I found a healthy way to relate to my dad

I’d be glad to share what’s helped me deal with Dad’s drinking since the intervention five and a half years ago—let him live the way he wants, without my interference (as painful as that is to say). The paradox I’ve learned is that the best way to help Dad is to not help him (lol).

I’ve learned that what’s most helpful for an alcoholic I love (such as Dad) and for myself, is not to get in the way of him hitting bottom. Cleaning up Dad’s messes only encouraged him to believe he could continue his destructive behavior without consequences. Meanwhile, I observe that it makes everyone around him who are cleaning up for him more resentful. Letting him experience the full consequences of his behavior is the goal I’m working towards—even if it means loss of his health, money, or reputation. The only way he will want to change is if the consequences of his drinking become too much for him to bear.

I admit today that I can’t motivate Dad. It’s got to come from within him. But what I can do is let him hit that bottom, so that motivation becomes a possibility for him. He may die before that happens, but if he does hit his bottom, he’ll truly want recovery for himself, rather than feel forced.

As a family member, throughout my life I have relieved him of the consequences of his actions by trying to force or manipulate him to get help. I’ve made excuses for his appalling behavior, and covered up his irresponsible acts. I’m working to change that.

As I said in my previous e-mail, that is my goal today—to stay out of the drama of Dad’s and other family members’ lives, and start living my own life. I’m just beginning this process, but I find that I am getting better. I feel better, calmer, and saner.

I learned all this in Al‑Anon. It’s simply people getting together and sharing from their heart their experiences of what helped them deal with the alcoholics in their lives. In Al‑Anon, I found a level of honesty, compassion, empathy, and support that I’ve never found before in my life. It was such a comfort when they said to me that anything I said there would be kept in confidence, even the fact that I attended the meeting. 

What I do on the outside doesn’t matter at all, nor do I need to mention it. I’m an equal in there. There’s no requirement for membership either, except that there’s alcoholism in a relative or friend. It doesn’t cost anything. Anything contributed is voluntary. From my first meeting five and a half years ago, I felt my life changed dramatically from that moment. I’m not alone anymore with my issues, feelings, and thoughts.

I needed a day-to-day program to help me cope with Dad. That’s where Al‑Anon has helped me tremendously. It’s giving me a new way to relate to Dad that doesn’t make me crazy.

Hope that helps. I love you brother and I wish you all the best.

This is my response to my brother’s e-mail asking me to help him plan a second intervention for our father (the alcoholic) who has refused help in the past, and is still active in his alcoholism. While I found help six years ago in Al‑Anon and have learned to detach from my dad, my brother is still caught up in trying to save him.

By Jamison B., Ontario
The Forum, November 2013