Sometimes the truth is hard

After reading my blogging partner in crime’s beautiful and moving post, I knew I had to share some of my story too. I’ve been writing about it a lot just not for the blog. But now I think my story might help someone else have a different ending.

I’ve told you before that my dad cheated death on multiple occasions that I know about. He fell in a pool and a manhole in a third world country. He crashed cars – multiple cars. During his last year the doctors called multiple times to tell me this was it and I wanted to shout “Do you know my father?” Seriously, how many times can a doctor say that and you rush up to say good bye and then it’s not good bye…thankfully. And then when good bye comes you have already said good bye so many times and the real end comes so fast that you can only whisper good bye via a telephone.

I haven’t told you what put my dad in so many death cheating situations. My dad died from complications of cirrhosis and leukemia. The only treatment for him was a liver transplant and the world renown transplant center at Georgetown made it clear that wasn’t an option. One of the reasons was the leukemia. The drugs that are used for a transplant suppress the immune system and would allow the leukemia to flourish. But none of that is the heart of the story.

My dad had cirrhosis because he was an alcoholic. He was a functioning alcoholic. He was able to work, start a business, maintain relationships and live a full life. No one found him passed out on the street. He didn’t smell of alcohol and wasn’t a mean drunk. That made it easy to hide and excuse even from those who saw him everyday. I am sure this admission came as a surprise to many of you. As I reflect on the last few years, I know now the drinking was a problem. And I felt it was a problem when he stayed at my house and I would hear him in the liquor cabinet in the wee hours of the morning. I believed Dad when he said he needed it so he could sleep because his restless legs and his back hurt so much. To be fair, at some point he did fracture his spine. But to be honest, the alcohol helped no one.

I never told my dad when something he did bothered me. I never told him it hurt my feelings when he asked me to stay with a neighbor rather than at my stepmonster’s house. I excused his absence at countless important events and I never told him I wanted him to stop drinking. I wish with all my might I had. Because, of course, it is implied that a daughter wants her dad to be healthy and not addicted but someone who is addicted probably needs lots of people, especially daughters, telling him to stop. I was able to make the tough decisions at the end as the person with medical power of attorney but I wish I had made some enemies and told him to stop drinking years before. Part of me says I shouldn’t feel guilty and I should just cherish the many, many awesome memories I am left with. But I do guilt well.

Dad never went to AA. When he realized too late that his drinking was a problem he recorded his daily drinks in a Word document. Kind of like counting calories, the record should help you slow your intake down. AA would not have been my dad’s style. Although, he would have charmed the whole group and found a support system that he was lacking in his area.

I think alcohol numbed the pain for my dad. The pain of too many regrets and unanswered questions and the depression that lurked behind the curtain made a drink – or seven – an easy panacea. I know at the end my dad wished more than anything that he had made different choices and that he could be around for his grandkids….and his kids. But it was too late.

My dad’s addiction didn’t make me love him less. Instead all of the love, the anger, the sorrow and the helplessness jumble all up into one and make a complicated mess of devotion. I am mad that he probably could have survived the leukemia for a little longer if the cirrhosis had not been an issue.

I share this with you so you know that it can be too late very quickly. Help someone find help if you can. Cirrhosis is a physically painful and mentally painful way to die. This is not the last I have to say on the subject…it’s just my introduction.

15 comments on “Sometimes the truth is hard

  1. Kelley on said:

    So well said. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Kelley-Thanks for your comment! I took a peek at your blog and I cannot wait to sit down and give it a better look. Your topic looks fascinating!

  2. Ruth Berge on said:

    Not an easy thing to write about, but you did it beautifully. Perhaps your words will help someone in a similar situation.

  3. Stacy Green on said:

    What a brave bost. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  4. Stacy Green on said:

    Oh my goodness. What a brave POST! Sorry about that:)

  5. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever done is come to terms with the fact that my parents are human and find a way to love them despite the mistakes they made. This is a beautiful testament to the fact that you knew what your dad was suffering with and, instead of being angry or resentful, you accepted it as being his issue and loved him anyway.


  6. This is a beautiful, heart wrenching post. I, too, have had to deal with someone close with a drinking problem. Unlike you, I have voiced my concerns numerous times and it is only met with anger and denial. I have learned that it is better to spend time with them than to alienate them from my life. I have heard that drinking is the only mental illness that people feel they can get angry at the drinker…as if it is easy for them to quit but they are just being stubborn. All I know is it is sad to watch. Thank you for writing your story.

    • Annie – Thanks so much for your kind words! Your blog is fantastic….I am a subscriber as of today! But I recognized you from your thoughtful comments on my other blog Perfect Mamas Confess!
      I think people forget that drinking and addiction are mental illnesses. In my dad’s case it was an illness complicated by depression, another mental illness. Thanks for taking the time to post! Julie

  7. Jennifer O @ Lit Endeavors on said:

    Thank you for this post. It’s wonderfully written and speaks to the complications of love for those people we still grapple to understand and deal with. Even after they’re gone.

    When I think back on my grandfather’s life (and I think about it a lot, since he was The Man in My Life), I know that my mother and her siblings wish they could explain his behavior. He was an alcoholic. A drug user.

    But no, he was just selfish. Thoughtless. Inconsiderate. A true hedonist.

    He was the man who let his mother raise 3 of his oldest children. And his third wife, the rest, while he went gallivanting around town with his various mistresses. He footed the note for Mistress #1 (who would become Wife#4 after 40 years) who wanted to buy a house, and then later would demand a college education. Yet, all his children had to incur ridiculous debt to pay their way through school, along with working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet.

    Now that he’s passed, his children are closer together than they ever have been before. Perhaps because he’s not the thing they’re arguing about–whether or not he was a good father, or whether or not he deserved to be visited on a daily basis…etc.

    The other day, my uncle was contacted by a Life Insurance agent, who let him know that my grandfather had a policy that would be sent to Mistress #1/Wife #4. Not a thing for his kids….

    It’s tough for them to mourn him, and love him. To realize he loved them in his own way, but never thought it was his responsibility to care for them. That is his own way, he was a decent person. Loving, affectionate, but primarily concerned with himself.

    And none of it can be explained by anything more than he was who he was.
    And nothing else mattered as much to him as him being that.

    • Jennifer-
      Thank you so much for your response and your story. Sometimes it is hard to understand the choices our loved ones make…..sounds like you have experienced that first hand as well.

  8. kelly fitzpatrick on said:

    Shake any famliy tree and alcoholics fall out. Everyone left hanging on is affected , too. I work with alcoholics whose addiction takes them all the way down to the streets or into the prisons, most of whom have families somewhere. Your loving lovely story of your father is a hard reminder that alcoholism truely is a disease, not a moral failing in itself, and it affects the whole family. Thank you for your brave words.

  9. Pingback: Sick is sick I don’t care how you got there | Julie's Odyssey

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