FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS
PIECES OF THE PUZZLE
What type of man was your father when you were growing up? According to therapeutic folklore, every choice we make as women, every man we choose to love, stems from our relationship with our father. Whoa boy, if that’s true, then I’m in trouble! How about you? To all the daughters who had caring, nurturing and supportive fathers—congratulations!
To the other 95.9 % of my readers, keep reading.
Don’t get me wrong–I love my dad. I’m not quite sure why, but I think it’s probably quite simple–he’s my dad and I have been able to wring some sweetness from the most bitter of childhood memories even though Dad was a self-centered, angry, paranoid, schizophrenic, insane alcoholic.
He began going to A.A. when I was eleven but he continued to drink.
I was twenty-six and had been recovering from my own alcoholism for about three years when I ran into him at an A.A. meeting and we went out after the meeting for coffee.
Fighting for my own life, I asked him, “Dad, why did you always go back to drinking, after you knew how to stop? Why didn’t you stay sober?”
I’m sure he didn’t think before he answered, “I never thought any of you were worth it.”
His words stunned me. Over the next few weeks, his kindness to my two young daughters removed the sting caused by his uncaring answer.
When I watched him play with his granddaughters, I knew he cared, even if he wouldn’t admit it to himself.
When I was pregnant with my third child, I was in the middle of a painful divorce and still learning to face life with all of its stark reality. My dad had been sober a few months and he was sleeping in his truck. He had a job earning just forty-five dollars a week, but he refused my offer to move in with my kids and me and he would only come in my house to shower and shave.
One day, soon after my son was born, Dad left a note with his weekly gift in my mailbox.
I have saved and treasured that scrap of paper for over thirty years.
In spite of the pain and the scars, I’m glad I can still wring some goodness from my dad’s parenting. I’m grateful to my dad for introducing me to A.A. at a very young age. I respect the attempts he made to stay sober because I know from my own early struggles that there were days when staying sober resembled holding a mountain over my head with one hand tied behind my back. I’m thankful for the few months he was sober with me because he talked to me and he was kind. I loved the portrait he painted of my oldest daughter and I loved sitting at A.A. meetings with him by my side, sober and smiling.
His sobriety only lasted for a few months, but I will always treasure that time.
Sadly, I’ve often wondered what would have become of my dad if Prozac had been on the market forty years ago. He suffered from severe mental illness and treatment in the 60’s and 70’s consisted of Librium and Valium to control his mood swings and possibly calm his rages. (They didn’t.) Being an alcoholic, he became addicted to the drugs. When his craziness overwhelmed him, as it often did, even when he was sober, he would drink.
We know that a father teaches his young daughter how to win the love of a man and if we can’t reach our own dad, much of our adult energy will be drained, trying to rewrite the script and wasting time craving a happy ever after with the men in our lives.
Seeking to earn the love of a man who is psychologically crippled or emotionally unavailable, maybe even abusive, will feel comfortable, familiar. It’s also a dead-end street, a highway to heartbreak, an exercise in futility, etc.
Sadly enough, love doesn’t change people who don’t want to change and as I have learned the hard way, even people who want to change have a fierce struggle with changing.
Sometimes the opposite is true and we enable unacceptable behavior by accepting it and by loving too much. No man or woman is all good or all bad, but as women who grew up with abusive dads, we are so often blinded by our need for love and our longing for approval that we allow the men in our lives to hurt us, emotionally and/or physically.
17 thoughts on “Happy Father’s Day Dad, Where Ever You Are”
A very poignant post-I can relate to this on so many levels and it has made me take another look at my own relationship with my father-thank you-
You are welcome, thank you for commenting and nice to meet you.
What a courageous and moving post~
Thank you so much…
Thank you for this poignant, loving post. A lot of it is so true for me as well. It has been a journey. But hey, I had nothing else planned! 😀
Thank you too for all your ‘Likes’ of my writings. All the best!
Thank you. It’s easy to like your posts!
Plus, thank you for pointing out that I needed to make my email address more visible!
And I Thank You! Have a wonderful weekend:D
I am sure my adult children have a similar question for me, not about sobriety, but about my co-dependency and toxic relationship with the father of my youngest child.
I can imagine how hurtful and damaging his answer was. I’m glad you found the good things to glean from the experience of being his child.
For myself, growing up without my father and an inconstant father figure in place, I’m still really uncertain of which script I’m trying to rewrite – most likely my mother’s.
I have tried so many times and methods over the past two plus decades to change, do better, and be different: therapy, recovery/12 steps, and spiritual interventions, yet, I continue to find myself in repeated cycles and patterns. Finally, at 44 I’m slowly seeing internal progress. The externals are slower to follow.
Thanks for sharing this part of your journey and for finding my blog. It’s good news to see someone farther along this journey, it shores up hope to keep trying.
Hi Kina, e-mail me and I will send you a copy of my e-book, Women Who Think Too Much, A No Help At All Handbook. I don’t know if I am any further on my road to recovery. I would think that my own kids would disagree and I am 59. I tell my kids and my granddaughters that I am at least a great example of what not to do.
I do face my past with brutal honesty and challenge my on-going codependency head-on, but I still struggle every day to hold on to me, to find out who I am, to set up boundaries.
I too have done all the things you mentioned in seeking answers. All we can do is start over every morning and keep trying.
I have freed myself in a large degree by publishing my book. Read my post “Hi Mom, This Is Me.” You might also enjoy “The Bobbsey Twins, Dad and Me.”
I am honored to join words with my fellow seekers, thank you for taking time to write to me. I’m so happy to meet you,
I re-posted the two articles so you would be able to find them.
Thank you so much! I will try to do that, however, I am currently without an actual computer and internet connection that I can do that with. I’m pretty much doing most of my online writing using my phone.
Also, I wasn’t able to locate your email address. You can email me at humaninrecovery at gmail dot com.
I will email you the book and if you can’t download and read, I will resend when you can!
You are a trooper…my father wasn’t abusive, but he was absent even when he was physically present. My mother was the abusive one. I live far from them both, and my love for them a distant shadow. You are braver than me.
Great post, close to the bone, but honesty is the best way to deal with such things.
Thank you…I haven’t seen my dad in thirty years. By his choice, he hasn’t seen anyone in the family. Perhaps his greatest kindness of all. I don’t know if it involved braveness, just a deep desire to find something good in a man who terrified me when I was growing up.
Thank you for this honest, painful, beautiful post. I really admire your ability to wrest some good from your bad memories; that’s the ultimate tribute to your Dad.