In the years of growing up, I wondered if my father’s alcoholism defined “me.”
Health and wellness touch everyone’s life differently. This is one person’s story.
I heard mumbling coming from the first-floor master bathroom and wandered in to find him nearly unconscious with three empty handles of gin tossed into the gigantic Jacuzzi tub. I lifted him up from the bathroom floor, looked into his bloodshot eyes, and inhaled the sharp odor of gin. He started crying and saying things I — his 14-year-old daughter — shouldn’t hear.
I thought that I could fix my father — like in the movies, when the character you love is about to die and there’s a dramatic scene right before the bad guy surrenders. In the end, everyone lives happily ever after. I however was definitely starring in a different movie.
That January, I was returning from boarding school, unaware of and unprepared for the changes that awaited me at home. I discovered my father was an alcoholic, and my mother was battling the emotional turmoil of our family crisis. That may have been the first time I felt completely useless — a feeling a parent should never make their child feel.
Fast-forward a few years later, while I was away at college, finishing lunch with my friends, when my mom called.
“Dad passed away this morning,” she said.
I collapsed on the sidewalk. My friends had to carry me back to my dorm room.
Having a parent with alcoholism can be endless disappointment. Even in their darkest moments, they’re still your hero. You still love them for who they are. You know it’s not really “them” — it’s the alcohol, and you’re hopeful the horrors will all end soon. That hopeful ending is what keeps you going, even when the process is confusing and distracting and sad.
In the years of growing up with and without a father who drank and wondering if alcoholism defined “me,” I’ve learned a few things, often the hard way. These mottos, which I live by now, all resulted in a better, healthier “me.”
1. Don’t compare your life to others
Constant comparison isn’t just a thief of joy. It also limits what we think our capabilities are as an evolving person. You’re constantly wondering why your home life isn’t like others, something you shouldn’t have to focus on as a kid.
2. Be the bigger person
It’s easy to set your default emotions to being bitter when life feels “unfair,” but life isn’t about what’s fair. You might feel like you’re being duped because the person you care about isn’t doing what’s obviously right, but getting worked up about these choices won’t affect the other person. It only affects you.
Take a deep breath and remember to be kind. Hate never wins, so love them through their troubles. Hopefully they’ll come around on their own. That’s how alcohol recovery works — the person needs to want it. If they don’t come around, at least you’ll be at peace with yourself. It would suck to stoop to their level and have it backfire.
3. You are not their addiction
In high school, I struggled with the idea that I’d become a certain person because alcoholism was in my blood. And while genetics have proven to be a huge factor for addiction, it doesn’t define you.
I was a mess from excessive partying and drug abuse. I treated people horribly, but I wasn’t really “me.” Today, I’m nowhere near that person now, mainly because I gave my lifestyle a total makeover. Once I rid my thoughts of believing that alcoholism defined who I was, there was a shift in my overall being.
4. Practice forgiveness
I learned this early on, mainly from attending Sunday school at church: In order to free yourself of hateful thoughts, you have to treat others the way you want to be treated. I’m guessing if you really messed up, you’d want to be forgiven, too.
5. Don’t enable
There’s a big difference between being compassionate and being a crutch. It’s hard work to emotionally support and uplift another without draining yourself. That “emotional support” they might need may be disguised as doing a simple favor, but it could end up contributing to the problem — especially if it gives others an excuse to continue bad behavior.
Just be loving to everyone, always, including yourself.
7. Avoid drinking and parenting at the same time
Don’t let this happen. Kids know everything. They see you every day and are constantly observing. They’re innocent and vulnerable and unconditionally loving and will pick up on (and forgive you for) any behavior — good or bad. Set the most insanely loving, nurturing, honorable example you can, all the time.
Children need to see gratitude, especially in the hardest of times. It’s from this that they learn, and they’ll teach their own children the gratitude, thoughtfulness, and love they’ve observed — not necessarily what we think we’ve taught them.
So be gracious. Be thoughtful. Be good.
Lifestyle and mom blogger Samantha Eason was born and raised in Wellesley, Massachusetts, but currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and son Isaac (aka Chunk). She uses her platform, Mother of Chunk, to fuse together her passions for photography, motherhood, food, and clean living. Her website is an uncensored space that covers life, both the beautiful and the not so beautiful. To tune into what Sammy and Chunk get into daily, follow her on Instagram.