I've always wanted my dad to be someone else. I'm sure every child has imagined their life with different parent(s) in a moment of anger- but when you're the child of an addict, it tends to be more than a fleeting thought; it becomes something of a daydream, actually.
Eventually, though, these thoughts and resentments are replaced with acceptance and appreciation.
As you enter adulthood and start making a life for yourself, separate from your parents', it seems easier to approach the "grown-ups" in your life with a greater sense of perspective and, therefore, understanding. You've now faced losses, have had to make some of the life-changing decisions that send some on a path to addiction, and have been exposed to certain environments that act as breeding grounds for addictive personalities and people prone to distress and deviated behavior.
Overall, you've seen more of the world; you know first-hand how hard it can be to experience, and why some people find any means of escape. I've always wanted my dad to be someone else- until I realized he taught me a lot about myself, the world around me, and the choices everyone must make at some point.
Until I was about 11 or so, I spent my summers months in Santa Cruz, California, where my father lives. I always arrived and left happy enough, but often dreaded the middle part of the trip. It wasn't all bad, of course: I had other family to see, frequent trips to the beach and boardwalk, and a lot of fresh seafood to eat. But many afternoons and evenings, my father was drunk. Very drunk. He would drive me drunk, he would leave me with strangers while he went to the pub to get drunker and when he was around, would hover over me like a sad, lost puppy. Sometimes I didn't understand, but when I did, I was heartbroken for him; I pitied him, even. His mother died when he was very young, and he grew up in Wales, where it was more common to start drinking at a young age, so he didn't really have anyone to urge him against it as relief from the grief he felt. His father, to make matters worse, was often fairly cold and distant.
My father, in retrospect, didn't stand much of a chance. Instead of a loser, or weak-minded and hopeless, I see him now as a product of his environment. I've come to appreciate that lots of people don't have access to the resources I do, or have people available to them that help, and not hinder, their personal growth. I recognize that he's made the choices he's made, good or bad, but have also learned that almost every one of them has absolutely nothing to do with me. In fact, I know he wishes he hadn't made some of them, if only for my sake. Instead of regretting the time I've spent with him like I used to, I appreciate that he even made time for me and that in his self-awareness, he has always allowed me the room to feel anger, grief, and frustration. Even if it was towards him.
Flash forward to more recently, when I learned that growth is not linear. It is not always easy, or helpful, to apply things you've learned in the past to new situations. This became more evident for me not long after Christmas a few years ago. A couple days prior, my dad had come to Washington for the holidays (because we concluded that he'd been sober for long enough to deserve a visit) and we were in downtown Seattle with my aunt and cousin just walking around. Apparently, he hadn't been as sober as long as he'd said, because he went into withdrawal in a small shop on the waterfront. He fell to the ground, and all I'd heard was the crash as his head hit the floor full-force. He laid there, seizing and unaware until the EMTs came for him. And I stood there, still and too aware, until my cousin pulled me to the back of the store.
This wasn't the last time this happened. It happened the next Christmas, too. Different place, fewer people, but it all looked and felt the same. I was disappointed for a long time that he couldn't keep sober for longer than a couple months. It seemed like every time he would make progress, he would fall off the wagon soon after. I started to see a pattern, though. Each time he failed, it became easier for him to put himself back together, and the periods between his failures would shorten in length. Apparently, the idea that growth is not linear did not just apply to me.
Every time I become resentful, or impatient with him, I remind myself that progress has dips and peaks, and is a process like anything else; he deserves, at the very least, the benefit of the doubt. Without it, he wouldn't have much to work towards.
I'm nineteen now and haven't spoken to my dad in months. Every time I do, I feel guilty and an impending sort of melancholy. Last time we spoke I was in Santa Cruz and it was in person; he was still drinking. I thought for sure it would be my last time with him, so I cherished it and tried to walk away with closure. Since that visit, I learned the most important thing of all: I am not obligated to give him my time or attention, nor should I feel guilty about keeping it from him, because it is not, and never has been, my job to keep him on the straight and narrow.
I am the child and, most of all, my own person. If I decide to call him, it is because I want to, and not because I feel I have to. If I call him, it will be because of all he's taught me and all he still has yet to.