As a child I despised my dad for being drunk. So how could I let the same thing happen to myself? Dad was an alcoholic and spent more time in the pub than with me. So when I realised I had a talent for tennis I pushed myself to the limit.
This will make him notice me, I thought, as I practiced night after night. When I won a championship the first thing I did was rush home, “Look” I said, holding up my trophies, dad did not even give a glance. Eventually I became so demoralised I gave up on my dream of being a sports teacher and took a job on the railways.
At 20….(no drink at this point), I went to stay with my uncle, soon to learn he wasn’t any more sober than my dad. I was still at my uncle’s when my mum rang and said dad had died in hospital whilst undergoing an operation for ulcers. My heart ached for the dad I hardly knew. A few schooners took away the pain and a new numbness became what was to be a way of life for 22 years.
Even after I married my girlfriend, I carried on drinking. We had two daughters but I found the responsibility of being a husband and father too much to cope with. My non relationship with my dad had left me wary of sharing and intimacy. Most nights rather than go home, I’d head for the pub. Naturally this upset my wife. “You’re never home” she complained, “I have to look after the girls on my own, we’re not even a family”. I would get defensive, “I have worked hard, I deserve a drink” I’d say. After three years of marriage, I stopped coming home altogether and my wife sought a divorce. “You don’t need a wife, you need a mother”, she said.
I moved into numerous flats, the days and nights became an alcoholic blur. When sacked I went to my comfort zone……the pub. Rent unpaid, chased by creditors, nowhere to go, I headed for the street living life.
After three more years I went to see my mum. At 27 I knew I was destitute and my mum was always there for me. Seeing me at the door, I sensed her disgust, “What have you become? You have gone and turned into your father”. Her words horrified me (the truth hurts.) Again I found solace in alcohol in the pub. I felt more alone when mum died 9 years later. 6 more years went by.
I stumbled into an ex-friend and when I’d seen him last he threatened to kill me from a situation that occurred in Melbourne many years previous. Again I ran from responsibility, looking for a place to hide. I seen a church based rehab centre (I’d been to 6 other rehabs prior). Stopping to catch my breath from fear, I saw a poster. It read, THERE IS ANOTHER WAY…..somehow it spoke to me. I was 42, I’d lost my family and I was an alcoholic. “Is it too late for me?” I asked the counsellor, “It’s never too late.”
I stayed for 17 days and spent the next 8 months at a work therapy farm in the country. After 6 months I felt ready to see my daughters again (after 15 years). Nervously I picked up a pen. I wrote, explaining my life of the past 15 years. I would like to see them. Everyone needs a father and I feel I have let you both down. Would you like to meet me this Saturday? A letter came back. “We have been waiting for you for 15 years…..we’ll see you when we are ready”, they wrote.
Two months later they agreed to meet me at an inner Sydney railway station. I did no recognise the young women who approached me aged 18 and 20. The conversation was awkward. I was seeing them as little girls. “Want to go for an ice cream?” I asked. “Dad we’re not children anymore”, my daughter said.
Gently, the conversation began to flow, the questions like arrows, piercing and the pain of truth, shameful. We began to communicate and met on a 2 month basis.
I left the work farm after 8 months and became a night supervisor at a church based hostel. For the first time in my life I felt worth something. When people came for help, I’d tell them “it’s never too late to change”. After all I found a different way of living.
Changing me, by God’s grace through a self-help group has allowed me to have a relationship with God, myself and my fellow man in the 22 years of sobriety (successful emotional living).
I have studied for a Diploma in Counselling and still work for the church based centre. A lot of effort is applied to being a father and grandfather. It’s taken a long time for my daughter’s to build trust in me. I am grateful to be part of their lives.