a negative emotion, but a motivating factor to do good in ways that I can actually make a difference. It’s normal to feel this way and I’m not alone.
You were an alcoholic, but most importantly, you were my Dad.
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