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dgranara

Guys, I need some serious help.

14 years ago

I can feel myself going off the deep end here. I'll apologize in advance, because there is NO way to turn this into a short story. I really, really just need some support and advice because I can't handle this anymore.

My mother and father are in the middle of a slightly contentious (not knock-down, drag-out) divorce. My dad has had a girlfriend for a little over a year and while I'm not crazy about her, I've been nothing but gracious to her and would never have told her or my father how I felt. My father is a 30+ year alcoholic who hit rock-bottom a week ago. I believe it had to do with a letter I wrote to him about my childhood. Anyway, he agreed (finally!) to go into rehab. My siblings and I were so proud! And my sister and I drove up to visit him on Sunday night. When we got there, his girlfriend was already there and made no move to give us any time alone, so we all just started talking about "safe" topics. Nothing unusual, nothing surprising. The next day I got the following email from my dad's girlfriend (who is a recovering alcoholic herself):

______________________________________

Danielle,

I am writing this out of concern for your father's health and well-being.

Minutes after you arrived at the rehab center (when your father was down the hall getting you a chair) I told you how well he was doing, and you responded bitterly that he should have done this 20 years ago.

I was speechless --- that in light of this huge step he has taken, you could still be holding on to that anger.

And then, when your Dad came back, you spent the next five minutes complaining about how difficult it was to get there --- how the directions I left you were useless, about how many times you got lost...

Weren't you there to try to make him feel better?!?

Danielle, feeling guilty for never doing enough or not doing things right is one of the big reasons your father drank. He couldn't make your mother happy, but he didn't want to leave his kids --- so he drank to drown out his feelings of inadequacy. Now he gets vilified for that. He made the biggest decision of his life --- to go into the hospital and get help --- and what do you do? Give him grief for not calling YOU first instead of me, because YOU are his daughter and I am "not family"! Instead of being loving and supportive and encouraging about him doing something to save his life, you try to make him feel bad because he didn't put your feelings first. (Think about it rationally: not only have I been sober 23 years, but I have been there for him every single day since we met and have ALWAYS made him a priority... something not one of his children --- his actual "family" --- can say.)

If you truly love your father and want him to stay sober and be happy, then you need to deal with your own issues and learn to be unconditionally loving and supportive towards him while he works hard to deal with his. I have known for a long time that --- unlike the rest of his family who are grateful I am in his life --- his daughters have resented me. The comments you have made, the way you have acted, all suggest that you think I have taken your father away from you...

Not so. I have simply helped him stay away from an unhealthy environment where there is always a lot of drinking going on. In-between parties and get-togethers, I have repeatedly encouraged him to call you and see you. But it seems almost every time we have tried to include you in a gathering that doesn't include partying, you are all busy. That has been very painful for him. All he wanted for his last birthday --- the first one he was sober for! --- was a quiet dinner at your house... no party, no fanfare --- and last-minute you cancelled those plans and told him we could meet you at Billy's for leftovers from a party your father can't even be invited to anymore due to the divorce. You couldn't have hurt him any more deeply if you had intentionally tried. But we went to Billy's anyway --- despite how difficult it was for your father to be around people drinking --- because it was that important to him to see you.

I love your father so much, and because of that and my belief in him as a good person with a loving heart have stuck by him through a lot of broken promises and lies... my son and I have hoped and prayed that he would get to where he is now so that we could all be healthier and happier together... and my family and Kenny's family and our friends are all willing to do whatever we can to help and support him when he gets back to the real world (including forgiving him for any prior transgressions and giving him a clean slate). That real world involves a lot of unavoidable challenges, but he is being taught that he can and needs to steer clear of stress and negativity whenever possible. Please don't make him feel like he has to steer clear of you --- he loves you and needs you on his side.

XXXXXXX

_______________________________________________

I was so floored! I can't even begin to tell you how much of that email came out of thin air. I myself don't drink - other than a very, very rare glass of wine or beer (probably due to the fact that I grew up with an alcoholic). Is this woman trying to drive a wedge between me and my dad? My head is just spinning and the blood is pulsing in my ears. I've sent her a reply email - and at this point we're just going back and forth with me telling her she just doesn't know the "whole story" of our past and her insisting that me and my siblings are bad for my dad. I feel like I've been cheated out of a father for 30 years and now that he's actively trying to get better I'm going to be cheated out of that too. I have no idea how to handle this woman.

I'm sorry if this isn't appropriate here, but my brother and sisters are too close to the situation to be objective.

Comments (19)

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I can imagine how painful it was to receive this. She has made several very specific points about things . . . as seen from her perspective. You never told her how you felt about her, yet she sensed it. She isn't accusing YOU of drinking, but she resents that family gatherings to which he is invited have alcohol present.

    Where she has gone wrong in this is not acknowledging the pain that you and your siblings endured all these years, and maybe she doesn't have the emotional capacity to do that right now. She is unrealistic in expecting you to rub the slate clean simply because he has tried to be sober and has now hit bottom and is in rehab. She speaks of broken promises and lies to her, but she can't (at this time at least) see how his decades of broken promises and lies affected his children.

    It sounds like she is in his life to stay. E-mails back and forth accusing and denying are not going to improve the situation. Part of his rehab will have to deal with facing how his behavior has affected his family.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hmm, I'd print out her letter, ask your dad's rehab counselor to read it and schedule a meeting for the family. Yes, including her. There is much that needs said and understood.

    STOP emailing her or reading her emails, STAT! Let the trained folks at rehab earn their money!

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  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'm with golddust. First stop reading and writing emails. All you are doing is a he said/she said confrontation. It really serves no purpose. I'd also get into family counceling. I have no idea whether the very specific examples she gave were "girlfriend vision" or have some truth in them. Sometimes we fall into a pattern of conversation with people in our family that when someone else hears they interpret it incorrectly. Sometimes we fall into a negative pattern of speech that we don't even realize until it's pointed out to us. She's not the appropriate one to point it out to you though, if that is the case.

    I think I have heard that when someone is recovering from alcohol it is important that they don't go to parties where alcohol is served. They just aren't strong enough in the begining. This can be difficult if in most family functions alcohol is served. I know we had a few family holidays with no alcohol for an uncle that was recently recovering. He now can attend family functions with alcohol, but in the beginning we chose to have him come and not serve alcohol rather than not have him come. How are you suppose to know this though, if no one tells you.

    I don't know the circumstances behind the canceled birthday dinner, but obviously you hurt your father's feelings, even if you didn't intend to. He choose not to discuss it with you in the name of family harmony. You aren't a mind reader so you are not responsible for what you didn't know. However, maybe the circumstances were that you didn't consider his feelings and you could have.

    The bottom line though is that whatever communication stratagies you are using in your family aren't working. The councelor should be able to help your entire family learn to better communicate.

    I wish you the best of luck on your journey with your dad. I do hope you all come to a better place where moving forward you can create strong and happy memories.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ooooookayyy...wow. Maybe my thoughts won't be too popular (I'm feeling REALLY sorry for myself lately, so bear that in mind) but I think this woman needs to take a hike.

    YOU have lived with a father who has been problematic for over 30 years. This woman comes into his life for ONE YEAR and she's got the nerve to tell you how you should behave. You've been denied a normal relationship with your father and it's direly affected your family dynamic, you have every right to feel bitter and angry.

    I do not ascribe to the enabling aspects when it comes to alcoholics or drug addicts. In my opinion, you have every right to be angry and mad, and not pander to your father just because he's finally going into rehab. Have you been to Al Anon? Just asking, since they have great tools for family members of alcoholics. I do not believe you should have to walk on eggshells. Your father will have to live the rest of his life as a recovering alcoholic and he WILL be subject to times when life is going to be tough. If he can't come to a party because there might be things that tempt him or set him off track, that is a consequence HE will have to live with. You've had to live with his alcoholic consequences all your life.

    Ok, back to what I think you ought to do...ignore this broad. She wants to control your dad...frankly, I suspect she's going to be more trouble than not with his recovery, but that's neither here nor there. I don't think you should let her guilt you into anything. You've had too many years of that stuff. But as suggested, talk to your Dad's rehab counsellors and follow their advice on how to handle your DAD. As far as she's concerned, quit the emails...you're not going to get anywhere with her. She's on a completely different page...she's a freaking controlling kook if you ask me. I think if you can, just flat out tell her that you are proud of your dad for doing this, but that you are not his keeper. You are his daughter and you have every right to have that relationship respected. Tell her to please step aside and let your relationship with your father evolve as it needs, and when he needs her, she's welcome to be there for him. You do not need her assistance when it comes to handling your dad.

    Sorry you're in the midst of this additional drama. If only life could be easy, like in the movies. I just have the feeling she's going to continue to stir the pot, unless you just flat out tell her to butt out. She may cause your Dad to shut you out, but then, that will have to be part of his own recovery...and I don't believe that that is part of a healthy recovery. Isn't one of the steps to try to make amends?

    So sorry if I seem so insensitive...I've had to deal with addicts and utterly dysfunctional people in my life. I am not and have no tolerance for enablers, and in my book, tough love is the only way to go to save your own sanity. Blessings to you!

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Amen to Golddust. Do NOT engage with this woman.

    "He couldn't make your mother happy, but he didn't want to leave his kids --- so he drank to drown out his feelings of inadequacy. Now he gets vilified for that."

    So, you see, it is you, your siblings and your mother who made your father drink. Don't you get it? She's the heroine, your father is the noble victim, and you, your siblings and your mother are the wicked ones. That is the story this woman is telling. Her message seems very controlling and manipulative. If she's been accidentally truthful or on point about anything, it's only in the service of her own ends.

    Set the boundaries for what you will and will not tolerate from your father and from this woman. Express them clearly and without anger. You have no more control over their behavior than you did over your father's drinking.

    I am so sorry that you are going through this, and I know it must be both infuriating and painful.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I so feel for you. Nothing you do or don't do has ever or will ever cause your dad to drink or not drink. Alcoholism is a disease.

    Al Anon saved my life over 3 years ago, and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves an alcoholic. There are chapters everywhere, and even online meetings. Your feelings are normal and justified, and impossible to deal with alone. Take care of yourself, because that is the only thing you can do in this situation.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I second the suggestion of Al-Anon.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Golddust is one smart cookie...

    You won't be able to convince this woman of anything at this point, and any valid insight she might relay about your father's feelings will be drowned out in outrage and denial. Neither one of you is ready to hear the other.

    RioSamba's observations about her 'your fault' spin are very interesting, and sound 'right on target' to me.
    But your father's reasons (excuses) have no bearing on your experience growing up with an alcoholic father. ANd tiptoing around all of the issues to 'spare your poor father the stress' of dealing with the real problems his past actions caused -- good grief!

    Golddust's advice sounds really, really good to me. They should have counsellors at the rehab that are all about sorting through the kinds of family dynamics you're involved in. Get them involved.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Danielle, I didn't read even all of your post, I picked up that the girlfriend was laying a guiltrip on you and your siblings as being the cause of your Dad's alcoholism.That is total BS and self serving on her part. Of COURSE you are angry with the situation. a couple of days in rehab does not make up for umpteen years.Your Dad is/was an alcoholic and would be whether or not he had any kids it is in his genetic makeup.
    Step away, and let your Dad get through rehab with the experts. They will jump on her BS if she tries it with them.
    My brother is a recovering alcoholic for 13 years( 10 years before that but slipped for a couple of days when our Mom was killed by a drunk driver). We are very proud of him and he is a great person now.
    In AA they learn they are responsible,there is no blaming others.A part of recovery is that they have to sincerely apologize for their actions when they were drinking.
    Take care of yourself- you need a lot of TLC since you grew up with an aloholic.
    A support group may be helpful to you, to give you the support you need and deserve. You can't make the girlfriend think any differently than she does. You just can't.
    Go take care of you. You are done taking care of your Dad, let the rehab experts help him and you be there for support when he gets out. Be there on your terms.He knows you all love him and now he needs to earn your respect.
    My brother knows that I am there for him as long as he is sober, I will not enable him to drink.
    Down off soapbox.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I have no experience with living with an alcoholic, so I am not addressing that issue. I just want to say tread carefully if you want to continue to have a relationship with your father. I won't go into a lot of detail, but my mother died 15 years ago and within a year, my dad met a woman and they became close very quickly without any acknowledgement that it could be weird for me. (My mom had died pretty suddenly at age 55.) But I dealt with it, at least to some extent, but I will admit that I wasn't overly warm and fuzzy to the new girlfriend. However, I was friendly and tried to be happy for my dad. Anyway, long story short, she lied to my father one day about something she said to me, and I called her on it, which led her to write me the nastiest letter I have ever received in my life. Among other things, she told me that I was "rude" to her, cited all kinds of crazy "proof" that I was rude (example: I was at their house showing photos of a vacation and I handed the pictures to my dad first instead of her -- seriously, that was the type of thing she was chiding me for) and that I was no longer welcome in her home (um, the house I grew up in) and "that's right, this is my home now" she said to me... and so on. My father was weak, don't even get me started on how I felt about him sitting back and letting this happen, but we ended up having a huge blowup on the phone and then we did not speak for a year and a half. We adopted a baby (which he obviously knew all about, since we were on friendly terms during the whole adoption process) and he didn't see his granddaughter, or two older grandsons, for that entire time. We finally called a truce -- for lack of a better expression -- when they got engaged, my dad called us, we went to the wedding, etc.

    So my long-winded point here is, if you piss off the girlfriend, you will jeopardize your relationship with your father, so if it matters to you, be careful!

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you all for your responses. Really, THANK YOU. I needed to hear a lot of this. Also, sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I talked to my Dad last night and feel a *little* bit better. It seems, at least for the time being, that he's not totally lost to her manipulations. Unfortunately, his girlfriend took him out of the rehab (not that he didn't want to leave, I'm sure). After 4 days. She even sent out a mass email about how excited she was that he was coming home. I don't agree with this in the least and think she should have done anything in her power to keep him there as long as possible. Oh well.

    I haven't sent any more emails and won't. Truthfully, it is killing me NOT to. I want to confront this woman in the worst way. But luckily, my Dad an I have planned a family meeting for later in the week. I am SURE she'll show up, as she just can't seem to function unless he's by her side.

    Again, thank you all so, so much.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I am so very sorry you're dealing with this hurtful situation. Am glad you're feeling a little better about things, and hope you can retain an inner peace - and keep your sense of humor through all of this. Sometimes when you can't change anything at all about a situation, it does help to find something in it to laugh about.
    (((((Hugs)))))

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This is such a hard situation! I do feel certain his girlfriend could not have taken him out of rehab if he didn't want to go. She may be a queen manipulator but your dad is still responsible for his own choices.

    The thing is, if you and the girlfriend get caught up in each other's drama, your dad gets a free pass. That is a perfect storm for an addict to continue being an addict.

    IMO, your father is playing both of you like a fiddle. As long as each of you are complaining about the other one, all focus is off of him. Brilliant!

    Meanwhile, (((hugs))) but remember this one:

    How do you know when an addict is lying?
    Their lips are moving.

    Call Al-Anon today. I suspect the girlfriend isn't the real issue here.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    IMO, your father is playing both of you like a fiddle. As long as each of you are complaining about the other one, all focus is off of him. Brilliant!

    Golddust.. I agree. I've started replying 3 times and deleted all of them. I think there's more to the story & doubt it's just the girlfriend. Reading her letter, she probably thinks she's helping her man.

    Danielle, the best advice I can give you is to try to understand where she is coming from; but don't let her walk all over you. This is a very touchy situation; you know what your dad was like when you were growing up & she came into the picture after he was out of his "unhappy" marriage. While he's probably told her his side; she's never going to know what really happened because she wasn't there and IMO.. she needs to respect your feelings & how hurt you were by him but try to respect her for trying to be there for your dad now.

    I have issues with my step son. He likes to go back to his father & say that I said this or I said that. When my hubby fell off of his truck I sent him an email because he stopped speaking to my hub & wouldn't you know it, he twisted my email around trying to start a fight between my hub & I. Thankfully my hub knew about the email before I sent it; it was a rude awakening to my hub of just what his son would do to get me out of the picture.

    This is all in SS's head, not mine because I can be grown up about it & smile like nothing ever happened but he can't. The best advice I can give you is to try to have a relationship with your dad without the GF around every time. You still need father/daughter time. I encourage hub to call his son or go golfing with him because even though we can't see eye to eye, it's still his son. My hub does not talk about me when they are together & if the kid starts, he says it's between you 2 and not me.

    SS's mother was an alcoholic - probably why he hates me so much because we have the life he never had growing up & his father has been raising my 2 kids for the last 10 years.. so he's bitter; but he's also an adult man in his 30's & a divorced father.

    I don't feel that the GF was trying to place "blame" on any of the kids for the marriage/drinking problems, I read it as her just stating why he was drinking. My dad stayed in a bad marriage because "It was cheaper to keep her" & we kids suffered with the fighting. Dad was not around most times, he chose to work as much as he could.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    As the stepmother of an alcoholic who is presently in his 5th rehab facility - all I can say is that I'm STUNNED that this woman removed your father from rehab after only 4 days! If she's a recovered alcoholic she should know better. 4 days of rehab is not even enough time for the affects of the alcohol to withdraw from his system.....much less enough time for him to receive the counseling and support he needs to learn how to cope without drinking. I fear that this woman could only hinder his recovery.

    Golddust's advice was excellent, and I would still encourage you to look into Al-Anon today for your own benefit. You'll get some great constructive advice and support there that can help you to cope with all the family dynamics involving life with an alcoholic family member.

    Do not engage in communications back and forth with his girlfriend - it only keeps the stress levels excellerated. I would encourage you to see if you could get your father back into rehab again. You might want to discuss this with him when you get together again.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Danielle; with the rehab - I doubt his girlfriend could have done anything to get him discharged; they are not married - everything would fall on your dad or next of kin. Is it possible his insurance wouldn't pay? Is the rehab place online and can you find out what their policy is? Will your father give them permission to speak to you so that you can find out straight from them what happened?

    I can tell you that after dealing with hubby's cancer; I've had my mouth on the floor with them wanting to discharge him when he had a morphine withdrawal. The Dr didn't want my opinion - said it was my hubby's decision.. yes, someone that was on morphine for 4 days & still stoned.

    Something is not adding up.

    My opinion is that some times you have to make a decision with people whether you want them in your life or not.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    > feeling guilty for never doing enough or not doing things right is one of the big reasons your father drank

    Danielle, please take however much time you need to fully understand the following:

    You DID NOT cause your dad to drink. His alcoholism caused him to drink.

    Do not let his GF (gee, wonder why he chose her for a girlfriend?) lay this guilt trip on you. Alcoholics will blame everyone and everything for their drinking except themselves. Yes, hard times and difficult relationships are tough for anyone to handle, but you are still right - he should have done this 20 years ago. At least he's doing it now, or has given his first attempt, no matter how feeble.

    After reading your post I picked up a book I read years ago - "Toxic Parents" by Susan Forward for the first time in years. It discusses all sorts of varieties of abusive parents, and it still ranks as amongst the most life-changing reads I've ever had. The only chapter I'd never read closely was the one that didn't apply to my life, about adult children of alcoholic parent(s). The examples given probably don't all reflect your experience, but the "It's All Your Fault" section will probably resonate.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Just wanted to give a quick update and say thank you again. I am meeting up with my father tomorrow to have a talk. So, we'll see what comes of that.

    As far as the rehab goes, insurance had agreed to let him stay in inpatient for only a week and finish the balance of the 28 day program in an outpatient facility. Based on things my father's girlfriend said to me and my sister during our visit, (about wanting him home - WHAT!?!) I believe she pushed for the early release (via talking to him - I don't know if she talked to any of his counselors). While I know my Dad isn't being 100% honest with anyone, including me, I do think that she is the bigger problem. She has much to lose if they split up. He doesn't.

    There have been some "new developments" since my first post. Without going into too much detail, we now have good reason to believe she has convinced him to draw up some kind of Trust. My dad probably didn't know that Trusts existed - which is why I believe this is her handiwork. I have been a paralegal for 12 years, so I've actually talked my Dad through several legal issues and his knowledge of these things is very limited.

    Someone (not a member of my family) has informed us that this woman has all but completely driven away her own family. Apparently, her mother and siblings don't exactly hold her in the highest esteem.

    I know it's not much, but it makes me feel less crazy for suspecting some of the things I did. I'm not expecting much out of this meeting, but at least I can plant the seed, as they say.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Yup, head case. She's toxic. Whew. Best of luck to you Danielle, you have my support!