The other day, I came across with a short video footage of a podcast recording where the guest was talking about the presence of addiction in his family. He, himself, has never used any addictive substances in his life but he experienced the effect of it on a person, on a family through his dad’s lifestyle. He mentioned that his dad was a drug addict, heroin to be specific, and how it affected him and his relationship with his dad and with his mom, as well. As I was listening this 3 – 4 minutes recording, the very first image and thought that popped into my head was my own dad. What kind of person he was, what kind of memories I have of him, and how differently I see and understand him and his own addiction now comparing to when I was a child and he was still alive.
I lost my dad when I was nineteen years old. Twenty - one days after my birthday, to be exact. He lost his battle to cancer - as so many people unfortunately - when he was fifty – four years old, so relatively young. Probably, on another occasion, I will talk about that experience, what it was like to see him disappearing slowly but surely due to this disease, what I felt, how I was thinking, how it changed me, and what I am thinking and feeling now comparing to those days and years. But, in this blog, as the title suggests it, I would like to focus on addiction. To be specific, in my family’s case, alcoholism.
Yes, my father was an alcoholic. I used to hear in my family, coming from my mom but mainly from my sister, who adored our father, that: “No, he is not an alcoholic, he drinks but that is it.” “It is not alcoholism.” Being an adult and knowing what I know now, yes, he was an alcoholic. There are several and different stages of alcoholism just like of any addiction but the end of the day, you cannot deny the fact that he liked drinking and not just on special occasions. Since I was born, since I can remember back, I had always known him that way. A person, who most of the days in the week, comes home from work in a certain altered state of mind that was caused by heavy, alcoholic drinks. Him drinking, coming home later than he should, “smelling” from alcohol was an ever going, unwanted, kind of like an extra family member in our household. I remember, I was always thinking in what state my dad would arrive home, if there were about to have any fights between my parents because of it, how my mom would handle him that day and so on.
Thanks to my mom, I have always kept a certain distance from my dad due to his way of being. Looking back now, I can easily say that my mom set me against him. She always made sure that I saw him as an alcoholic, she never made a secret about them fighting, she was never trying to lower her voice down during their fights to make sure that I was not hearing their debate. I remember there was one occasion when my dad came home drunk and my mom refused to let him in, so he laid down in front of our main door. My mom opened up the door and pulled my there saying: “Look at him, just look at him now, look at what he is doing, just look, that is your father…..”so yeah. I think you get the picture. Because this was imprinted on me, I was told and I was shown these things over and over again and I only heard one side of the story (my mom’s), I have never had a good relationship with my dad, to be honest, I did not have any kind of connection to him.
I did not understand him, but I did not even try. I did not even make any step to get closer to him or any effort to have some sort of relationship with him. No one tried to help him apart from my sister. Occasionally, when things were bad for a longer period of time, she was trying to talk to him, about his addiction as to why he was doing what he was doing - I do not remember if he could give her an answer or not (I do not think so). I remember her begging him to put the alcohol down for good for the sake of his two children, whom he loved the most and whom he loved unconditionally. Yes, even thought, he liked alcohol a lot, he never ever loved / liked anyone or anything better than me and my sister. His love was pure towards us. He always gave me kisses before he went to work, and he always brought me little surprises home. Every single day, without a failure. He loved us so much that I am hoping that you are having at least one person in your life who loves you the same way as my dad loved us.
But, let me finally get to the point of this blog, the reason behind a person becomes addictive to alcohol, drug, shopping, or even food. The cause of your addiction is a hole within that you are trying to fill up with something from the external World. That hole is there because you are hurt, you are in pain. That feeling exists within you consciously or unconsciously, and that feeling was caused by some past experience. Experience like trauma, a negative, hurtful, painful event. Hurt is the centre of all addictions. In my dad’s case – I can see it now clearly – the hurt, the pain was coming from the lack of something. Something that all human beings are craving for, something that all of us are in search for in our entire life. The one thing that is actually your whole being, the most important thing in life. Love.
Experiencing life for myself, being much older, having my own beliefs, changing my mindset, going through all the things that are life transforming, seeing all the things I have seen, knowing all the things I know and being who I am now; these all make me understand him now and his being, the way he was and why he was that way. He was hurt, he was in pain. Because he was not loved. Not the way he should have been, not the way he should have deserved it. When he was a child, his mom did not care for him at all nor loved him at all. He lost his own dad in cancer; he was a single child so there was no other person who could have given love to him apart from his own mother. But that never happened. And the absence of love is a way of abuse for the child or for anyone. And he never got love, connection, attention from his own family, neither. Did my mom love him? I hope so. But I know for sure she did not love him the way as a loveless child would want to be loved by his partner in life. Was he loved by his children? My sister expressed her feelings for him more than I did, he was aware that she loved him very much. As for me, not so much. As I mentioned above, I did not have any relationship with him, or at least not a deep, meaningful, loving, healthy type of father – daughter connection.
If I have known the things I know now, I would have understood him. I would have been a better child, a more loving and helpful one. One, who is there to her dad in time of needs to get him through the hurt and pain he was feeling in all his life. I would have connected to him better, I would have reached out to him, I would have been there for him. I would have held his hand all the way to healing, I would have loved him the way he wanted to be loved.
BUT!!! Do I wish things would be different? Would I go back and change anything? Would I be different with him? No. I would not. Because all had to happen this way. All had to be experienced the way he experienced it, and the way I experienced it. It all had to happen the way they happened. Otherwise, I would not be this person I am now, I would not be here where I am at now, I would have these experiences that I have to share with you, that are all making me understand you better and that are all helping me to connect with you more. All is well. All is exactly as they should be. I love my dad, I am proud of the way he was, I am feeling extremely lucky that he was loving me the way he was, I am grateful that he was my father, that he was part of my life, and that I got to be from him.
If you are going through addiction yourself, or if you know someone who is suffering from it, please try to look deep within, see the real cause of the behaviour. It is never what you think, what is on the surface. It is always much deeper. Do not judge yourself or the person. That is never helpful in any situation. Be understanding, be compassionate, try to look behind the curtain and offer helping hands or seek for helping hands. As a well – known physician says:
“The antidote to addiction is connection.” – Gabor Mate