I’m sorry I’ve been absent for a while. I took me a while to bring myself to read this letter again and post it here, but as I never got the chance to give it to him, I need to let someone read it because it’s torturing me. Perhaps this will describe my Christmas holidays.
Dad, please read this to the end.
You are breaking my heart. You have a problem which you do not seem to be willing to either acknowledge or try to fix. I cannot understand why you isolate yourself so much; why you alienate yourself to everything around you except for alcohol. I know this will be hard for you to read but you have to accept that the way you think about and act around drink is far from normal and it has completely broken your wife.
If you were to look up the classic symptoms of alcohol addiction on the internet, or in a self-help book, most of them would describe you. I googled it, and one of the first links came up with this:
“When someone becomes dependent or addicted to alcohol, they:
- Develop a strong sense of compulsion to drink
- May drink shortly after waking to reduce feelings of alcohol withdrawal
- Develop a reduced capacity to control how often and how much they use
- Organise their lifestyle around drinking”
Even when you’ve given it up for a few weeks or even months, you are irritable and difficult to be around because you are craving it and it is obvious to me that drinking is dominating your thoughts in every waking moment. I have spent so many weekends where I haven’t seen you sober once because you get up early to down cheap bottles of cider in the garage. Can you imagine what it was like to wake up on a Saturday morning week after week to find you drunk and angry on the sofa? To find my Mam close to tears in the kitchen, avoiding you because she was terrified of your irrational rage, and trying to hold it together for my sake?
We’ve had so many lovely times together which I will never forget. Remember that time when I went with you to get your car M.O.T, and we walked into Consett and had lunch in that cafe? It was called Sandra’s Cafe – we both ordered poached egg on toast. It was a really windy day and you were holding my hat onto my head as we walked along because my ears were hurting in the gale.
I will always remember the times we’ve walked along North Shields pier with Mam after spending money on pointless things at Tynemouth Market – the bags of sweets; the hot coffee in white polystyrene cups; the cold air and your reminiscent stories which always began with ‘when I was a lad…’
You and I laughing at that fat woman with ‘Venice beach’ written across her bum in Ikea. The time that Jenny, you and I were hysterical on one of those disastrous caravan holidays because the word ‘album’ has ‘bum’ at the end of it. Your favourite red work shirt (which was falling apart) that Mam threw out and so we both went in a strop with her. There are so many happy moments which I can look back on and smile.
On the flip side, Dad, I’m also stuck with the painful memories of days when I have had to literally pull you off Mam as you’ve tried to aggressively wrestle her purse from her in a rage. Over the past few years as your drinking has spiralled out of control, I’ve come back from friends’ houses to find her trembling in the kitchen in fear of your aggression. I’ve had to comfort my crying mother and tell her that everything will be okay in the end after you’ve belittled her, yelled at her, sworn at her and left the house in an alcohol-induced temper. I know she’s not the easiest to live with at the best of times, but you have to understand that she controls your money and asks you to stop drinking because you have abused her trust so many times over the years that she is completely shattered and living in fear of the terrifying person you can become when there’s alcohol involved.
I came back from university on the 22nd December; it is now after Christmas I have not seen you sober yet. I know you will deny this to both me and yourself, but I know you – I have lived with you for nineteen years and I can tell by your eyes and your entire demeanour when you’ve had as little as one drink.
Yes, I know, people everywhere drink – it’s a normal and social thing to do. That’s what you’ve been constantly telling us and yourself for years now. But really, is it normal to spend four or five days at a time without a break from drinking? Is it normal to wake up at 6:30 on a Saturday to secretly drink bottles of cheap cider in the garage before your wife and daughter wake up? Is it normal to swear and shout at your vulnerable wife who has just had an operation and can barely walk, as she sits on the floor crying and pleading with you to stop? Is it normal to sleep until four on Christmas day, then leave three hours later to walk the streets, drinking alone? I as good as told you that you’d be walking out of my life if you left me on Christmas day for alcohol. You turned your back and marched straight out of the front door. Of course I didn’t mean it – you are my Dad and you can never walk out of my life, but do you have any idea how it feels to have your father turn his back and knowingly walk away from you for the sake of his addiction?
You have pushed it too far this time. Things are not going to go back to the way they used to be. When we received a call to say you were staying with the Salvation Army for two nights, Mam sobbed on me with relief. She loves you but she has been completely shattered by you. You’ve worked so hard and you deserve every credit for that, but I’d rather have been brought up in happy poverty than suffered the anger and the frustration which your drinking has caused me over the years.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next. We love you, but we cannot live with this compulsion you have any longer. Mam needs time to rest and recover, and she cannot do that if things continue this way.
I’m sorry, Dad. Don’t forget that I will always, always be there for you.