Sunday, May 31, 2009


Ben took my hand in both of his as he said,"When your father admits he has no power over alcohol, he can be helped. Until that happens, you will have a very difficult time ahead. You may have to watch him destroy himself."

I had to give Ben credit. He was right. In a few weeks, most likely before, Dad was drinking again. Now, oddly it seemed he could no longer hold his liquor. My sweet gentle dad had become an obnoxious drunk. His speech became vulgar and crude. His gentle nature took a cruel turn. I no longer even liked this man when he drank. I felt so sorry for my step mom who couldn't leave like I could at the end of the day. She joined Al-Anon to help cope. The spouse of an addict needs all the love they can get. It is an almost impossible life.

Ben and Al Anon both suggested that we not enable him by accepting his behavior. We should set boundaries and stick to them. As I was living in a different town at the time, I told Dad I did not want to be around him when he drank and would leave if he started. My visits became shorter and fewer. My heart was breaking.

Dad was having a terrible time and it wasn't until he drove his car into a canal that he finally realized he needed help. That was the magic bullet. He was a man proud of his intellect but finally realized, he was no match. While he had already done several brief, unsuccessful, "dry outs" in various hospitals when he would get sick, but it wasn't until he committed to a 6 week stay in a 12 step hospital did he reach sobriety. Finally we got the sweet, kind man back.

My own abstinence was also taking a toll on my life. I quit drinking with no apparent difficulty. All I had to do was never take the first drink for once I started, I would not quit till I was unconscious. Fortunately at that time I had no "need" to drink, just the inability to stop. How far I was from the "need" stage, I will never know.

Ben had warned me and I felt it full force about feeling your personality comes out of the bottle. My confidence levels dropped out of sight. and I became quiet and withdrawn. I felt that my personality truly was in a liquid form. With out it, I was a dud conversationalist and an uncomfortable dancer. No longer Party Patti.

Now as a sober person, I did not enjoy being around drinkers. Not only for my new found shyness, but for the fact that I didn't like people very much when they were intoxicated. I had quit smoking the year before and was getting the reputation of being a royal pain-in-the-butt- prude with my abstinence.

Dates without drinks were stilted at best. I was not having much fun any more. Now, guys needed to be non drinkers as well as non smokers. The field was really getting narrow. I still went to parties but I found I was leaving earlier and earlier before things got really going. I missed my fun times a lot.

While I never attended meetings, I did lean on Ben quite a bit and he let me, thank God. I made him my personal chapter. One thing I learned was that nothing is too hard to bear if we know we are not alone. I was comfortable around Ben. He gave my feet a place to rest as I tread water.

Eventually, I did what most addicts do. I listened to my friends and tested myself.
"You are not an alcoholic." they would say. "You never drank alone did you?" they would ask. "You never missed a days work." they would argue. "You just sometimes got really drunk." they reasoned. I started buying the logic for I really missed having fun in my life. I missed my friends.

I had agreed to meet several friends to watch a special movie on TV. This would be a test in a controlled, easy environment. I picked up a few 6 packs of beer ( my casual beverage of choice) and opened my first one in 5 months. It was cold , delicious and went down quickly. As I drove, I opened another one and it went down just as quickly. The slight buzz warmed me. I felt my old personality coming back so I started a third. My friends were thrilled to see the drink in my hand when I arrived, for it meant I was one of them again. A few actually cheered.

I continued to inhale my drinks that evening and soon my memory was gone but I was still functioning (or so I was told). I was up right and conscious but no longer aware of anything. I don't recall any of the movie. Another black out. When I came to on their couch the next day, four words were burned in my mind."I am an alcoholic."

After the hang over cleared, I repeated those words to Ben. I realized I had to make some changes. I could not control alcohol. I was aware that I would most likely have to give up my friends even though some of us went back 15 years.

"How well do you like them when you are sober and they are not?"Ben asked.

"Not much." I had to admit.

Not long after that, I was offered a transfer to an office in another city about 100 miles away. I took it knowing I knew no one in that new town. It would give me a fresh start but wasn't so far away that I couldn't still see my family.

Dad and I both started drawing only sober breaths. It was nice not having large portions of my life a huge blank. Suddenly there were 16 hours in a day that I was totally aware of that weren't accompanied by a splitting headache or sick stomach. Life was good and my non liquid personality found its way to the top once more.

Dad had always told me that he would never drink again unless he found out he was terminal. Many years later when we were visiting, Dad told me had been having back pain. The doctor said he had prostate problems. Then he said in an off hand manner that the doctor had said it was all right for him to take a sip of beer every now and then to help with the pain. He held my eyes with his as he said it.

Dread shook my soul. Though he never told any one else the seriousness of his diagnosis, he was telling me in his own way that he knew he was dying. It was cancer and it took him in a matter of months.

His genes may have given me a tendency for addiction. His strength was in those same genes and they gave me what it took to become free. That was 35 sober years ago.

That was the best gift ever that a father could give. Thanks Dad. I miss you so.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I really enjoy your writing and am especially enamored by it. I like to write, as you know, and have come up with a blog where I can write some of my stuff. You'd be one of the first to see it.

    You probably remember when people lived and died at home and endured wakes. Life and Death

  3. Patti, I think you for sharing this. I was never close to anyone who had alcohol problems to the extent that you and your dad did, although my ex-son-in-law came close. I cannot imagine you being shy and withdrawn, since you are the opposite of that in your writing.

  4. See how good your writing is? You made me forget what I came here to tell you!! LOL

    That part about the drag queens - you were right. I was wondering how good they could make me look!!

  5. you have a real talent in expressing your thoughts...
    i enjoyed it very much.....

  6. Such a touching and deeply heartfelt post, patti. I'm glad your father recovered and had his fine good life back before he lost his battle with cancer. He really did leave you with the best gifts.

    Your writing and your obvious joy of life is testimony to your inherent happiness and spirit.

  7. I fixed it Patti if you want to return and leave a comment.

  8. Abe,
    Thank you. I also enjoy your posts, the new post Life and Death on your "Bing It" site is really good and interesting. Can I use "Bing It, in front of church go'ers? Glad you fixed the comments, I tried earlier.

    My "shy and withdrawn" was only in comparison to "rowdy and outgoing" that alcohol encourages and inflates and in whom only those equally bombed can appreciate.
    Let me know if you find a Queen willing to share secrets.

    Femin susan,
    Thank you so much for your kind comment. I have checked you site and am very impressed. I will definately make the trip to India as often as you post.

    Thank you so much as always for your support. It was not an easy post to click "Publish." I guess when you survive a dark place, the sunshine is so much brighter.

  9. Thanks for this post

    My husband's father (FIL) was in my eye an alcoholic. The family was poor by any standard, but he made it poorer. They all chopped tobacco in S.C. and were paid weekly, I guess on Friday evening or Saturday morning. FIL's first stop with paycheck was source of his liquor, some of which was moonshine.

    One year Santa Claus did not come because FIL bought liquor instead of making final lay-away payment. He quit cold turkey when his wife was dying of cancer. How sad.

    My husband seemed to follow suit and being single in the Navy aided and abetted. When I married him I was horrified at the amount he could consume. I drank beer and wine a tad in college but my addiction was food. I finally told him I didn't have to live that way as I could make my own way. He knew it and quit cold turkey, too. That was over 40 years ago.

    Now I am left to conquer my own addiction.

  10. Hi Patti, I've just read all three episodes (I thought I'd better wait until after the kiln firing). I am so pleased that you wrote all that. It can't have been easy to put some of it into words, and I hope that your honesty will be a real help to someone. It was good that your dad did make it back again (and you too!).

    One of my tutors at art school was alcoholic. He was a good painter, and someone that I think understood me and tried to encourage me. It was terribly sad though, because most of the time, the talent, warmth, humanity, and intellect that he had inside him were hidden and almost past the point of being retrievable. Occasionally a little jewel would surface, but most of the time, he was brutish and boorish, and more than a little drunk. He died a couple of years after I left art school, I suspect he was only in his late 40s or early 50s. A minor injury to his foot killed him, as his immune system was so compromised by all the drink, that he couldn't fight the blood poisoning that followed the injury.

    Thank you for your wise words and thoughtfulness. Peter.

  11. nitwit
    That was really neat that your husband quit for you. Rare indeed.
    I have my own struggles with food. It is a war I will fight till the end I fear unless they develope a pill that makes food taste bad.
    We can only hope.


    Such a waste of talent for your tudor and such a short life. I am surprised he held a job since he didn't even try to hide his problem.
    Usually if you can sober up an obnoxious drunk you will find a sweet soul. Such a waste.

  12. Patti---You need to write a book. You have so much to say to others in the same situation. Your Daddy probably never knew that he gave you a great gift. WOW--what a story and congrats to you for 35 sober years!!!!

    Hugs----LoTS of hugs,

  13. Thank you Betsy.
    Actually Dad and I did discuss it one day when we talked about genes and heriditary alcoholism. I thanked him then for the many good genes he gave me. So glad I had the chance.

  14. Patti, It takes a special person to put forth the effort to do such a series of posts. You have helped more than you could possibly know. Blessed Be.

  15. Thanks for the visit, Patti. I was referring to financial security and while my husband may be rabid at times, he's no threat to anyone (since the stroke)....LOL

  16. Brighid,
    Thank you, I can only hope so.

  17. What a wonderful story this is Patti....I know and have known many alcoholics through the years...Saw them be falling down drunk or just on another plane then me...and saw them go to AA and become sober and 'dry'....It is really fantastic to see this transformation....And I've been at meetmgs a number of times with friends when they were getting a "cake"....I also attended Al Anon Meetings way back in the mid to late 1960's...A Brother-in-Law had a problem at that time....I think AA is a great great organization---BRAVO to you for seeing that you had a real problem with Alcohol and addressing it head-on, and your father, too. Very touching the way your father let you know he knew he was dying....!
    And that you all were able to help Penny....Beautiful, my dear!

  18. Thank you so much Naomi for taking the time to read this. I feel I am very lucky to have been able to catch my alcoholism before the "need" to drink consumed me.
    You have seen the effects of alcohol in your travels and know that sweet people often are hidden in the drunken mess. I wrote a difficult story hoping that someone might see themselves in my story and seek help. When you make it out, you have a strong desire to help someone else get a toe hold.

  19. Been meaning to read this ever since you linked it in one of your newer posts.

    I can't understand what you would've gone through but I had a lump in my throat. I lost an uncle recently as he never gave up his addiction. Sorry about your father. If he's reading blogs in heaven, he would be so proud of you:)

  20. Thank you for reading that series Lost. It was not an easy post to write but I did it hoping someone might be helped.
    I am so sorry about your Uncle. It is a very hard addiction to over come. I have a BIL right now who is struggling with his health because of his addiction. Sober, he is the finest man on the planet..drunk, you don't want to be near him.