28 Nov Parents Get Well Too
Some parents find sobriety as a result of being exposed to Alcoholics Anonymous and Al Anon through a family member. This father, Terry F., tells his story of recovery.
I often hear of folks in recovery getting sober after being exposed to the recovery process and program of Alcoholics Anonymous through family members. I am one of them. I began attending Al-Anon meetings and became increasingly uncomfortable. I saw the damage imposed by alcohol on others and realized many of these folks could have been talking about me.
I grew up in a working class, blue-collar neighborhood in a white-collar family. The youngest of 5 children I never felt like I fit in either with my friends or with my siblings. I preferred being near adults; they seemed safer. My family did a lot entertaining and I learned that any good event has to have good food and plenty of alcohol. For many in my family that model is still in play. I began drinking regularly at an early age, 14. I drank alcoholically from the moment I had my first few drinks.
Blackouts were not unusual. During my first real episode I don’t even remember getting started hitting the bar in the basement, but came to with my brothers and sisters cleaning up my vomit and getting me squared away. This was my first taste of incomprehensible demoralization. I had trouble establishing real relationships through high school and there was no depth to my personality. I was skimming the top and not living up to my potential. This was a common theme from all my parent conferences from 4th grade on.
My father had an ongoing battle with cancer and I felt I didn’t get what I wanted, or needed. It was all about me and I couldn’t see the pain the rest of my family was in. My drinking and drugging progressed. No one wanted me around for anything other than being a party guy. I believed everyone drank like I did. However, my friends were applying and getting accepted to college and their lives were moving forward. I didn’t fit in there either. I found folks that were not a challenge to hang out with. I was slipping down to the lowest common denominator. I drank or smoked every day I could. School was just something to endure and became social only. Although I graduated well above average in my class rankings, things weren’t ‘right.’ I had no direction or plan and all I did was drink to mask my unease.
I joined the Navy at 19 and left Chicago. That pesky “potential” word showed up at my first command and I frustrated my superiors by not applying myself unless there was a get together and I had great recreational ideas. Alcohol was at the center of every plan. Again I found myself in the ’drinking every day available’ mode. I was very successful when at sea and loved my job. I was promoted on schedule or early based on my performance. When in port, all bets were off for me to be dependable. I was able to convince people, manipulate or talk my way out of many bad situations. That includes a drug offense. I was the perfect cover up artist.
I met lovely woman who said yes to a marriage proposal and supported me in every way. I was deployed more often than not, so my alcoholism was not as apparent. Blessed with 2 wonderful boys I tried to be the loving father I thought I was supposed to be. We had opportunities to see wondrous things while living in Italy and all appeared to going well. My wife told me to stop asking her if she was happy. Did that set off alarms in my head? Nope. I knew what she meant but I couldn’t do anything about it. My drinking was affecting my marriage.
I retired shortly thereafter and the dam broke. My family saw me every day and I had a challenge adjusting to civilian life. One of my sons remarked, “I don’t work for you and I am not in the Navy.”
I drank heavily every day and often was asleep on the couch (code for passed out) before everyone else went to bed. Nice example huh? My son began to act out and became involved with some sketchy folks and started using drugs. We had many intense altercations. The more he misbehaved the more I drank. The more I drank the more he misbehaved. His prolonged and unexplained absences from the house, getting kicked out of school and police involvement all added to my life being unmanageable. He had become me. Why couldn’t things just be normal?
We found him a recovery community and family involvement was a big part of the process. That is when I began to learn about alcoholism as a disease. I knew for a long time I had a drinking problem but could not imagine life without drinking. I was afraid to get sober and I was afraid to keep drinking. I was not willing to accept the coming consequences. It was time for a new way of life.
I had the opportunity to meet and interact with several men who were sober and seemed perfectly at peace and normal. They went to ball games, golfed, played music…all the guy stuff I liked. They just couldn’t drink. As my son began to recover, I realized I could not continue down this road anymore and I was tired of hurting my family and myself.
I reached out to the director of the recovery community and he put me in touch with a wonderful man who ultimately became my sponsor. I went to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I stared at my shoes and folks knew I was gooned up. At the end of the meeting a kind man approached me and gave me his personal copy of the pocket sized ‘big book,’ which he had passed around during the meeting to have other men put their phone numbers in it. That level of compassion from a room of alcoholics saved my butt. Things were going to be ‘Okay.’ Many of the men in that book are my friends today.
I am very grateful to my sponsor for showing me the way through the 12 steps of AA. Going to meetings has become a critical part of my routine. Through the grace of God and the program of AA I have been blessed with opportunities to help other men the way I was helped; with understanding, compassion and a kick in the pants when needed. They called it motivating. The recovery community called it ‘pulling my covers.’
I now have the ability to ‘participate’ in life at home, at work and in society. I am there for those who need me to be. I have regained a spirituality and understanding of the God I spent 12 years of school learning about. I am presented every day with choices that I used to shun. I accept consequences, responsibility and I accept others for who they are and not whom ‘I think’ they should be. I try to share my experience strength and hope with all I meet. I love the fellowship of AA and the people there ‘keep me coming back.’
My eternal thanks to New Life House, my sponsor, and those in AA who preceded me, for saving my family, my life and making me the man I was raised to be. I may finally be living up to my potential.
Blessings to you all…Terry F.