The Family Afterwards
It was a Saturday, Saturday 29th April 1994, to be precise and in time honoured tradition I was drunk – blackout drunk. I came to in a hospital Intensive care unit, only I was not in the bed, my beloved daughter was, inert, unconscious and hooked up to machines. The Doctor was explaining that the next 48 hours would determine whether she would live or die
It would be impossible to adequately describe the pain and guilt that overwhelmed at that moment. I knew and so did the medical staff that she was their as a direct result of my drinking and pretty soon my family would know too, my dirty little secret was out for all to know.
The next few days went by in a blur with the beeping of machines and my constant crying as a backdrop to the tragedy that unfurled. My family were devastated, angry and not a little guilty – they had suspected I was drunk and no one had confronted me because I was always so angry. One of my brothers threatened to take her away from me to protect her from me; I knew that were that to happen I would commit suicide. I had longed for the end but would not take my own life as I felt it would be unfair on my daughter. I had even begun to resent her – if it had not been for her I could put an end to the pain of every day living.
So my wonderful, beautiful daughter had been left to cope alone. I love my daughter more than life itself and would have willingly died for her but I could not do the one thing she wanted me to do, stop drinking.
My daughter did survive and just as the big book says she was “…dominated by a pathetic hardness and cynicism… [She} could not seem to forgive and forget” and why should she, she had heard all the promises so many times before? My family did not trust me either, the insisted that I return to the family home so that my parents could take care of Jenny and watch me. How could I blame them for not trusting me? I did not trust me! A few days after my daughter left intensive care my father took me home to shower, get a change of clothes and to institute a search for my hidden cache of alcohol. He supervised as I poured the vodka down the drain. Even as I did so the thought came, unbidden, in to my mind – I can always buy more! What was wrong with me? I could not stop even though I wanted to – I was powerless over alcohol, I could not stop even though I wanted to – I was powerless over alcohol.
I returned to my daughter’s bedside in a state of unremitting despair, to see the same sense of hopelessness reflected in her eyes. How dark it was before the dawn. A nurse approached and suggested I had a problem with alcohol, would I like to see someone? She told me about a colleague, a much respected, highly thought of colleague who also happened to be an alcoholic. Only she had been sober for sixteen years and this she put down to her membership of alcoholics anonymous. So I agreed, of course we know I did not really want to but what choice did I have?
Just like the first meeting of Bill and Dr. Bob this new friend and I talked for hours, she convinced me, she had secured my confidence where no one else could – I experienced the first glimmers of light through the wall of darkness. I had a small amount of hope.
I would love to tell you that my daughter and family shared my enthusiasm but alas, my drinking and countless broken promises had made cynics of them all. As attended meetings and talked endlessly about my spiritual awakening they looked on with a jaundiced eye – who could blame them? My mum was ashamed and embarrassed – she had not brought me up to be a drunk. She also worried – was it somehow her fault? My brothers merely watched and waited for the inevitable fall from grace. My dad stood stoically by me, encouraging me to do whatever it took to ‘make me better’. And my daughter?
Angry, furious, jealous – incandescent with rage. How come I could stay sober because a bunch of drunks, strangers I had only known for weeks when I could not do it for her? Who was this sponsor I seemed to rate so highly? The one who promised me a life beyond my wildest dreams? She would not allow me to ‘find happiness’, she would devote the rest of her life to making me as unhappy as I had made her. Making amends to her was a little challenging!
But I did make amends and she did find it in her heart to forgive me, now when she remembers the past it is not just the drunk times she recalls. She remembers fun and laughter, happy times and exciting if scary moments. We reminisce about the adventurous camping holidays abroad, the two of us in Italy, Greece, France and my awful attempts to speak the language.
On 29th April 2009 I celebrated my 15th sober birthday. For this I owe a loving God and a kind wonderful sponsor who has been at my side in good times and through the certain trials and low spots the big book promises will occur. On 12th July 2009 my daughter celebrated her first wedding anniversary. I wish you could have seen her on her wedding day – she was so beautiful and so happy! Marrying the most wonderful man, I walked her down the aisle and I danced back down the aisle after they were married. My mum said she thought I would explode with joy and pride.
Sadly my Dad died in 2007 but I know he was at her wedding. I was at his bedside when he died and gave the oration at his funeral. He showed me what it was to love unconditionally and lives on in my heart.
Somehow the joy of the wedding seemed to draw to a close a year of mourning my Dad. Mum was nervous about the first big event without my lovely Dad at her side but she really needn’t have worried. My brothers and their families took care of her and my daughters friend flocked around her. One of the friends, an opera singer, serenaded her and another requested that the DJ played her favourite song “You raise me up” whilst a friend of my daughters new husband waltzed her around the floor. There was not a dry eye in the house, watching this six foot something handsome young man dance with my eighty something five foot nothing Mum! Afterwards as I walked my ever-so-slightly tiddly Mum to her hotel room she told me she had not danced with another man since she had met my dad (over sixty years ago!) “What would he think of her?” I told her he would proud of her, as we all were.
I have told you only a little of my life with my family afterwards but I hope it is enough to convince you that whatever problems you are experiencing, it is worth it. The love I share with my daughter and my family, the unadulterated joy she and her husband bring to my life is worth the struggles in the beginning. Alcoholism is a family illness but it is also a family recovery.
Road to Recovery Group of Alcoholics Anonymous Plymouth, Dec 2011