Step Seven: How I forgave my father

My father was the first alcoholic in my life. I grew to hate him more as he got older and remained a dry drunk. When I started in Al-Anon, he was 73 years old. Boy, did I have resentments by then!

At that time, we lived in the same house together. My mother had just died. He lived upstairs; I was single and lived downstairs. It became apparent that if I chose to stay in that house, I would be the caretaker if he became senile or disabled, and I hated the thought of taking care of him. I had cleaned up after him and the house most of the time when I was young. The idea that I would have to do it again made me sick to my stomach.

Through the grace of God, Millie came into his life and they were each other’s companions for ten years, then she died unexpectedly. Soon after her death, he began to drink again and I became very angry. When his car broke down and he had no way of getting the alcohol, he quickly began to deteriorate mentally and physically. What was I going to do?

He slept on a sofa in the middle of garbage and old newspapers. His face was unshaven and his hair grew long. He hadn’t washed in months and smelled like a homeless person. He did not want to see a doctor nor have any strangers into the house to help him. I cursed and yelled at him almost every day for dropping food on the floor, not flushing the toilet, and for just being alive. I provided him three meals a day, paid the bills, and that was it.

I humbly asked Him to remove my resentful attitude, to have a deeper understanding, and courage to do what I was supposed to do. I had to change my attitude because if my dad died, I would not forgive myself for treating him with such ambivalence and hatred. After all, forgiving him was part of what my 12 years of recovery was all about. My father was one of the reasons that brought me into the rooms of Al‑Anon, and the one I resented the most.

Thank God, that day arrived. My father became very paranoid and started to call 911 whenever he felt afraid. One day when he called, the paramedics came along with a police officer. This time, when they suggested he go to the hospital, he agreed. My change in attitude began after I went to the hospital to see him that night. I realized, again, that no matter how loudly I yelled, or how much I threatened, in the end a Higher Power stepped in and guided my father to get help.

During the last two years of his life, my resentments toward him were lifted. I was able to be compassionate and understanding toward a person whom I truly hated. Nothing he said or did bothered me. I saw him as a child of God and I helped him prepare for his transition into the next world. I had his apartment cleaned up. I would sit and talk to him more often. I would even wash and shave him during the week.

Through Step Seven, I became an instrument of God’s love, instead of a resentful child of an alcoholic. I was able to bury him in peace when he passed away at 87 years old.

By Adele H., New Jersey
The Forum, July 2012

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