Sunday, February 17, 2013
This was written by an OARS member who is the daughter of an alcoholic. She has chosen to take a step back from her father as he walks down his alcoholic path. The invisible umbilical cord binding child to parent still remains as she tries to minimize her involvement in his insane behavior. In my opinion, she has mastered the art of detaching with love.
Ms Forland writes:I don’t go to my alcoholic father’s house as much as I used to… but do pass it on the way to work. I phone him often to “check in” but when I don’t get an answer a knot forms in my stomach and won’t go away until I hear from or see him. This week it was about two or three days and since he had received his check for his pension recently, I figured he was on a bender.
Dead or Alive? Dead or Alive? Those thoughts keep going through my head as I drove to his house a few days ago.I shoveled his driveway and steps and was comforted to see footprints in the snow leading to his door. I could not bring myself to actually go into the house. I figured he was plastered or dead, or in bed asleep since he sleeps all day and drinks all night.
The next day, I couldn’t handle the stomach pains from the anxiety of not knowing if he was dead or alive, so I went to his house again. As I walked up to the door, I threw salt on the steps and waited to see if the front door would open on its own. It did not.I walked in, paused and listened for sounds of life. Both the TVs were on full blast. Dead or Alive? I slowly walked through the kitchen. The counters and table were cluttered with empty bottles of rum and vodka among the food and dirty dishes. Dead or Alive? I entered the living room, some papers were scattered everywhere along with plates of food on the floor. There was no sign of him on the main floor. No blood or vomit. Good sign, right?
Dead or Alive? Dead or Alive?Upstairs, I pause and listen. Quiet. Dead or Alive? I took a deep breath and slowly walked to his bedroom. Dead or Alive? I turn the corner and can see into his room. TADA! There he is. I see his body move slightly and I know he is still alive. I sneak backwards out of the room, turn and go down the stairs and, quietly but quickly, out the door.
As I drove home, I could feel my stomach knots unravel and relax. I’m good. That is until the next time.Detaching is one of the hardest things ever needed when someone we love is addicted to alcohol or drugs. The problem seems to be more complicated when detachment is needed between children and parents or vice versa. I always have the option of leaving and forgetting about my husband, but it never feels like an option for a parent to leave a child or a child to leave a parent. Those ties cannot be cut by a bunch of legal words on a court-recorded document. The ties are binding for life.
I admire Ms Forland for finding a way to satisfy her need to protect him and, at the same time, protect herself. I know that what she wanted to do was wake him up and shake some sense into him. I know I would have had a hard time resisting that urge. I admire her for not cleaning up his house, stocking his refrigerator with healthy food and thereby letting him believe she will take care of his messes. She was able to recognize HER need to know if he was still alive and once that need was met she did nothing more. Nothing more would have done anyone any good or made her feel any better.
If the person had been her child, I think it would have been even harder for her to walk out the door. It’s so extremely hard to keep those maternal protection instincts from kicking in and trying to save the child from imminent danger. Sometimes trying to save the child in that moment only teaches them they can depend on the parent to always come to their rescue. That in turn prevents them from actually taking responsibility for themselves and saving their own lives.
I think it’s normal for each of us to think we would know what we would do if we were placed into a certain situation. The fact is that we never really know how we will react or what we would do. There are so many scenarios to life, it’s impossible to imagine every which way we would turn in the real event. Sometimes we just react instinctively and other times we think things through to a rational end. The main thing to remember is that no matter what we do, we will always do what we feel is the right thing in whatever the circumstance and in that instant. It may not seem right to others, or in my own hindsight, but there is no need to feel guilty or accept others criticism. Pushing down those feelings of guilt are sometimes harder than doing what you felt was right at the time.
As for me, I fight the “guilt-monster” every single day. But, I am confident I’ve always done what I felt was the best thing to do at any given time and in any given circumstance based on the information at hand and from my previous experiences. To do any less would be like trying to revive the Pansies I planted last spring.