I work very hard and am attending college to obtain my degree in the Human Service field. Writing makes me feel alive and gives me the opportunity to touch those whom I would not be able to otherwise. Last but not least, I have been blessed with two amazing daughters who love me completely and support my dreams. Feel free to contact me with questions, concerns or feedback.
“Hey Sis, what’s up? I know, I heard. Dad is what? Are you kidding? I know he drinks. I try to talk to him about it. He says everything is ok. What can I do, I am 1500 miles away. He weighs 140 pounds? He used to weigh 220 at the least. Are you kidding me? What are you guys doing about it? I know it’s hard to say something. I know he doesn’t listen. You want me to call him again? I will, but we have to work together. I can’t do this alone. I will be home for military leave next week. I will go see him and talk with him. I love you, bye!”
Upon arriving home on military leave, I head to Dad’s house. As I park, he walks outside of his apartment building. I am so shocked by the site that I accidentally lock the doors with the car running. Having been a firefighter, he has an “in” with the department, so we call the guys to unlock my car. Meanwhile, what I see is frightening. My father stands 6’1”. We see eye to eye. He is a shell, similar to a Holocaust Survivor. His eyes are lifeless, his body, so thin that calling him anorexic would be kind. I hug him; feel his bones through his clothes. Nothing has prepared me for this visit.
We are preparing to leave; Dad states he has to head back up to grab something. Without making a noise, I head up behind him. I walk into his apartment and he is drinking mouthwash. I cannot recall the words which come from my mouth, and he puts the bottle down. I look around the room, which appears as if a homeless man has resided within. Little food, dirty dishes, clothes strewn about. The walls, a filthy shade of smoke. The original color lines the seams of the walls. Within the refrigerator, a case of beer, in the cupboard, a bottle of hard liquor.
We walk downstairs and head to the Zoo. It is supposed to be a fun time. My children, barely out of diapers, are enjoying a day with Grandpa. Within a couple of hours, Dad states he has to head back home, doesn’t feel well. We arrive at his place, and I insist on coming up to take more photos. He is hesitant but I insist further. We walk slowly to his place. My two year old in my arms, my father in front. We walk into the apartment, he looks towards the refrigerator. He is anxious, agitated. He has been sober such a short amount of time, for him, it must have seemed like an eternity.
Within minutes he is going through delirium tremens, DT’s for short. He is rocking back and forth on his recliner. “The pain, Laurie, the pain, I can’t take it anymore”, he states. I ask him if he is ready, he says yes. With that, he grabs a duffle bag. He inserts 13 cartons of cigarettes and we walk downstairs. I am not prepared for the next step. Al-Anon has helped to set up boundaries but has yet to tell me the “what next”. I buckle him in the front seat and we head to the emergency room.
Upon arriving, he is admitted. Within minutes he is evaluated and strapped to a gurney. For the following 3 days in the hospital I am cursed at, threatened, almost hit, by the man I call Dad. I love this man. Enough to do whatever it takes to save his life.
The following years after were difficult, hellish to be honest. Yet, when he finally saw the light, he was once again the man I knew, remembered and actually enjoyed hanging out with. He apologized and I forgave. He was my best friend until his passing last year.
Telling this story is difficult. No one wants the world to remember their father as an alcoholic, a drunk or someone with an addiction. It is embarrassing, mostly swept under the rug to save the family name. Yet, is it my father who shared his story with the world. He was the first one to warn everyone about the dangers of alcohol. He was not afraid to tell his story, therefore, by telling it, I believe through me he will be able to save maybe one more life.
Alcohol is a silent killer. It is acceptable, pushed and used on a regular basis. How many of us have alcohol in the house just in case? What if friends come over, what will they drink? God forbid they have water, tea or coffee, right? What fun would that be?
I am here to tell you today that although I had a successful intervention story, it took me years in Al-Anon, setting boundaries and the guts and determination to do whatever was necessary. I did not have a college degree, I did not own a home, nor do I have PhD at the end of my name. I was an unprepared as anyone off the street, but I knew I had to do something. What it takes is time and dedication. It is not something you can put a minute or two into, we are talking about investing many hours towards saving the life of your loved one.
Within every family are one or more persons abusing alcohol. It could be your mom, dad, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, niece, nephew, or Grandma. It does not discriminate against age, race or size. Once it grabs a hold, it becomes a source of life, and refuses to let go.
We have to be stronger than the substance. We have to look fear in the eye and say, “I am no longer afraid. I am not going to stand here, talk about it with everyone else and do nothing.” We have to be willing to state how we feel and take action.
To be continued…
(Next week: intervention strategies….. )