I follow several Military Brat FaceBook groups. On occasion I will see where I was not the only one who had an alcoholic father. I always said I would never be like my Dad – but I was, to an extent. I also became an alcoholic… oh well.
In recovery i had to deal with a lot of ‘Father issues.’ To say the least, it was a bitch! I had conveniently buried all those feelings over the years and now, in sobriety, I had to deal with them. I will tell you: sobriety is not for sissys!
It took maybe 8 – 9 years for me to get through them all; and on occasion now, something else will ‘pop up.’ A lot of tears, for sure – even at 50 – 60. But they (the issues) are no where near as tough as they were in the beginning. I don’t give them the power anymore.
So, how did I do it? By confronting the issues directly. Through journaling, AA meetings, and therapy. And with the help and patience and support of a lot of friends…
In the beginning of my recovery I stumbled upon Mary Edwards Wertsch’s book, “Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress.” The Introduction by Pat Conroy was especially tough to read – took me, maybe 2-3-4 years to get through it. I could only get so far, then the tears would literally choke me – and I would set it down and walk for a few months.
Dear Ole Dad died, as a drunk in 1992. I became sober in 1994. In one of my ‘spiritual’ books I read the passage: “I love that land of winding waters more than all the rest of the world. A man who would not love his father’s grave is worse than a wild animal,”* – and I knew I had to travel to the grave of my father.
In 1999 I took a trip to San Antonio, to the Ft. Sam Houston national cemetery, to visit his grave. I did not know where he was buried, I had to look through the directory to find him – but, I did. I was curious how I would react, and could feel ‘apprehensive’ as I approached his grave site. But in the end it was not a big deal; not at all.
It was a warm and sunny day as I stood at his marker; and I was at peace. All that prior ‘work’ had paid off. He did not have the ‘power’ over me he once held – I had taken it back! So, I stood there, talking a bit, then I remarked, “You know Dad, I think you might have loved me, but you sure as hell had a funny way of showing it! Maybe we’ll have another go at it, in another Life someday – but I’m okay today – I am okay, today…”
And that was it, I began “moving on.” It was the way it was…nothing more, nothing less.
Today I have a great relationship with Dear Ole Dad. Forgiven him? Oh, I suppose, but I haven’t forgotten anything… and in that remembering I am so conscious of how I treat my kids. And it is in my relationship with my kids today that I am able to make amends with Dear Ole Dad, and myself…
PS: I have wondered upon occasion, what Dear Ole Dad would have said about me getting sober…
* Chief Joseph