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A Life of Alcohol

I remember coming home one night after being out with friends. Walking into the living room, I saw the TV on in the den to the left…my father sprawled out face down on the floor in front of it.

“DAD!” I screamed, as chills of fear flooded my body. Then he groaned and opened an eye, looked at me, and muttered something. It was then I realized. It wasn’t a heart-attack or a stroke. Dad was drunk – again.
I wish I could say I had a heart-to-heart talk with him the next day and he vowed to change, but in never happened.

For my entire life, it seemed I grew up without a father. In some ways, I envied kids whose father’s had physically left them. At least, with a physical separation, you know there’s a reason you don’t see him or know him much. My father WAS there – physically – but he didn’t speak unless it was to quiet down a family squabble because he couldn’t hear the game.

There were three things my father would discuss: work, sports, and television/movies. Most of these topics arose during his inebriated period each night. How he could down 2 quarts of Schlitz and get up and go to work at 5am the next day still amazes me.

He never went to any of my baseball games. He never played catch with me. Didn’t teach me how to shoot a basketball, ride a bike, give me dating advise, or how to drive a car. The only time I spent with my dad was fishing. Why? Because that’s what he loved. I liked it, but I mainly did it so I could spend time with him…of course, he listened to the game on the radio and talked sports. Other than those rare times, he worked and he drank.

Was he a bad guy? No. I still loved my father as only a son can. Now that I’m an adult, I understand things that are impossible for a child to grasp. He was escaping. What? A life of pain, misery, abuse, and a history of feeling totally insignificant – that’s how his family treated him. How can I not have compassion for a person who suffered through that? He had no idea how to break out of his prison or, that his actions were hurting those he cared about the most. So, he anesthetized himself to the world he hated.

In late summer of 2000, my father was rushed to the hospital in paid and great difficulty breathing. What, at first, was thought to be a blood infection, turned out much worse. Cancer, believed to have started in his lungs, metastasized throughout his body. There was no treatment…years of smoking and drinking had finally caught up to him.

What was a tragic end to a tragic life became a blessing. In those final few weeks, I caught a glimpse of the true man I somehow knew was there all along. Funny, sensitive, thoughtful, caring, and genuinely afraid of death. I forgave him and he told me he was proud of me. We made peace and – I think – he made peace with God. He died at home thanks to Hospice. In those final moments, I was there with him.

When he passed, I cried like never before in my life. I cried not so much for the man I knew, but for the good man I never go to know.

To this day I enjoy the occasional beer, cocktail or glass of wine – rarely more than one – usually on a Friday or Saturday with dinner. I have never been and don’t want to get drunk. I want to be there for my wife and daughter. The message of his life is I can run from the heartaches of life (which is easy for me to do) or I can choose to be there for my loved ones. I can face my fears and show that I’m human – someone who loves and hurts.

My dad missed out on a lot. Based on family history, he should have lived another fifteen to twenty years. He missed my wedding, the birth of my daughter (whom he would have loved), my niece’s birth – a miracle for my sister, the birth of a great-grand daughter too. All because it was easier to embrace beer than to embrace life.

I miss you dad.

17 responses to “A Life of Alcohol”

  1. Kail Kail says:

    A powerful piece, jarock, which hits close to home for me, and I'm sure many others. I give you credit for sharing, and wish you and your family the best.

  2. bb222 bb222 says:

    Agreed, tremendous piece. This is a great reminder to those of us who gave up the sauce our reasons for doing so. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Avatar Robin says:

    I should have known better than to read this at work, now I'm crying like a baby…thanks bro! This was awesome!

  4. Avatar WreckedUm says:

    It sounds like you lived the life I was spared. My older sister suffered through similar situations with my mother before she got help. She went into AA, and met the man who would be my father. My mother stayed sober, but my father did not, and they never got married or stayed together for any length of time. I only knew my father as an idea, I figured I had one, but didn't meet him until I was about 8 or 10, and even then, he wasn't a father, just a man I got to meet several times. My mother used to say that he was sick, and just wouldn't get better. I got several gifts from him-a baseball bat and catcher's mitt (I hated sports even as a kid, but the bat is still next to my front door waiting for burglary season to start), a box of hot wheel cars, and an erector set. The gifts were nice, but I never knew the man he was, his virtues or his flaws. I found out he had died when his name was announced at Sunday mass, during the prayer for the recently deceased. Thank you for writing this, it brought me back to being a kid and hugging my own father for the first time.

  5. Avatar Kate says:

    I'm so sorry about your dad and all the things he's missed out on. I never met my dad's dad — essentially he drank himself to death, dying of a cerebral hemorrhage when my dad was 16. I have an uncle on my mother's side that, while he's still alive, has so damaged himself with booze that he's a completely different person than he was when I was a kid. I am so happy for you and your family that you've been able to avoid a fate similar to your father's.

  6. Avatar Mick says:

    Beautifully written. You broke the cycle. Well done.

  7. Avatar Catherine Cook says:

    You are quite the writer Beautifully written but so terribly sad for him as well as your family.

  8. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Avatar llxt says:

    JC–thanks for sharing this. as i've already mentioned to you, i'm surprised about how many of our 30-year-olds write about their fathers (many of whom have passed away). obviously, this is a shared experience, but your point of view is still unique and important. we'll miss you at 30POV! best of luck!

  10. Avatar Teresa P. Bott says:

    I was a seducer and not a helpmate hence a destroyer-came to see I was a major cause of my husbands drinking problem. His life force was being drained from him in the guise of loving(sex) and once I saw the harm I did in feeding the beast in him rather than the spirit, repented and asked for him to forgive me. I was a no nothing person, I made the mistake of making him a god, he could do no wrong. Roles changed, he became the person he hated-‘me” Now I could do no wrong-yuk! Now understand why he drank. But had to stand strong against the seducer in him an deal with him as he should have dealt with me. I truly loved him, and I don’t think he ever realized how much.
    All I wish to state James Cook is to not allow a woman make a monkey of you. Notice how bitchy a woman becomes if you use her, rather than love her, to much. Women need a man with patiences, if you allow her to make you lose control. you gave her the ;power to have control.
    Thank you for sharing your heartache, it caused me to cry, and made me wonder what harm I have caused my children due to igbrance.

  11. fent11111 fent11111 says:

    From the heart Sir.

  12. Jesse Star Jesse Star says:

    Thankfully, my father is a happy drunk. Doesn't make him any less an alcoholic, mind you…
    I'm not sure whether I wish yours had been too. It wasn't "easier". Only different, I suspect.

  13. Jason Jason says:

    Amazing work. If this is your goodbye to us and your 30s, it is a marvelous way to go.

  14. Avatar The Tailor says:

    Well said, James,

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jarock74 About jarock74

James Cook is a professional writer and amateur outdoorsman. After writing things his whole life (beginning with a three-page screenplay at the age of six), he became a professional writer in 2016. He has since completed one novel and has ghost-written, coached, and/or edited five published books, one of which was an Amazon best seller in five categories. He believes "life is too important to be taken seriously" (Oscar Wilde) and lives in Massachusetts with his wife and teenage daughter.

Read more by this author on 30POV .


December 2010
November 2010
On My Honor
October 2010
Witch Hunt
September 2010
If, Then.
May 2010
Small Crimes
April 2010
February 2010
"It's Complicated"
January 2010