I have debated over and back whether to write this post or not; some might feel it’s over-sharing, we all have something in our past affecting our present.What’s in your past?
This is a very controversial subject, and opinions can be strong for either side of the argument. I want to be very clear from the onset this post is my experience with addiction in my family; I don’t set out to compare to anyone else’s story, experience or opinions.
We all have reasons for how we are in life, or the reasons we have debt, I felt to move forward with my financial freedom I had to move forward with my life.
I loved my dad with all my heart, as most daughters do, I loved to watch him cook and make furniture, there was nothing he couldn’t do. I learned so much from him over the years, he had great patience and was always on hand to help with my homework.
He was kind to a fault; he would work for people for free or a significantly reduce the price rather than see people do without. He was by no means perfect, but to me he was perfect.
In my early teens, I noticed a change in him, but it would be many years later before I would find out what that change was. I was twenty when I moved to New York, on my great adventure in life, an adventure cut short as things had changed considerably at home, I made the decision to return home.
A return home
The next ten years or so were similar to living in the twilight zone, we cut ourselves off from a lot of people in our life, we listened to a lot of judgements and opinions.
As a family, we were coming to terms with the fact that my dad was an alcoholic, and we were on the helpless road of dealing with addition. Addiction not only changed each of us, but it also changed the relationships we had with one another and our relationship with our dad. We became the caregivers and financial providers, how the tables had turned.
My knight in shining armour
During those years, I put my life on hold many times; I was fortunate to meet the most amazing and supportive husband, how he didn’t sometimes run I will never know.
We married and had our two babies, but we weren’t living we went to work and bought our home, but we constantly lived in fear of what was coming next. Financial planning was never on my mind; thankfully we earned enough to pay all our bills.
Such a loss
Two months after my second child was born my dad passed away, it was the relief, not only for us but for him too, he was finally at peace. We no longer had to worry where he was or if we would get that call with some of our greatest fears. It was not the ending we wished for him or us, but it is the reality of addiction.
I believe addiction is a disease, but I have, to be honest, and say there were times I felt it wasn’t, I would think if he loved us enough why couldn’t he just stop.
These thoughts haunted me in the years after he passed, I went to therapy and worked through the trauma of the years he drank and the grief that came after he passed. I wanted to start finally living my life, with my husband and children and start planning for our future.
The truth is addiction can affect anyone in any walk of life. I am not ashamed to say I viewed addiction as something that happened to poor or homeless people, so I was in denial how could it happen in my family, and to my dad. I do however believe we were fortunate; he was never violent or abusive towards us, he was broken and sad.
He was a hard worker, a great provider, he adored my mom, and was an amazing dad to my brothers and me.
A quiet man of few words, but when he did give us a glimpse into his mindset, his words would stay with us. We now know he was depressed for many years, he tried everything to protect us and wanted us to have a better life than he did.
His dad and younger brother passed away within a month of each other when he was young. As he was the eldest at home in the family he looked after his younger siblings, he cooked and cleaned.
He came from a wealthy well-educated family, but obviously, the loss of her husband and son was too much to bear for my grandmother, and she started to drink.
He had suffered too
We only learned the real trauma of his childhood before he passed and at that stage, it was too late to help him, he had extensive liver damage.
He did stop drinking for some years after my daughter; his first grandchild was born. He went into recovery and attended his meetings and life was good again.
He took antidepressants and attended therapy weekly, he was happy and at peace again. Sadly the darkness came again and this time, he would not recover. He knew he had done too much damage, and he couldn’t live with that.
What is an addiction?
We do not understand why or how people suffer from addiction. It is often regrettably assumed that people that suffer from addiction lack the willpower to stop by changing their behavior.
In reality, drug addiction is a complicated disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Even when the addict is ready to stop, they are not always successful as the alcohol or drugs have already caused damage to their brain.
The National Institue on Drug Abuse and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has many articles on all aspects of addiction and the science behind addiction. There are many types of addiction, alcohol, drugs, gambling; the list is endless.
Alcoholics Anonymous offers excellent support, also Narcotics Anonymous if you have a friend or family member in need of help both organizations are worldwide and work a 12 step programme towards recovery.
I can’t stress the importance of self-help if your life has been affected by another’s addiction, in the many years, we have lived through addiction we found Al-Anon to be a great help in our healing and understanding of alcohol addiction.
The Serenity Prayer is widely in use across many recovery programmes; it can be useful to people affected by addiction.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
While our lives have changed forever, and we have suffered the loss of my dad, I am still very grateful to have had him in my life.
He had a unique outlook on life, and always had great advice, sadly it was advice he didn’t use in is own life. He had great empathy for people, and that is very evident in our life as people still hold him in the highest regard despite his addiction.
I can not stress the importance of discussing mental health and leaving behind the shame and stigma associated with it, why should it be treated differently than any other disease.
Have you or your family been affected by addiction?