For as long as I can remember, I’ve known my grandpa was a recovering alcoholic. Throughout my childhood, my dad would share bits and pieces of his own life living with the effects of his father’s drinking. I would listen in rapt attention as he talked about waiting for his dad in the car outside of bars into the wee hours of the night. He told me about how they lost their home to his drinking and gambling, and about how he went to live with his grandparents for a while.
My dad told me told me it hurt to see other families so much healthier than his, so he promised himself at a young age that he wouldn’t succumb to the same disease. He decided to never drink, even socially. He is almost 70 years old now and to my knowledge, alcohol has never touched his lips. He felt it would be easier to never start drinking than to start and not be able to stop.
He grieved the healthy family life that he never knew as a kid, but threw himself into fatherhood whole-heartedly. For every hug and “I love you” that he never got, he’d dole it out to my siblings and me a dozen times. He did the best he could to never miss a sporting event or school function. It wasn’t until adulthood that I learned he would frequently work after we went to bed, sometimes until 2 or 3 in the morning. He didn’t want to sacrifice family time to work; he wanted us to have the fully present father that he didn’t.
As a kid I really took for granted the hard work my dad had put into breaking the cycle that males in his family had succumbed to. Now that I’m an adult myself, I realize the determination, strength of will,and perseverance it took for him to choose a different path than the one he had had modeled for him. I’m proud of my dad, proud to be his daughter and thankful for the choices he made along the way.
Through his actions, he communicated to me that the people you love are worth fighting for and sacrificing for. My dad’s choice to never indulge in a drink here and there might be seen by some as extreme, but he did it to preserve our family and keep us safe. That’s not prudish, that’s heroic.
I’m proud my grandfather became sober, but there is something special about breaking free from the cycle entirely. Family patterns are not easy to change, but my dad proves it can be done if you believe in love.