An Open Letter to The Father I Can Not Love

Up until the age of five, you were my entire world. The sun and the moon, the grass and the trees, the only one I wanted to see. I loved my mother, but you were my favorite. The one that always kept me laughing and had the hugs I craved. I was your favorite little girl, a great replacement for the son you had always dreamt of. The girl who loved to watch WWE wrestling and reenact the chair smashing moves, the girl who was more interested in playing spider man with you than Barbie with my mom, the girl who helped you skin a deer on the back porch, the girl who at the age of four shot a groundhog dead with your pistol under what seemed like the most careful supervision. You were who I wanted to be when I grew up.

 

When you went on that hunting trip in 1998 and my mom secretly moved herself, my brother, and I to a new house in a nearby neighborhood I viewed her act as the ultimate betrayal. I thought she was purposely severing this special and all important bond simply to hurt us. As I sat on a blanket soaking in the sunshine of a beautiful summers day with my infant brother and watched her move all of our things from the house with her own brother, I kept waiting for you to come home; you to say, “Sorry I couldn’t help you guys with the packing and moving, but I’ll meet you at the new house!” You never did, only spiraled deeper into the alcoholism that my five year old mind could not yet comprehend. My mother robbed me of all joy. She moved me away from my happiness, my idol, my best friend. I thought about you daily and waited for your call.

 

In 1999 I remember sitting outside of your house with my mom in her teal Dodge Caravan bursting with excitement to finally see my daddy. It became clear, after what seemed like two hours, that you weren’t going to show. We went back to our new home.

 

As you and my mother waged a war against each other, being the oldest child, I was often left a casualty from the misplaced bludgeons. The stories of your alcoholism, laziness, poor upbringing, and statements calling you my, “sperm donor,” colored my pristinely clear vision of you. When I would get to see you, I would excitedly tell you stories about my life, which greatly included the presence of my mother and her new boyfriend. You got angry and felt hurt, and no longer wished to hear me speak. I wanted to share every part of me with you, but you wanted to preserve and nurture your own heart at the great cost of mine. And yet again, you were gone.

 

Was it that you didn’t know how to be a father? Or could you not handle those eyes of mine with colors that shifted with my mood, so perfectly mirroring the woman of whom you still greatly loved? Or was it your pride that needed to be saved, not bearing to hear the stories of your wife’s new boyfriend and his delicious homemade spaghetti and meatballs that your daughter raved over for days?

 

In 2002 or 2003, you had finally decided to reignite the relationship with my brother, Mitchell, and I. Mitch, having only been an infant and not quite understanding that you were his father rather than the live in man who was raising us, was nervous and confused. I, on the other hand, was filled with joy to finally have my daddy back. The first few months were incredible. I counted the days till our next visit where we would play paintball, go to parks and festivals, play with your girlfriend’s dogs, and just enjoy each other’s company. I didn’t mind sharing what little time we had together with my brother, because I was so happy for him to get to know the world’s greatest dad.

 

But as our visits continued, you drew away from me as if I were filth. Instead of taking me to Home Depot and teaching me how to do projects around the house you would take my brother and leave me home. As I was sitting on the floor in the living room between your then fiancés legs as she would try to fix my nappy African hair that my white mother still could not understand and maintain, you were choosing ceiling fans with Mitchell, joking about different heavy fixtures falling and crushing me to my death. As I was sent to the nail salon with said fiancé, Sally, to fix the nails that had broken whilst hiking, you were picking up paintball supplies and ammo with Mitchell remarking on my resemblance to Gollum from Lord of The Rings, and again fantasizing of my death. While you, Sally, and Mitchell, spent a weekend doing activities like bike rides, yard cleaning, picnics, and dinners, I was sent to my room for two and a half days with no food or companionship, forced to watch the fun through my windows. While Mitchell was sent to spend time with our step siblings you would sit me down at the kitchen table and interrogate me for hours on end about what my mother and step father, Dan, were up to; forced to say I didn’t love them, forced to understand that they were very bad people. And if I defied? If I said I loved these people that loved and cared for me? Clumps of hair were torn from my head and thrown to the floor in order to teach a memorable lesson.

 

In 2005, you came to pick me up from soccer practice and it wasn’t your custody scheduled day. Fear had consumed me. I decided I couldn’t see you any longer. I couldn’t keep feeling this hurt. I couldn’t keep allowing myself to be crushed by the man I had held on a pedestal for the past thirteen years. Every name you called me, every time you laughed at my tears, each time you chose my brother over me simply for being a boy, every time you screened and ignored my phone calls, every time my mom had to hold me as a cried myself to sleep wondering why you didn’t love me, every time you cackled at the idea of my death….

 

Every time, every single time, was a tap of the hammer, slowly chiseling away at the porcelain pedestal with my beating and fragile heart encased inside, until I was finally left with just you, a skeleton of me, and the wreckage of our past on the sidelines of a middle school soccer field.

 

I told you it was over, that I would no longer visit you. I stood with my coach, and he held you back from me. He took me home. My mom held me yet again through tsunami sized waves of tears, trying to heal my broken heart with the power of her own love for me. You called and said I was lucky there were witnesses.

 

In 2008, you filed for full custody of both Mitchell and I, not for the love of your children, but the lust for revenge on the woman that broke your own heart ten years prior. The court sent you and I to counseling, and after we were held back from a fist fight, the therapist said we should never see each other. Mitchell told the courts he didn’t want full custody with you, only split. He did this after I told him that there was not a chance you would love him less for telling the truth of what he wanted. You never came to pick him up. Neither of us have seen you since.

 

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

9:30 AM – I’m in the shower getting ready for a day of work, and briefly think about contacting you. This is not an unusual thought, it crosses my mind nearly once a month. I let the thought leave me and think of my plans for after work.

 

12:30 PM – A man walks into the bar that I serve at. I get the chills because he looks like you, but vaguely different. This man seems shorter, thicker, older, and this man has a rather large circular bald patch on the crown of his head, where you only had a thin patch. I stare with disbelief for minutes on end at the resemblance of you and this man. I see Sally, your now wife of ten years, and I can no longer pretend that this is simply your doppelgänger. This is you. My heart rate jumps to 130 beats per minute, I am sweating through my uniform, tears are rapidly falling down my cheeks, I lose my voice completely, and as I turn around to run I notice I’ve been double sat.

 

I run out the back door of the building and call my mother. My vision is blurry, I can’t think straight, and I’ve forgotten my cigarettes inside. Has he seen me? Did he find out my workplace because of Facebook? Why is he here? Has anyone helped the people in my section??

 

My boss lets me leave and I spend the day thinking about you and what this all means. Was this a sign from the god of my understanding that I am supposed to face my fear and talk to you? Or is God telling me to stay the hell away?

 

As it has all simmered down, and I can now think rationally, I truly believe that I have nothing to say to you that would be constructive. I would only want to hurt you. Being an alcoholic, I know that this disease makes us do crazy things, and I am strong enough now to forgive you for your mistakes… But for what? For a relationship? For your peace of mind? For mine?

 

Sometimes I imagine you walking into the AA meeting I secretary for, us locking eyes and seeing that we are one in the same and we were both genetically blessed with this cursed disease. That we can have a healthy friendship in the safe environment that is the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. However, this horrifically panic riddled moment at work showed me that the reconnection of my dreams is only a fairy tale.

 

Though I no longer have nightmares or flashbacks in regards to you, no matter how many years pass, when I see your face or hear your name, I am suddenly that scared little girl wishing for the love of her life to reciprocate those feelings, wishing that you would stop hitting her, starving her, and hoping she would die.

 

I used to feel unworthy. Your words and actions led me to believe that I was a subpar human, a little girl in a world that craved boys, you made me want to kill myself just like you killed the fantasy version of me in all of your “funny” anecdotes. You taught me that men were incapable of love outside of themselves. I believed that men only did nice things as a front to get what they wanted.

 

Today, because of the alcoholic gene that you have passed to only me and the totally god sent gift of sobriety, I am able to love. I love myself, everyone around me, and life in general, without fear or anxiety. I was taught through the alcoholic men in the rooms that males too are capable of true and pure love. I used to date men that mirrored you and your inability to connect, now I am with a man that proves his love from hour to hour in the most selfless, generous, and kind ways. Today, people don’t worry about me trying to harm myself. Today, I no longer need to gain approval from you (or anyone else) in order to feel and realize the volume vastness of my emotional success. I know that I am enough, and that I am a whole person, not despite of, but specifically because of my serious lacking of any positive male role model.

 

I want to thank you for ceasing the fight for custody when you did, for teaching me the invaluable lesson that love must come from within and that I can’t depend on someone else to take care of my emotional needs. Thank you for giving me the wisdom to walk away from any relationship that does not suit me, or more importantly, one that’s riddled with abuse. Thank you for teaching me how not to raise a child, and the importance of a parent’s unconditional love. I’ve learned just as much from you about what not to do in love as I have from AA about what I should do.

 

Today, I am grateful for the struggle that was our relationship and I am grateful that you are an alcoholic that could not give me the love I so clearly deserved. Today, because of all the pain and suffering, I am trudging my way to a very happy destiny.

 

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The Move From Fear to Faith

For the past two months I have been a dry drunk. Dwelling in the pits of fear. Turning that pit into a home.. putting up artwork and getting new living wear which will perfectly compliment those crusty blue drapes.

I moved into this home shortly after I decided to wait a few weeks to go through with my ninth step. The longer I procrastinated, the more cozy my fear induced pain felt. As I resisted the phone calls, the messages, the pieces of paper begging to be written on, I chose to snuggle in and watch a few episodes of Netflix with the fear. I avoided my favorite meetings, and called my sponsor less often, because none of them would appreciate the rustic beauty of my newfound pit.

I love sobriety and the butterflies I experience every time I embark on a new experience that leads to growth, but man was that pity, fear, and pain comfortable.

As I mozied around my actual house tonight, hitting the garage for my last cigarette before bed, the thought popped into my head to type my first message to someone on my list of amends.

No big deal, I’m just typing it on a notepad. I’m not actually sending it tonight. I’ll wait till I can read it to my sponsor first.

Now, have you ever seen those cartoons where the main doodle in a moment of inner conflict has a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other? I like to believe that I have that, yet on one of my shoulders is my alcoholism and on the other is my higher power. The tricky part of all this, is that they both look like me, and they both sound like me. Thankfully, I’ve learned through the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous how to distinguish between the two. Tonight I felt those two forces waging war, a conflict my dear friend Kathy would claim was between FEAR and LOVE.

FEAR (or my alcoholism) says: Put it off till tomorrow, you should really sleep on it
LOVE (or my higher power) says: There will never be a perfect time, send it.
FEAR: But you want the perfect moment
LOVE: perfection is the ultimate procrastination
FEAR: You’ll be okay not doing a ninth step
LOVE: no you won’t
FEAR: just go to sleep, all will be okay.
LOVE: You will end up drunk if you don’t do this.

ME: (Frantically hits the send button)

For more than a few moments I sat in silence with my hand covering my pounding heart. I felt free, I felt nervous, I felt love, I felt nervous, I felt a connectedness to God, I felt nervous, I felt everything. I FELT NERVOUS!

I quietly sat in silence for a few more moments fully expecting to either get a message back sometime tomorrow or never at all.

In an attempt to soothe my neurosis, still clutching my chest waiting for the throbbing beneath my ribs to subside, I decided to scroll through my Facebook feed and the most fantastic thing caught my attention. Though I had breezed by this photo several times throughout the day, for some reason, something within me told me to stop and read it:

Screenshot (11)

In that moment, I felt my heart beneath my hand begin to slow, and paid attention to what my God has been trying to tell me. That I am sober for a reason. That my recovery has a purpose. That this was the right move. That I cannot and should not give up or stand still.

I walked to my room with my jaw practically resting on my chest. I carefully laid my phone down on the bed and started to get on my knees for a moment of prayer to thank my higher power for this moment. When I hear a ding!

The recipient of my amends was messaging me to say that she would love to get together for coffee and a talk.

Anddd there goes my heart rate again! I sat there in utter shock and decided its finally time to talk to my sponsor and tell her where I’ve been living, in this stinking pit of fear, about my moment sifting through the words from the powers on my shoulders.

After a good talk and lots of smiles and a lot of fast paced climbing out of this dreary and poorly decorated ditch, I thought to myself, “Now! Now is the time to pray and give thanks.” Fear whispered in my ear, just go have another smoke to calm down, you can thank God later….

And just like that I was on my knees.

As I parted my lips to express this bursting gratitude. I began to feel an overwhelming sense of joy. A joy I have not felt in some time. I had barely released the opening sounds of “Thank” before I started cathartically crying from joy. I could not get any words out. I just let the tears flow freely from my finally awoken eyes, I cradled my head, and I swear I could feel myself crying with my higher power. I felt their presence around, within, and on me. I tried again to say thank you, but the tears came even harder. I gave up my words and let myself feel all the love that the God of my understanding has to offer. And once finished uttered a simple “Thank You,” and sat quietly reflecting on this pivotal moment.

Though that hole in the ground was familiar, it was not comfortable. It was painful, but I understood it. I fell swiftly and deeply for the seductive murmurs of my disease. I feel embarrassed that I let the charm seep in slowly and fill my the home that is my mind with fear. I not only opened the door for it, but I made it tea and cookies.

So how do I explain this sudden psychic change? This monumental and ultra sudden move from fear to faith? Was it a divine intervention? Maybe. But who knows? Whatever it was, I know with all of my heart, because of my friends in AA, that God has a plan for me. I don’t have to know it, I don’t have to understand it, and I certainly don’t have to like it. But it is GOOD, it is RIGHT, and I am capable of accepting it, so long as I have faith; the faith which was blessed to me once I put down the bottle and realized that my will, and my diseases will, are ultimately leading me down the path to death.

THANK GOD FOR THIS PROGRAM, THANK GOD FOR THESE AA PEOPLE, THANK GOD I DIDN’T DRINK, AMD THANK GOD FOR HIS LOVE.

Rebirth in AA

September 9th 2013, exactly nine months ago, I stepped into my first AA meeting after deciding drinking was no longer an option for me. I was thoroughly convinced that my life was over. I had a very vivid picture of myself with a perpetual frown on my face, listening to old drunks talk about their lives, and spending my free time playing checkers until the day that God would finally let me die. I thought I would never feel happiness again. 

I must have been thinking of Hospice rather than AA.

Thankfully, I was in so much pain, that I was willing to live the life of a senior citizen on the verge of death rather than take another drink.

To my surprise, it was nothing that I had pictured. Which is somewhat silly, because I had attended meetings in the past, maybe 10-15 over the past 5 years, and because I was so wrapped up in my own world, all I could hear was tragedy, and sit there watching the clock, itching in my skin, to burst through the doors and run to the nearest bar.

When I crossed the doors to my new life on September 9th, I was an effing mess. I couldn’t stop the flood gates for more than a few minutes, but amazingly enough I LISTENED.

There is one story I heard, that kept me coming back. A woman shared about her wedding which had taken place a day or two earlier, and explained that it was a dry occasion, and everyone from the gen-pop was awkward and didn’t know how to talk without the buffer of drugs or alcohol. She went on to say how grateful she was to just be herself, and be okay in her own skin without the aid of a chemical.

This blew my mind. I wanted that.

 

I wanted it bad.

 

So I kept coming back, every single day. I was amazed to find people of ALL ages, including a few that were as young as 15. I saw people smiling, and laughing, and enjoying life. I wanted all of it.

I had a sponsor within the week and was hitting up to 3 meetings a day, making friends with the women who were succeeding in the program, getting numbers from everyone, giving my number out to everyone. I didn’t count the days, but I just couldn’t wait for my first big girl chip, that beautiful 30 day chip, and soon enough, my 60, 90, 4 month, 5, 6 and so on. And tomorrow, when I chair at my home group, I will pick up my 9 month chip.

 

When I think back to how convinced I was that my life would end, I’m thrown by the fact that it did. The old me died, and in the wake of my active alcoholic death, I found that a new me was born.

I really like this new me.

Over the last nine months I have learned more than I ever thought possible, or even have the time to share in one sitting. My favorite thing being, love. The people in the rooms of alcoholics anonymous taught me how to love myself and others, and unconditionally at that. I learned how to have friendships, to share, to express my feelings without a buffer, how to communicate, respect every being around me…

this list could go endlessly.

In the beginning, I was facing huge implications from my drinking, the main one being I was facing a1 -2 year sentence in the upstate women’s prison. Sometimes I would think things to myself, well I might as well keep drinking until I go away, there will be time for sobriety when I’m gone.

But I didn’t pick up. I kept working the program: making meetings, calling my sponsor, not picking up one day at a time no matter how futile it seemed. Because of these healthy choices, I never had to experience that trip upstate. Because of AA I did not go to prison. If that isn’t a gift, I could tell you about 50 other unexpected, glorious things that have happened because I chose to stay sober, one day at a time.

And I just have to say that because of this wonderful program, I was able to live my life with the prospect of prison in the near future without fear. I was able to accept that God would do for me what was best. That if I went, it would be because it was best for me. There is no way in hell that I could have been equipped with enough acceptance to face that type of thing. It is only because of AA

So today, I am immensely grateful to be where I am. To be able to go to bed knowing that I’ve made good choices.  To have found this program of Alcoholics Anonymous. To have stayed in this program, working it to the best of my ability for the past nine months.

To have been Reborn.

It is the greatest gift I could have ever received.