Trying to describe exactly what my children mean to me now is difficult, words never seem to adequately explain just how they make me feel. They are my 5 greatest teachers, we learn about the world, and together we grow.
But it hasn’t always been like that, there was a point in my life where, if I was given the choice between drink and my children, I would have chosen drink… Every time.
Something in my mind screams “you can’t write that”, but I want to be honest, and it’s the truth. I want to try to convey just how someone can reach a place in their life where alcohol seems like the only choice, where the denial is so great, it feels as though there is no choice at all. The act of hesitation before the making of a decision where one finds choice, at times seemed non-existent. Such was the greatness of the delusion to the truth in my mind, it felt as though alcohol made that choice for me. However, not every time I chose a trip to the pub over a trip to the park can I claim such fog of the mind. I had become a deeply selfish and deceitful man and often, very willingly, coherently, and mindfully, chose a night on the booze over being a father. I wish to try to explain how I reached a place where I was that person. In doing so I do not believe it, in any way, frees me from any guilt of the decisions I made. Nor do I believe it lessens the damage or consequences of my actions. My whole life I have known right from wrong and so in all the wrongs I presented, I feel full responsibility to all of them. But today, using brutal honesty of my experience, I hope to help understand the process I went through from innocent child who chose ‘right’ most of the time, to guilty adult who chose ‘wrong’ nearly every time.
I found alcohol when I was around 13 years old and it changed my life. Alcohol worked for me from the very first time I tried it. It saved my life. That’s not something I say lightly, but I am thankful that I found alcohol when I did because it gave me the type of release I needed. My last post on suicide went some way to showing you what I needed release from. I have never drank to ‘loosen up’, from the very beginning, I drank to get right. Alcohol took away the craziness of my mind and made me part of this world. It gave me the connection that had been missing in my life and finally made me feel part of the human race. So I was never someone who’s drinking got out of hand, it was never really in hand. My life was empty and I hated it and myself when I was sober, and when I was I drunk, my life had meaning and I loved it and myself. So for some time, in my mind at least, I had no real reason to be sober at all. I got through the week at school, and eventually college, and drank at the weekends, all weekend! In my young teens it was something that was easy to hide from my parents and there were little consequences to the way I drank. By age 17, it was something everyone was doing, so the way I drank kind of blended in. I was known as someone who likes to have a drink, but so were a lot of people, and it certainly wasn’t viewed as something negative. Though somewhere in the back of my mind I did have the feeling that I drank different to most. I had my first real blackout at the age of 14, and, scary as it was, I found it kind of exciting. Once we started ‘clubbing’, people often spoke of not remembering anything, but then discussed parts of the night. I knew the fact that I often couldn’t remember a single second meant I was perhaps a little more extreme. That said, despite all the worries my mind caused me when sober, I was in no way worried about the way in which I drank. I felt very much in control of that.
3 days before my nineteenth birthday my life changed when my first daughter entered the world. I was catapulted into adulthood in a way not many eighteen year olds, certainly not this one, could comprehend. I now had a mortgage and was responsible for a life!
I remember thinking, when Gracie was born, that that’s it, the party is over. I was desperate to step up to the plate, to be a better dad than my dad was, but I can see now that pretty quickly I couldn’t pull it off.
Denial is a great deal more complex than I believe most people comprehend, or at least it was in my case. A lot of people view denial in its most simplest of forms, the kind of denial I see in my children for example.
“Gracie where’s the remote?”
“I never had the remote dad, never seen it in my life.”
Gracie knows she had the remote, but knows in owning up, she becomes responsible for finding it. So, in spite of what she knows, she consciously denies even having the remote. This was not the kind of denial I had adopted by the time I reached adulthood. Instead denial had become a deep-rooted coping mechanism that I was all but unaware I was even using. Instead the denial, for me, often seemed to take place much further back in my mind and so less consciously.
This coping mechanism, I can now see, was something I had developed as a younger child of an alcoholic. It was something the whole family had used as protection. For example, the morning after a night of drunken chaos, the denial of it even taking place, and eventually the denial of many of my thoughts and feelings. This became a constant battle that got more difficult and complex as I grew up. It sometimes took lies and deceit, but became so ingrained in me that it became second nature.
Denial of my thoughts and emotions from such a young age had severe effects on the way I saw the world. My mind had become a loud hive of noise that became increasingly difficult to ignore, and I had no way of regulating any thoughts, feelings, or emotions. This left me maladjusted to the world that I lived in, and meant that life was unbearable at times. Alcohol seemed the only thing that worked and so naturally took on an important role in my life. I knew my love for my daughter, and eventually all my children, should have been enough to override everything. But I lived a life where I needed drink to even feel that love, let alone cope with, or comprehend it. And so the toxic cycle ensued. Many times I resided to the fact I had a problem, I jumped on the waggon and headed towards being that man. But each and every time I would fall. There were periods in my life where I quite willingly chose to drink instead of stepping up to the plate of being a dad. I was faintly aware the decisions I was making were wrong but I would justify my actions in any which way possible, often fooling no one but myself. But myself was the only person I had to convince, and I could do that pretty easily, and the ‘right thing to do’ was easily batted back into the noise in my head, the technique again so ingrained in me.
My mind was so loud it was unbearable. It was like the constant clanging of every piano key at once, or a radio turned up full blast out of tune. I guess what made that more complex still, was that if that radio flicked into tune, it meant I could start to feel my feelings, and that was a place with which I had never learned to cope. So as unbearable as that noise was, it was working as another protection blanket against me and my feelings. So I was in this almost constant battle where the only winning option seemed to be escape. But I could not run. I had responsibilities.
In my early twenties the man downing drinks and pretending everything was ok, was pretty much exactly the same as the seven year old boy covering his ears and squeezing his eyes shut in attempt to block out reality, while the next morning denying anything had even happened.
The only difference was I was in a mans body and now there were consequences.
There were always glimpses of hope. Sometimes the stunts I pulled caused such bad consequences they shocked me into reality and I seemed convinced of change. I would quit all the drink and start to be a dad. I would to show up to life and could see happiness on the horizon. I would present everyone around me hope, and then snatch it from them as quickly as I gave it. Why? Why would I do it again when everything was falling back into place? I would offer a million excuses, all seeming more and more pathetic the more they were used, the truth was I had no idea. Those times when I could see the pain and the hurt I had caused, the times I caught my children looking at me and I saw myself when I was a boy convinced me I was just evil.
The times when I felt like I was cracking it were the times that baffled me the most, but when I look back today I can see things more clearly. The times when I seemed like I was really doing great, I was simply working as hard as I could at an act. I was playing a role, a coping mechanism in itself. The noise in my head was still there and the denial was working overtime. I was frightened, terrified in fact and I knew I couldn’t last long. My head was loud, my heart was cold, and my stomach was a twisted ball of anxiety wherever I went. I tried, I tried so hard to be happy, but I was only ever playing at it. And so soon enough, there I was, drunk again. The seven year old boy with his eyes squeezed shut and his hands over ears. A cycle that offered no respite and only got progressively worse.
Today is completely and I am a completely new person. In future posts I hope to present how my life to today has come about, and how I did finally change. In itself my recovery has been just as complex as my drinking, and there are lots of questions I still cannot answer with full conviction. But the one thing I can understand is how alcoholism could take someone like my dad, and anyone else, to their grave.
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