The Sidelines

Life is hard.

Beautiful, exciting, frustrating—but so damn hard.

In one moment, a person is on top of the world, then in the very next, they are at rock bottom, wondering how they got there. And as I walk the path of life, a path unique to me, I experience the highs and the lows. But now that I’m a little older, and maybe a little wiser, I see things through a different lens. A lens experience has given me, which doesn’t make my path any easier or any prettier, but I know that in the end, things work out the way they are meant to.

And yet, as I watch my father-in-law deteriorate from alcoholism, I try to find the meaning, try to find the purpose, and I fail.

Every.

Single.

Time.

Because I can’t understand how something can consume a person so much that they lose sight of what is important. That they say horrid things that destroy their kids’ hearts as it tramples on their souls. And for me, it’s personal, just in a different way. It isn’t my father drowning in addiction, but I see the impact it has on my husband, on my sister-in-law, and those are the arrows that pierce my heart.

And I find myself being angry.

No, not angry, furious. Furious at my father-in-law for the years of pain he has caused. Furious at him for getting drunk on a day of a family barbeque. Furious at him for not knowing his grandchildren. Furious at him for saying he has no regrets when he has been absent from his children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Logically, I know alcohol changes people. I do. But right now, he’s sober. Not because he wants to be, but because the alcohol has stripped him to bare bones. And he’s not grateful for the months his children drove him to and from work in the middle of the night, for the time his daughter spent completing insurance paperwork and making appointments as he battled throat cancer, for them being there when his house burned down.

So here I am, still trying to find the meaning, the purpose.

But I don’t understand how he can say such villainous things when he doesn’t have a drop of alcohol in him. And I wonder if he was always selfish.

Then I remember a time when we sat on a riverbank for hours casting a line into the water, a time when we sat across from one another playing Rook, a time when he would tell a joke just to get someone to laugh. And I wonder if the alcohol has forever changed him… even when he’s sober.

Sadness dampens the anger, and I feel hollow.

Because no matter how much I wish I could give my husband and my sister-in-law a father who is present, a father who cheers them on, a father who encourages their dreams, a father who knows his children… I can’t. Instead, I’m on the sidelines watching the destruction alcoholism has created, and the only thing I can do is be here, be present. And maybe that’s enough.

🍷Alcoholism’s Collateral Damage❤️‍🩹

One bottle after the next is knocked back. Roaring laughter, wide smiles, glazed eyes. Amber liquid sloshes onto the stained carpet, blending in with urine, vomit, and feces. Feet shuffle toward the kitchen. The room tilts, a shoulder slams into the wall. Fingers claw for something. Anything. But there’s nothing. 

Nothing but darkness as everything else fades away.

The next afternoon, the scrawny man with white stubble on his chin lays splayed out on the dirt-stained floor. Someone knocks on the door. No answer. Someone knocks again. Bottles rattle as they skitter across the floor. 

The door cracks open. 

A naked father, covered in nothing but his bodily fluids, shades his red-rimmed eyes with his hand. A son, with his wife and small children walking up behind him, blocks their view.

A planned barbeque destroyed. Family bonds strained. Disappointment clouds the once bright day.  

A decade passes. A decade filled with driving a father to and from work since he can’t drive himself thanks to a DUI. A decade filled with trying to cook for a father who’d only show up drunk. A decade filled with a father asking for money. A decade filled with a father trying to light up a cigarette in his daughter’s car with his grandchild in the backseat. A decade filled with reaching out, with trying to save him, with offering help. But no one can save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.

Time goes on. A grandfather can’t spell his grandson’s name. A grandfather who doesn’t know what his granddaughter likes or dislikes. The grandchildren don’t know him, either. They call him by his given name, because he’s nothing more than a stranger.

A father who calls his grown children – not to see how they’re doing. Not to tell them he loves them. Simply because he needs something.

Alcoholism isn’t victimless. Its dark web entangles its victim as it promises nothing more than a good time. Alcoholism is a jealous mistress who doesn’t like to share. She doesn’t just destroy the poor soul who lives and breathes for the next sip of her nectar. She destroys families.

It’s easy to judge from the outside. To judge the kids for not calling their parent. To judge the kids for not visiting their parent. But when you fight to save a parent who doesn’t want to be saved, there’s collateral damage. Good, kind hearts are hurt over and over again to the point they become numb.

This is what comes with alcoholism. It’s ugly, cold, hurtful. The family members caught in the path deserve compassion and kindness, not judgement and hate.

This is reality.

Ms. Write Life

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