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A parent who drank a lot

Posted by Dinah on February 10, 2005, at 19:33:11

I'm not sure where this post belongs any more. But since it originates with therapy I'll post it here.

I brought my therapist the belt buckle from the belt that belonged to Daddy and that Mother used to threaten me with, and occasionally hit me with. It was always such a menacing looking belt to me. It had a western buckle with a bird on it (my therapist says it is a thunder bird, which was curiously apropos given what I had told him before he let me know that). I would go in the closet and look at it sometimes, and even hanging from the belt hangar it seemed powerful and dangerous.

As I was talking about Daddy in those days, and the belt, it became obvious that I was using the same terms. My Daddy was a brooding intense sort of man. The Dylan Thomas/Montgomery Clift sort of man. He seemed to carry a thundercloud over his head, and although he never hurt me in any way, I was more afraid of him than mother, who did (although not any more than was average in that time period). It wasn't until my brother defied him that I realized you could do that without being struck dead by a bolt of red lightning from that ominous thundercloud.

I figured that Daddy drank a lot not only because of his job and my mother, but to tame that cloud. It worked somewhat. He was much more mellow when he drank before he had to stop for health reasons.

My therapist was trying to help me see what a large role my father's drinking played in my life. Daddy told his doctor that he probably drank five drinks a night on average, and that agrees with my recollection. My therapist was trying to get me to remember how much different Daddy was when I saw him and he wasn't drinking. I told him there was no such time. He came home and started drinking. He drank all weekend. If we went somewhere in the car, he'd bring his little cooler full of beer in the car with us. I could probably count on one hand the times he was actually drunk, usually after parties, but he drank all the time.

And his friends and relatives drank, and most of them got drunk. They were unpleasant to be around when they drank, except for one friend who I liked a whole lot drunk or sober. I have a fair number of unpleasant memories of his friends and relatives, none of who I liked, and none of whom liked me. Probably because I was pretty clearly disdainful.

None of the wives drank much, if at all. My mother didn't at all. And Daddy didn't get drunk. Nevertheless, Mother always drove. There was never any irresponsibility involved.

So I have trouble thinking of myself as the child of an alchoholic. Or thinking of myself as being affected by my father's alchohol consumption at all. Except that it killed him in the end, even though he hadn't had anything to drink for fifteen or so years. My therapist thinks that five drinks a night is a LOT of alchohol, and that it's hard to believe it didn't have an effect on me.

I think of alchoholics as being like Daddy's brothers or friends, not like Daddy.

Isn't it possible that you can have a father who drank a fairly large amount, without having any ill effects from it?




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