Alcohol Took My Dad From Me Twice
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Alcohol Took My Dad From Me Twice

But how do you help a sick man who doesn't want to be cured?

Alcohol Took My Dad From Me Twice
Katie Huggler

What you're about to read is something I finally got brave enough to get off of my chest. The weight of the entire situation sits on my body and mind, weighing me down, every single day. So, I believe it is time for me to share. I'm writing this article so that a reader, friends, my family, whoever can see the cold, hard truth about alcohol. It affects not only the drinker, but everyone around them.

My dad was a great, great man. Let me rephrase that. My sober dad was a great, great man. The saddest part about that statement is that I never really knew my sober dad. I knew him remotely, mostly from memories of my early childhood. He taught me how to draw, he was the reason I fell in love with music and sports, he helped me be creative with art, he encouraged me to do well in school and most importantly, he showed his love for me all the time. I knew my dad the most through the stories I heard about him. Everywhere we went together, someone knew my dad. He was well liked, he was fun, he was charming, he was always cracking a joke and people always had stories about the good times. I was really proud to call him my dad.

Then everything changed. My dad started drinking more heavily. I remembered always going on truck rides with him to the beer distributor. The cause of the drinking could have been a lot of things, but either way, it led to worse things. My parents started to argue – not just the arguing where you yell back and forth a few times – it was an emotionally abusive type of arguing. They argued, and it was horrible to watch and horrible to listen to. That's when I tried to become the mediator, the one who would fix it, the one who would break up the fights. It always just ended up with me in the middle (literally, once I got hit with hot coffee), but that's where I felt like I could make the biggest difference. It's funny, looking back now, because the middle is a place I've never really left.

The fighting between my parents was too much. They couldn't stand each other, and I honestly couldn't stand them together. There were no more good times, only bad. I knew the problem had something to do with my dad, but at that point in time, in my young, middle school mind, I could not pinpoint the issue to the aluminum cans I had to recycle in bags every week. So, I begged my mom to leave. It was not fair for her to stay and put up with the emotional abuse just for the purpose of staying. It took a lot of convincing, but she finally left my dad. I was happy she was going to get away from it all, but I couldn't leave with her; there was too much to leave behind. My little and brother and I decided to stay in our childhood home with our dad. We loved it there, we loved our school district and we just weren't ready to give all of that up. My mom and I also really believed things would change for the better, and my dad would clean his act up.

All I can say is ha. I actually laughed out loud right now typing this. I was so naive. As soon as my mother moved out, my dad's drinking got worse. Now, when he was belligerent at 9 p.m., and my mom was not there to take it out on, who would he project his anger onto?

Surprise. It was me. And I was stuck. Again. In the middle. This is when what I refer to as the "blame game" began. Everything and anything under the sun, was my fault. My mom leaving? My fault (Ok, actually kind of, but I would have never had begged her if he was not a drunk). The electric bill a little bit higher than normal? My fault. The house a mess? My fault. His bad day? My fault. The list goes on and on. I am not exaggerating when I say that to him, I was the root of all the problems.

I did not know how to feel. I felt weak. I felt angry. I felt broken. I felt powerless. I felt useless. I felt lost. But somehow, I still felt like I could fix it. Like maybe, my dad still cared about me enough to listen to me. So, I argued back. I always argued back. I don't know if anyone has ever argued with a drunk person before, but I think it's fair to say it's about as easy as trying to argue with a brick wall; it just does not work. It would start as soon as I got home from school, practice or a friend's house. I would try to get home as late as possible, so maybe he'd be asleep, but he usually wasn't. I'd try to sneak in so he wouldn't hear me, but he'd be up, waiting to accuse me of something I never did. It was endless. I tried to ignore it, to not argue back, but sometimes, you just get fed up, and you give in, and we would scream back and forth, and no matter what was said, I was always the one who ended up hurt.

Words. Words hurt me more than any physical harm my dad ever inflicted on me (which wasn't often, but it did happen a few times). It was the words that haunt me still to this day. It was the horrible names he called me. It was the "blame game." All of the words, I would hear them every day, even if I wasn't home. He would leave me a voicemail if I didn't pick up the phone, and I started just deleting them before I even listened if they came in after 8 p.m. because I knew they'd say nothing important, just hurtful words and venom in his voice. My drunk dad never knew how much his words hurt me. I fought so hard, internally with myself, to make sure I understood the things he said were not true, but after so much, you start to believe it. I started to think maybe everything was my fault. I thought maybe I was useless. I was dumb. I was a "dumb, loser bitch." I was not important to anyone. I was never going to amount to anything. Words. His words destroyed a part of me. I have never forgiven myself for letting my drunk dad get to me, but I also don't forgive myself for some of the words I said to my drunk dad because I hoped that somewhere deep inside of him, my sober dad was listening.

My dad was sick for a long time. When you tell people that someone is sick, they assume cancer, or something the person had no control over, something tragic. It's hard to say, "Yes, my dad is sick, but he made himself sick." I remember being in about seventh grade when the doctors told my dad he needed to quit drinking or his liver wouldn't be able to support him for another six years. Crazy because he didn't stop. If anything, he drank more. So yes, he was sick, but how do you help a sick man who doesn't want to be cured? I tried so, so hard to get to him. I needed him to see the magnitude of the situation. I showed him articles on liver failure, personal stories of people who suffered but made it through. I showed him statistics and videos and documentaries, and none of it worked. I would dump his beers out. We would fight, and I would just go out to the cooler and dump every single one out onto the pavement and hope he wouldn't be able to afford another case, but he always did. Sometimes, we wouldn't have food in the fridge, but there was always beer in his cooler. I reached out to my family, some family who I knew he cared about more than me, so maybe he would listen to them. I don't even know if they tried. I talked to his friends. I called programs to contact him, and they would call and he would tell him to "Leave me the fuck alone." My dad had an addiction. Alcohol won. It beat me, it beat him, it won.

And so, I lost my Dad for the first time once he had no interest in me other than to use his hurtful words. I lost him when he didn't care about himself enough to care about me and my family. I didn't lose him physically, but I lost him. I mourned the loss of a father figure in my life. The one that I did have, I didn't want. And so, we just coexisted in the same place, but he wasn't my dad anymore. He was just a man. He didn't attend my sport events, my dance competitions, he never took pictures with me before school dances, didn't comment on my good grades, didn't even say goodbye to me before I left for college. My "dad" didn't exist to me anymore, and it was hard for me to let go of the thought that my sober dad was still in there somewhere, but I was tired of fighting for something I'd probably never get back.So, I mourned him, and I let him go.

While I was away at college, I didn't talk to my dad much. He didn't reach out to me, I had to call him first, and when I would call, it would last maybe about two minutes, and we didn't talk about anything real. I came home for holidays, faked like everything was OK and went back to my life at school where I could escape everything. My first summer home from college, I stayed at my dad's for less than a month before I moved out to a friend's house for the summer because of the way he was treating me. I didn't feel the need to put up with it anymore. I was done fighting with him and for him. I had no more energy.

It was late February during my sophomore year of college when I got a phone call from my little brother. He called and said my dad had gotten hurt at work, and he was really worried about him. My dad did construction, and he had this bad habit of working on big projects by himself and doing things that should be done with other people around just in case something went wrong. I always warned him about this, but surprise, he never listened. So, I called my dad, and when he answered the phone, my heart sunk. He sounded out of breath, he sounded weak and he sounded broken. He told me he fell off a ladder. I begged him to go to the hospital, and he said no. I begged again, he said he'd be fine, and I hung up. I called my siblings and my aunt to have them call him or check on him or whatever, I knew something wasn't right.

I came home that weekend, and he had apparently went to the hospital. He was mad he couldn't work, he was in pain and he looked horrible. I knew he felt bad because he was wearing sweatpants; my dad didn't even own a pair of sweats, he always wore solely blue jeans, so he must have bought them because he was so uncomfortable. I asked him what the doctor said, and he said he had a few bruised ribs and a bruised lung. From what I could see, his side was swollen, and they had a drain bag hooked up to him for what he said to "drain the fluid out of his lungs." I didn't even second guess it at the time because who would lie about an injury. So, I stayed that weekend, and we barely talked, and it was peaceful, until Saturday night rolled around, and he asked me to get him a beer. No way was I going to get him a beer. And so, we argued. One of the last things I said to my dad that night was, "Don't think that I'm going to feel sorry for you when this shit kills you." I left that night, and I didn't know it would be one of the last times I'd see or speak to my dad outside of a hospital bed.

I went back to school that week and got a phone call late one night from my sister. My sister and I text sometimes, but phone calls this late? Never. My heart sank, and I answered the phone, and I could hear the tears in her voice. "Dad's in the hospital," she choked out. She went on about how it's his liver and that it doesn't look good, and I talked to her for a little and just hung up and sat there in my room, and I remember not being able to cry. I remember just feeling absolutely numb. This was it. The inevitable was happening. All those nights when I'd come home late and check into his room while he was sleeping to make sure he was still breathing because I was afraid he'd drink himself to death, all those nightmares about the pain he'd experience, all of those thoughts were coming true. I wasn't ready. As much as I had already accepted it would happen, I wasn't ready.

That night, they removed pounds and pounds of fluid from my Dad's liver. The picture that was sent to me, I'll never forget. They said his stomach was the size of two watermelons. My dad was the strongest man I've ever met; he cut his fingers off accidentally with a saw and didn't even shed a tear. So, when the doctors said it was amazing his liver lasted that amount of time and that my dad survived all that pain, I wasn't surprised. He was also the most stubborn man in the world, and he'd fight it as long as he could; he passed that stubbornness onto me.

They transferred him to a bigger hospital the next morning, and I got there late that afternoon. I had already talked to my older brother and sister who said he looked bad, to be prepared. My aunt told me that when people would go in, they would cry with him. It was really emotional in there, and I was prepared for that. When I got there, his room was full of people. There wasn't even room for me to go in, so I had to wait. Full of people who I had barely seen in years, but who were there now, so that was all that mattered, right? People were supporting him now. I couldn't help but wonder, where were all these people when he could have been helped?

I finally got to go in the overly crowded room. I could see his feet on the bed, his legs, but his upper body and face were behind a curtain. As soon as I could see his face, and his eyes met mine, my dad's face went blank. His face got red, his eyes dropped down and he could not look at me. I stared at him as my eyes teared up and my lips pursed out like they do when I'm mad, and I knew it then, my sober Dad had heard me all along. All those nights of me begging for him to stop because it would catch up to him. All those times I dumped the beer out and told him it would kill him. And most importantly, the most recent, probably the worst thing I've ever said to him when we argued, that I wouldn't feel sorry for him, I knew he heard it. Not once, in my entire life, had I heard the words "I'm sorry" come from my Dad's mouth. But the fact that he could not even bare to look at me, was an apology enough. I know he was guilty. I know he was sorry. I just feel horrible that it took hitting rock bottom so hard that he would never be able to get back up to realize what he did.

He was hopeful that he'd get better. He made jokes to the nurses, he smiled to us and cracked jokes about his roommate, all typical of my dad. He even said, "I'm never going to touch that stuff again." When he said that, I had to put my hands in my head and I cried. Those are the only words I'd ever wanted to hear come out of his mouth, and now, it was too late. It was entirely too late.

Turns out, that "work accident" where this all began wasn't real. There were no bruised ribs or bruised lung or whatever. The nurses were moving him the one day, and I told them to be careful with his ribs, and they told me there were no rib bruises mentioned in his medical history. I should have known. My dad's liver started to fail that week, and he was in denial, and he tried to hide it. He was an alcoholic and a pathological liar, and I know it probably wouldn't have saved him, but I couldn't help but wonder if he would have had a chance if he would have admitted what was really happening. But there was no point in thinking about the "what if," there never really is.

The next few days were the worst. He deteriorated. A big, strong man became skinny and frail. Comfort care was barely keeping him comfortable. He was medicated so heavily that he was basically asleep, he couldn't talk to us. When your liver has completely failed, the rest of your organs start to go, you develop pneumonia and a blood infection, I guess you're going to feel pain. In Pittsburgh, my siblings and I were in the room with him, and he kept flailing his arms around and moaning, and my brother was like, "I don't know why he keeps doing that." I laughed because I realized I was the only one in the room who would probably know. I said,"He does that when he's pissed. He used to throw his arms up at me all the time when he'd yell at me. He's mad, he's in pain, he needs more meds."

I held his hand as much as I could those last few days when he couldn't talk. I begged God to take him, so he wouldn't suffer anymore. I apologized for everything, for not being able to save him, and I told him I loved him. I just hope he heard me.

I lost my dad for the second time on March 3, 2016. This time was surprisingly a lot less hard for me than the first time. He wasn't there physically, which made it easier to accept him and everything that happened emotionally. Maybe it was because I knew it was coming, or maybe it was because it was almost peaceful that there wouldn't be any more suffering on his end. My dad was sick. Alcoholism is a disease, and it's a disease that took my dad from me – twice. I am so thankful that throughout the entire situation, good and bad, he made me a stronger person. I am wise. I am emotionally stable. I am stubborn. I am independent. I am a great arguer (when I need to be). I know when to walk away. I am educated. I am confident. And I owe all of that to both of my dads – the drunk one and the sober one.

When I was the last one to leave his room on one of the last nights he could still talk, I didn't know it then, but the last thing my dad would ever say to me was, "I love you, too." I remember laughing when he said it because it sounded so weird to me. I really never heard it. Out of all the words my dad ever said to me, I'm going to make sure those are the words I remember the most.

Here was my request to Facebook after my dad's passing, and I'd like to share it with you as well:

"I am overwhelmed and extremely thankful for the thoughts, prayers and sympathy my family and I have received thus far regarding my father's illness and passing. I've gotten asked so many times what I need or what I want... and so here is my only true wish for anyone who wants to help me.

Love yourself. Take care of yourself. Take care of your body. Take care of your mind. Respect yourself.

Because you are a part of someone else's life in some way, shape or form.

You must realize that everything you do affects the people around you - especially the people who care about you. Addiction in any form, whether it be alcohol, nicotine, drugs, etc., is not only hurting YOU, YOUR BODY & YOUR FUTURE, but it is hurting the people who need you.

Nothing hurts worse than feeling (or knowing) you are second behind an addiction to someone who is supposed to be putting you first. So PLEASE, if you have a bad habit.. take a moment to think of yourself and what the future holds for you if you continue to do what you're doing. It's destructive in all aspects. There is help for you if you need it. There are other options. You don't have to go through it alone. Please, no one deserves to suffer through an illness like I watched my Dad suffer through. It was so terribly sad.

So quit drinking. Quit smoking. Stop - because you matter and people love you.
& If there is someone in your life who has a problem - try to get them help. Beg them to get help. Be persistent, but be patient. Addiction is an illness and you must understand that. Sometimes there is no turning back.. but you'll never know if you don't try.
This is all I could possibly ask for during this hard time.

I'll miss you, Dad. I'm sorry for all our disagreements, but we both know I got my stubbornness from you. I wish I could have helped you, but I know you're at peace now, and that's all I ever wanted. I'll love you always."

Helpful numbers to call:

The Addiction Network: 800-853-2409

National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Alcohol Abuse Hotline: 1-877-959-7812

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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