family matters

i haven't spoken to my father in over two years. it wasn't so much a concious decision at first, it was more a matter of self-preservation.

my parents divorced when i was very young. my father has always been an alcoholic. i have always been the peacemaker. i shielded my younger sisters and even my mom from as much as i could. in my teenage years, i moved in with my dad. i was always the "favorite". being the favorite meant that i was the one who got to pick my dad up from the law enforcement center when he got picked up for a dwi. being the favorite meant i got to sober cab for my dad when he was too drunk to drive. being the favorite meant i got to carry him into the house and make sure he didn't drown in his own vomit or burn down the house when falling asleep with a cigarette in his mouth. being the favorite meant visiting him in jail and bringing him money. being the favorite sucked.

during most of our lives, my two younger sisters kept their distance from dad. they ignored his calls and refused his requests. i was always the one who talked to him multiple times a day and did pretty much whatever he asked. i envied that my sisters could so effectively keep him out of their lives. i had a huge guilt factor that let me become a door mat to him. the burden of stress it put on my life and my relationships was enormous. there was rarely a day that passed where i wasn't sick over something i had to do for him.

around the time of my divorce there came a breaking point. i needed to keep my strength for myself and for my children. i couldn't be his "handler" anymore. and when he asked me to "loan" him a large sum of money i finally snapped. i stopped taking his calls and answering his requests. i slowly cut him out of my life. and while at times i felt guilty, most of the time i marveled at the burden of stress that was lifted from my shoulders.

fast forward to a few weeks ago. one of my sisters called me to say that my dad had been diagnosed with liver disease. the doctors said he will only have about a year to live if he doesn't quit drinking. one of my sisters decided to stage an intervention with my alcoholic father. for a lot of reasons, i decided not to attend and pushed it out of my mind.

about a week before the intervention was to occur, my brother-in-law sent me some text messages designed to make me feel guilty for not going. basically telling me that if i don't go, i don't love my family. i was furious and did not answer his messages, nor did i attend the intervention. i couldn't believe the audacity of him trying to make me feel shitty about this. where was he, where was my sister, when i was going though years of hell with my dad? did i try to make any of them feel guilty for their choice to stay removed from my father's life for all of those years while i shouldered the responsibility on my own? no. because i figured it was my choice. just as the choice to stay out of it was theirs.

my brother-in-laws messages begged me to go for my sister, if nothing else. but the thing is, i knew it wouldn't be the healthy thing for me to do for ME or my kids. and i figured it was about high time i do something for ME for once.

i am writing about this now because this same sister and brother-in-law are having a baby any day now. and they are basically not speaking to me. i thought we had a bit of a breakthrough a few weeks ago, but apparently not. my sister used to call me once in a while and now my phone is silent. i left her a phone message a while ago and she hasn't called back. i left messages on their facebook pages and have gotten no response. i am really hurt by all of this and am at a loss about what to do. there are so many times over the years i could have been angry with them for not helping me but i never was. the unfairness of it all truly astounds me.

and though i am not generally one to say i told you so, the intervention with my father was short-lived. they talked him into treatment where he stayed for two days before calling someone to pick him up. from what i hear, he is back to drinking heavily again. i have no doubt that he will pass away within a year. and while it hurts to think of it, i feel like he was dead to me a long time ago.


Miss Kate said...

A truly gutsy post.

I am so sorry to hear about the pain that alcoholism has brought you... but it is so good that you are looking out for yourself and doing what is healthy, otherwise alcoholisms byproducts (enabling, etc) can live on for generations (same deal in my family).

The weird thing about families and alcoholism is it seems that each sibling often has their own version of the events of the past. It sounds like your sister hasn't accepted your reality as her own.

I hope that with time your sister will come around.

feistyMNgirl said...

wow, thanks for sharing. this was painful to read. the pattern gets repeated in family after family, but it never loses its sadness.

i think you've done what you needed to do for your own sanity and health. good for you for sticking to your guns. i think when the baby comes along, you send a sincere card and a nice little gift, and then it is up to them how to react. you are willing to forgive your brother for threatening/guilting you, they should be able to "forgive" you for not letting yourself get dragged down yet again by your dad's alcoholism.

good luck, and stay strong.

Andrea said...

She's just trying to clear her conscience. I commend you for holding your ground. I know the pain he has caused you (previous discussions). I'm truly sorry that he is ill, I hope that somehow you can all come to terms with the decisions you've made and respect each others choices. I'm always here for you if you need an ear or a shoulder. Love ya and miss ya!

Worker Mommy said...

Sounds like you've all dealt with a lot of pain as it relates to your father. I imagine cutting him out of your life must have been an incredibly hard decision to make . I hope that in time your sister will understand and respect that. I wish you all the best!

Ben & Janae said...

I can relate to some of what you are dealing with right now. I always stuck by my mom, letting her rule my life, while my siblings headed for the hills. Now, even though no one will come right out and say it, I get a lot of attitude for pretty much cutting her out of my life. It's easy to judge someone else when you have taken your breather and haven't borne the brunt of the abuse. It's hard when the ones who bailed earlier decide to swoop in and be heros - and then judge you for saving yourself. We are all responsible for our own happiness and caretaking, you are doing the right thing for you and your children. I'm here for you if you need to vent or just hang out. Don't let the fact that I have a baby scare you away - people have babies every day and still have lives! :) My heart is with you. I'm here for you.

diatribes and dish said...

Yikes, your post makes me realize how very lucky I am that alcoholism hasn't affected my life. Good luck to you and stay strong. It sounds like your head's in the right place.

Angie said...

thanks for all of your kind words of support, i'm lucky to have such great friends, both online and off!

Whiskeymarie said...

I too have a "difficult at best" relationship with my dad and siblings that don't exactly help the situation.

Write her a letter- people rarely ignore snail mail. Say what you've said here (the second paragraph of your post speaks volumes)- be as diplomatic as possible without selling yourself short. Don't blame and don't look for pity. Be strong and honest and real- even if she chooses to hold a grudge, at least you will know you've said your piece.