Wishing my #alcoholic father well and moving on with my life #addiction #alcoholism #mentalhealth #mentalillness
October 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
I don’t know how long it will take me to process and release my anger at my father. There is no point in saying, “I forgive you.” When I don’t feel it in my heart. Now that I have taken down the barrier and ‘reconnected’, I sense the familiar pattern of behaviour from my father. There has been no contact. Nothing. The last I heard from him he was busy dealing with making arrangements to sell the family cabin. There has been no follow up to the things his wife said to me on the phone, and there has been no follow up to my invitation to re-connect. I predict ‘re-connection- in my father’s mind is a Christmas card saying, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” with a signature. As personal as if it had been sent by a busy real estate agent sent to his client list.
I know I should count my blessings that he is not a bother to me. He doesn’t call me, he doesn’t talk to me, he doesn’t communicate with me at all. It could be worse. He could be calling me drunk, or criticizing me, or demanding my time and attention. But really, aren’t both of these constellations of behaviour expressions of the same thing? Emotional deprival, abandonment, neglect. Now, yes, I am a grown woman, and I should not need my father’s attention at this age. But, is that true? Are our needs for familial bonds limited to childhood? Or do our needs for familial bonds continue throughout our lives? At what age do we no longer feel lonely?
I have learned to cope with an absent, emotionally withholding father who can’t be trusted. That coping has led me to insulate myself from others, to be wary of trusting anyone, and to comfort myself as best I can without resorting to self-destructive behaviours. The patterns of relational survival were set early and have continued to be reinforced over a lifetime. So, I actually don’t think it it fair for me to put myself down for still feeling the pain of neglect, deprival and abandonment. My age does not remove the faint hope that someday I will know what it feels like to have a loving father.
The period of ‘disconnect’ gave me comfort because I did not have any expectations of connection. I felt I had some control over how much pain I exposed myself to, how much I opened up my heart to the painful reality that my father is mentally ill with alcoholism as the most visible symptom.
I hear of people who forgive their alcoholic parents, even as their parents continue their patterns of abuse, neglect, and emotional deprival. Perhaps someday I will reach that point. For the present, I must set aside this age old yearning for familial comfort and turn to my immediate family, my home, my neighbourhood, my work, and my creative expression.
I process the pain of living with a condition of father hunger by channeling it into productive work – my scholarship, my drawing, painting, writing, fixing old houses, training reactive aggressive dogs, singing, and playing any stringed instrument I can get my hands on.
My father may never stumble out of his alcoholic lifestyle long enough to actually make eye contact with me and an authentic emotional connection. In the meantime, I can have empathy for the tortured soul that he has to live with, and hope for his healing body, mind and spirit. It gives me comfort to do that, and to strengthen myself despite the loss of his caring attention.
This morning I am going to write my dissertation, walk my dogs and do training exercises, I am going to putter around the house and make headway on laundry, dishes and floors. I am going to talk to my children and find out how they are doing, show interest in their lives, and demonstrate I care by paying attention to them.
I love my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I do hope my father can find some peace in his own heart. He doesn’t have to worry about me.