Didn’t get to choose anything
The theme for this years addiction awareness week is ‘Addiction is not a choice. It can happen to anyone, but recovery is possible with the right support’. It’s got me thinking that despite all the compassion and the empathy I have for my dad, who I lost to alcohol use disorder in 2017, I also didn’t choose addiction.
It wasn’t my fault either. I didn’t choose to spend my teenage years confined to my bedroom to escape the atmosphere of when he was drunk. I didn’t choose to tread on eggshells unaware of his latest mood swing. I didn’t choose to worry about whether he was still alive. I didn’t choose to be so angry I wished him dead. I certainly didn’t choose to be turning off his life support machine after a heavy binge of vodka.
What we have in common with our alcoholic loved one is that we also don’t get to choose anything. We can’t control them, we can’t fully protect them, and we can’t save them unless they want us to.
It took a long time for me to come to terms
You see it took a long time for me to come to terms with that. To accept that it wasn’t my fault, that I couldn’t have stopped him, and that we both didn’t get the privilege of choice.
Watching my dad slowly kill himself with alcohol was like watching someone I loved so deeply drown and not being able to swim in and pull them out. It was crippling, it was torturous, and it was completely and utterly out of my control. I tried to drag him to hospital, to force him to see his GP, poured his alcohol down the sink. But it wasn’t my choice, I was powerless, and I had no other choice but to sit on the side lines and spectate whilst praying that his rock bottom didn’t kill him.
As a child of an alcoholic, I have developed some common personality traits, one being the incessant need to control and help in these kinds of situations. So, it should come as no surprise that when he did die, I was crippled with an overwhelming sense of guilt. What if I did this, or should I have done that?
What I know now and what I have come to accept is that it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t my dads fault either, because he didn’t choose to be an alcoholic and I didn’t choose to be a child of an alcoholic. Alcohol stole our freedom of choice!