Monday, June 27, 2011

You Can Fight A Person, But You Can't Fight A Bottle

I've seen the long term effects of alcohol on a person first hand. My adopted father (was not in my home, but I have his last name) battled alcoholism from his return from the Vietnam War til the end of his life in 2006.  I did not always understand his situation and did not realize that alcoholism was a disease.  He was the town drunk. I mean everyone knew him as Drunk James.  I can count the times I've seen him sober as a child.  For the longest, I despised him. I, being adopted, felt a void because the man I had as a father was always drunk and I had no personal relationship with him.  My mother, though they had been divorced since the 70s, never said anything bad about him.  She just made it known that he had a problem.  My dad had a heart attack in 2004 which caused him to stop drinking well slow down on it.  During this time we built a relationship.  In the course of this \, I found out my dad was a very intelligent man, he just had inner issues he did not know how to deal with.  My dad was was Valedictorian in high school, had 3 purple hearts and a silver star, and was a green beret in Vietnam.  When he returned home from the war, he came back with many issues.  his use of alcohol was a way of dealing with these things since he did not seek psychiatric help afterward.  Our days together consisted of watching Jeopardy in which he would answer EVERY question.  Even though I was his adopted daughter I felt like I had the closet relationship with him out of my siblings.  I needed a father in my life and my siblings being significantly older than myself had already had  enough.  My mother was happy that me and my father had gained this relationship.  She told me that she was happy I got to know the real him and that Vietnam had changed him a lot.  My mother told me that she never wanted to leave him, but the drinking had become too much.  She stated "You can fight a person, but you can't fight a bottle."  She told me that he had too much pride to get help and that the military at that time was not taking care of it's black Veterans very much.  He had simply been self medicating himself for the past 40 years.

Drinking in the excess he did had done tremendous harm to his body and organs.  He began to deteriorate.  My dad had gotten so sick that he could not leave the house.  He missed my graduation and the pageant I was in.  I, knowing his sickness, did not hold it against him.  A couple weeks after my pageant, while I was a freshman in college, my father was hospitalized.  The veterans hospital that he was in was 20 min away from my university, so I went to visit him.  I remember this day clearly because it was the last time I would see him.  it was pouring down raining and I remember being so determined to get to the hospital.  When I got to his room he was in so much pain.  It hurt me so much to see him like that.  He moaned and groaned the whole time.  I could not do anything to help him and it hurt.  I couldn't even stay long because I couldn't bear to see in that much pain.  I remember crying on the way home.  A few days later, remember not being able to sleep.  My dad was out of the hospital and it had been set up that he receive Hospice.  I laid awake in my dorm room and all I could think about was him.  I sent up a prayer to the Lord asking him to take it in his hands and do what was best.  I let go and let God.

The following morning, my mother called me to let me know that he had passed.  She said that he had died shortly after 12:30am.  Which was about the time I prayed and let go.  I was sad, but also relieved.  I knew that he had been suffering for along time and now he was out of his misery.  I cried for a short period of time, but did not allow it to consume me.  I finished the work I needed to do before going home for his funeral and we laid him to rest later that week.

I tell this story because I often hear many individuals criticize their parents for having a drug or alcohol problem.  We need to realize that this is a disease.  Many people do not know how to deal with life's struggles and events.  When there is an individual with a substance abuse problem, you have to reach out to them.  They do not know how to reach out to you.  This disease can change a person from the loved one you once knew and that may be hard for people to understand.  the best thing we can do is try to get this person to seek help and not support the habit.  I often watch Intervention and wonder how my father would be and if he would still be here if he had those resources back then.  But then, I feel that I would not be able to share my story to help someone who may be dealing with the same kind of problem.

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