Monday, October 9, 2017

Why rewrite history?

As most of you know, my dad died almost a year ago.

In the months since, I've separated myself significantly from my family since. Not because they're bad people. Not because I'm bad. Just because some relationships aren't functional, and can't be saved.

My response to my father's (sudden but not unexpected) death was not what some folks would have preferred it to be. I felt short changed, and hurt, and more agitated than torn up with grief. My relationship with my dad was complex and manipulative and highly dysfunctional. His death left me feeling more angry than sad, not because he was a terrible person, because he wasn't--he was just sick--but because he was incapable of giving me what I felt like I'd needed from him during his lifetime. And I was angry that he'd left before we were able to have one of those come to Jesus moments you see in movies before he was gone.

The long and short of it was: I was angry he left me. And he'd left me long, long before he'd died.

Being part of an alcoholic family is tough. And by tough, I mean downright rotten, indescribably stressful, and at times, thoroughly soul sucking. I speak from the perspective of a child of an addict, and the wife (and eventual ex wife,) and the daughter in law of one. It is a rough, rough life. One I wouldn't wish on anyone. It was not a life I wanted or asked for, and when I tried--repeatedly--to remove myself from it, it seemed to follow me. No matter where I went in life, my dad (and his problems) seemed to follow me. First when I foolishly married a man with addiction problems; then when as an adult, I tried unsuccessfully to navigate my relationship with my alcoholic father; then again with other family members on both my side of the family, and my husband's side.

It seems I simply cannot break free of alcoholism/addiction. And I loathe it.

As a survivor of said scenarios, I've reserved the right to tell my story however I see fit, even though that means it's not always nice to hear or flattering to all parties involved. When it comes to my life and my experiences with this subject, I do not sugar coat. I do not gloss over. I do not look back on my time with certain people in my life with "rose colored glasses." I call it how I see it. And when I look at addiction, I see nothing but hurt, pain, anger, sadness, and straight up, unadulterated unhappiness.

So that's what I say about it.

When my dad died, I posted on FB about it. Within an hour of hearing he was gone, I wrote a post about how he'd died, how his life had been wasted drinking, and how much I wished that the people I knew and loved would stop what they're doing, stop wasting their lived away being drunk or stoned, and do a better job than my own father had.

I did it because 90% of my support system exists online. Because I live 5K miles away from the country and the tribe that has gotten me through every hurtle my life has thrown me thus far, and social media is how we've all managed to stay connected. And in the days, weeks, and months since posting that painfully honest post I had three different friends reconnect with relatives they'd not spoken to in years, and one friend was prompted to seek recovery of his own. That counts for something. To me, at least.

But it offended some. It hurt them. And as much as I don't regret posting that blatantly honest post--because we all know, I'm nothing if not transparent--I regret hurting people I loved. Unfortunately the only way for me to heal was not the way other people wanted me to heal. Which is usually the way it goes in my life. I'm not usually the "right" anything for anybody. When I go right, the rest of the world goes left. When I go down, everyone else goes up. It's the way it's always been. Where my grief came quickly and aggressively, it was like everyone else had to ease into it like stepping into a pool. Only when I jumped in head first, I splashed everyone I cared about and ticked them off. I'm sorry for that. But not sorry for the what I said or when and how I said it. I can't be sorry. I had to do it.

Sometimes people view the deceased as holy beings. They scrap all that went wrong in someone's life, and choose to only remember the good. They sing that person's praises, discuss their successes, and boast their accolades, so as to soothe their own aching hearts. And while I understand that, I simply can't relate.

My dad was brilliant. He was insanely intelligent, and beyond witty. He was creative and sensitive. He was strong and willful. He raised my brothers and myself as best he could. But he was sick, and as such, he was flawed. And my memories--my healing--comes from remembering the bad about him. Not because I don't love him. But because that's the only way I know how to make sense of it all, to organize it in my mind, and to make sure I--and everyone else I love--never make the same wretched mistakes he made. Because the one thing that tears me apart the most about my dad is that his life was wasted. He wasted time and precious relationships, and it kills me to think about other people making the same mistakes. Absolutely shatters me.

I can't rewrite history. I don't want to. I want to call it what it is, and pray people learn from it.