good ol’ hierarchies. sad that alcohol is on the topmost echelon.
today is father’s day. and i can’t wait for it to end. advil for my headache. a beer for my anxiety. maybe two. dad has an alcohol use disorder. sweet irony. today, i’m barely a drinker. i can control the number of beers. i can steer clear of liquor altogether. i’ve done months here and there and a year of zero alcohol. i feel in control. but there’s that ever-present question mark of whether my life will spiral into alcoholism. i’ve got sixty years to go, and life takes way too many turns. downfalls, especially the grand-canyon-deep ones, will be an invitation to make alcohol my one and only lover. relatives across generations have done it. it’s in our blood.
despite social and religious attempts to glorify us, the human body is first and foremost, a machine. food and drink go in, they’re metabolized, waste goes out, short term energy is expended, long term energy is stored. it is pretty straightforward that some two-legged machines out there just process EtOH more efficiently than others. it’s pretty straightforward to understand that some central nervous systems out there love this substance in particular, despite the destruction excessive consumption brings with it. but let’s go back to father’s day.
life on the homefront hasn’t been great these past few weeks. the average of the last two years has also been shitty. five years, still below average, i presume. nonetheless, i came up with the idea of putting together a father’s day video for my dad. for ~20 years he gifted me a beautiful upbringing, and although the last seven or so haven’t been great, our emotional bank account ain’t yet in the red. and so i invested time, emotional, and mental energy in reaching out to loved ones of his: work colleagues, family, friends. it took the grit of a salesman to stay on top of people. some weren’t particularly enthused to film a <20 s clip for someone whose inebriated behavior had hurt them one or many times in the past few years. but it got done. all thirty videos came in. i’m my own worst critic but honestly, the gift was pretty damn cool: heartfelt father’s day wishes from old and young friends + warm messages of gratitude from his relatives + inspirational background music = kickass gift.
my dad’s losing position in the addiction cycle during the week leading to father’s day, coupled with the fact that my mom and i were collateral damage –again–, made me question the enterprise several times. but my gut told me to keep going. and i’m not a quitter. “worst comes to worst, you can keep the finished product in your back pocket for when dad treats his alcohol use disorder with professionals and stops hurting everyone around him”. but today took some (honestly, to be expected) turns.
i left home in the morning to start the day with a workout. exercise has reliably kept my anxiety at bay. it keeps me off meds. it keeps my alcohol (and other drugs) consumption to a bare minimum. after the workout, i texted him the link to the video. wished him a happy father’s day. told him i’d see him soon at home and we could celebrate.no response. innocent until proven guilty, honestly. neither of us is great with phones. thankfully, gadgets are still working for us and not the other way around.
i got home and mom and dad were about to have breakfast. i hadn’t slept well, but i pushed back the nap to share a meal with them…it’s father’s day, after all.
it took a short exchange to realize that my dad ‘had the sword out’. if you deal with a substance-using loved one, you need no further explanation. if you don’t, ‘having the sword out’ means aggressive and verbally attacking people: those present, others absent, and strangers alike. each and every time, this is very unpleasant to hear: if the world is the circulatory system, this is like snake venom spreading throughout. it is emotionally draining.
he was also under the influence of something. maybe xanax, a benzo he abuses arguably to cope with alcohol withdrawal syndrome and to combat insomnia. or maybe alcohol, an anxiolytic he abuses because he is genetically predisposed, to cope with present-day life and the memories of a tough childhood, and because a long time ago humanity arbitrarily decided it’d be the drug that would be legal and readily available. how much is nature, how much is nurture? jury’s out. i believe it always will be.
the endorphins from the workout let me cope well. we finished breakfast and i proceeded to take the nap. before my date with morpheus, i asked him if he had seen what i texted him. he said no. i was mostly worried about the 25+ loved ones who took time off their busy, uniquely problematic weeks to film a short clip for my dad.
the clock struck 2pm. not a single ‘thank you’, verbal or textual. hug? unfathomable. we don’t gift to be thanked. we gift out of love and affection. but when even the slightest hint of a ‘thank you’ is missing, the void is hard to go unnoticed. and it stings.
at three o’clock or so, i gave up. it had been a ten-day marathon of trying. trying to empathize, trying to help, trying to care for him, trying to love, trying to coexist, trying to keep my temper, trying to be a good son. i needed to take a break for an indefinite amount of time.
it was time for lunch. you’re supposed to share that meal with your dad on father’s day. that’s just how it goes. i was out on the balcony by the kitchen thinking and writing, putting my emotions on paper to emancipate my mind from those enslaving thoughts. my dad came into the kitchen. overhearing a brief exchange with my mom was enough to tell me that he still wasn’t in the right state of mind. i’d had enough unsolicited venom for lunch over the past few weeks. one extra serving? no thanks. i told my mom that i wasn’t hungry, that i’d be eating later. as always, she understood. she’s a saint. then i told her she could also opt out. she opted in. apparently she still had some gas left in the tank.
later on, i found out that my dad started an argument during lunch, blaming my mom for turning me against him. ever since i was little, i’ve had issues following the rules of figures of authority. i’m a grown-ass man these days, having lived on my own for 10+ years. yet, dad clings to the argument that mom (or anyone else) is still making decisions for me. this rigidness of thought is only second to his ego as to why he hasn’t been able to beat his addiction (with the help of professionals and science-driven methods).
after i gave up on lunch and father’s day altogether, the rest of the day went smoother. i went back to my undercurrent of sadness and only experienced it acutely a couple of times: an emotional fatherchildren movie ending, and realizing that my afternoon go-to coffee shop was completely empty because most people were hanging out with their dads in harmony. i was slightly anxious at the coffee shop. for obvious family history reasons, self-medicating with alcohol isn’t usually my first recourse to combat anxiety. but today, i was emotionally drained and my headache wouldn’t go away. so i decided to treat myself to an ice cold one and some jazz at a local bar in my lovely american suburban town.
all things considered, i was in a pretty optimistic mood, decluttering tabs in my browser and catching up on some articles. i was standing at a high-top. foot subtly stomping to the rhythm of great jazz. eye candy to my right: two cute girls wrapped in chic attire. and then, inspiration struck. and i started writing this letter i’ll never send. never waste a good crisis.
happy father’s day!
*this is an unedited first and last draft. just wanted to get it out and move on.