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My Alcoholic Dad Introduction

August 18, 2011


Growing up as a kid, my dad, just like every other dad, was full of wise sayings. From “Every action has a reaction” to “Never say never.” he was always there to provide insight and guidance when I most needed them. As an adult, I look back and realize that he had an innate ability to always know when to say it and which phrase to use. At an especially dark point in my life, after struggling with deaths of several close friends and a wonderful mentor, he told me to not let things outside of my control, control my life. That brief exchange with him changed my perspective on life. As a know-it-all 17-year-old, I did not realize just how big of impact this small phrase would have on my life. For the past 30 years, I have continually applied this logic to all aspects of my personal and professional life, and it has benefited me in ways I cannot describe. For this, I am truly thankful to my dad.

So now, I find myself in an overwhelming situation. It has been keeping me up at night and causing a lot of mental anguish. As I am struggling to cope with this new burden, I come back to the phrase. “Don’t let things outside your control, control your life.”

Roughly ten years ago, I went to college after completing my service in the military. This was a big step for me, as I had been out of the academic world for over five years. The first series of classes I took were the common prerequisites that are required of all first year students. These classes ranged from Algebra to Spanish to Humanities. Also in that first series of classes was Freshman Composition. This class was challenging, as I had to learn how to properly cite my references as well as write about things I was not comfortable writing about, such as the hidden meaning behind a particular car commercial. One of the assignments that gave me, as well as my classmates, serious problems was to write a paper about our hero. We had to name this person as well as provide convincing arguments as to why we chose them. My classmates began to select athletes and famous people from history. However, after pondering over my selection for several days, I realized that my hero was not a general or a politician, my hero was my dad. After writing the paper, I received 98 out of 100 for a grade, with a small note from the teacher, asking that I share this with my father.

“Don’t let things outside your control, control your life.” These are words, which in theory changed my life. By applying them to situations at work and elsewhere, I was able to handle almost anything that came my way. The one exception is the situation I am facing now. Applying this phrase to my current problem, while it is applicable, it much easier said than done.

During my time in the Marine Corps, I accomplished many things that I am extremely proud about. Just the fact that I was a Marine made me proud. It made my parents proud. It made my dad really proud. He was one of the people with the bumper stickers telling everyone his son was a Marine. He was a Marine at heart. While serving, I applied and was accepted for Marine Security Guard duty. Working and living overseas providing security for U.S. diplomatic mission, this was one of the more desired billets and one of the most difficult billets to obtain. Our class began with 180 students. Six weeks later, 80 of us graduated. The deployments for MSG duty were 15 months, followed by a 2 to 3 week leave, and completed by another 15 month deployment. While my mom was worried sick, my dad could not stop beaming.

I did not complete my entire tour, as I had the misfortune to contract e-coli food poisoning, followed by a collapsed lung due to the force that I expunged any and all contents of my stomach. I was medically relieved from post and returned stateside just under a year after leaving for deployment. Upon my return, my parents came to see me in Quantico. My mom was relieved that I returned home and my dad was proud of what I accomplished. A year later, I would return to Guatemala, with my parents, to marry the greatest love of my life. Both my mom and dad were very happy.

“Don’t let things outside of control, control your life.” After struggling since April with my current situation, I am making the hardest decision of my life. Joining the Marines seems trivial to the decision I am about to make. I have prayed for guidance, and it always seems to come back to this saying, this small piece of advice.

My dad was from England and my mom was from New Hampshire. We lived in Florida; so needless to say, I had little to no contact with my grandparents. My mom’s mother died when I was six months old. Her dad died several years later. The only memory I have of him was when he visited us in Florida. My dad asked me to get something from the refrigerator and make sure that Grandpa did not see it. Years later, while visiting my grandfather on my dad’s side of the family, I saw him drop dead from a massive heart attack. This was the first time in my life that I had seen my dad cry. A few years later, my remaining grandmother passed away.

“Don’t let things outside of control, control your life.” By now, you are probably wondering where I am going with this. I wanted to take a brief moment to share with some of the many stories I have had with my dad. I left out one small detail about all these encounters. During each and every one of them, my dad had a drink in his hand. The item from the refrigerator was a beer. I had to hide it from my grandfather, as he was an alcoholic. Before reading the paper I wrote about him in college, he went and got a beer. When I graduated MSG school, at the reception afterward, he had a beer. When I returned from Guatemala, he was in the hotel bar, with a beer. The night before I got married, he sat in the hotel bar, with a beer and a whiskey, and talked to me about marriage. When his dad died, I witnessed an Irish wake, which constitutes an immense consumption of alcohol. When I saw my dad crying, he had a beer in his hand. Before his flight left for England to go bury his mother, my dad had to stop at the airport bar. He coached Little League baseball, but was asked to leave because he had a beer in the dugout, after the game was over and the kids were gone.

My dad is an alcoholic, and he is drinking himself to death. I cannot change this and I cannot control it. I have tried to speak with him, but all he says is that things are under control. Once, while talking on the phone, he freely admitted he was cutting back on the beer consumption. He neglected to tell me that he was compensating for the missing beer by drinking nearly a fifth of whiskey a day. I am sad and confused and angry and every other emotion that goes along with this problem. Most of all, I am angry. He is not only destroying his life, but he is bringing my mom along for the ride. My daughter will not get to know what a wonderful, smart and witty person my dad is, because that person is gone. In his place is a shell of the person we once knew and loved.

“Don’t let things outside of control, control your life.” It is here and now that I make the most difficult decision of my life. I am letting my father go. I will still talk to him and I still love him, but he will not drag me down with him. I will be a rock that my family and my mom can depend on when things get bleak. I will continue to write this, adding details in the struggles that I am having as well as my mom. I find it very therapeutic to write and if someone reads this and it helps them, great. Too many people suffer in silent agony in dealing with an alcoholic loved one. This is my voice, and while my situation is not unique, I wanted to share it.  I will continue to post updates about my dad as well as other stories.  Comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.


From → Alcoholism

  1. Welcome to blogging.

    [Don’t let things outside of control, control your life] I am a mom. My adult daughter is addicted to meth, marijuana and alcohol. This is a very hard, heartbreaking thing to remember. Blessing to you on your journey.

  2. Keep blogging. It does help so much to get it out there! I recently had to pull my tribute to my dad from my blog because i mentioned that I was grateful to have forgiven him before he died. I went on to praise him and recall all that I learned from him. Mom doesn’t read my blog (no computer) and she just wanted it pulled because someone else mentioned that I had written about him. It’s your story. Tell it! I can see that you feel things deeply. This is a tough time. So, you don’t mention if you’re a drinker or not. Most of the readers of my blog are Al-Anon, although I’m the alcoholic. It’s an interesting ride, this blogging. I wish you well.

    • Thank you for the encouragement. This has been so helpful just for me, like a written form of therapy. Once everything is over, I will let my mom read it. As of right now, she does not know of this blog. I want to share it with her but will wait until the time is right.

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