Juliet describes her turbulent relationship with her father who has been a problem drinker for years. After unsuccessfully trying to control her father’s drinking, Juliet found comfort and ways to cope from Al-Anon meetings and this has helped to turn her own life around.
“During my final year at university, I found out that my dad was an alcoholic. Just before my final exams, my mum told me she had found several empty bottles of vodka hidden in the garden and garage.
My dad’s drinking got worse over time and this led to some major accidents which left him with some permanent damage. On one occasion, he broke his leg and sadly, he’s now disabled. His drinking, his accidents, it all became too much for my family, and that led to my parent’s divorce.
My mum left and a couple of months later, then my sister too. I stayed with my Dad as I have always been very close to him and have a very different relationship with him than I did with my mum, or my sister’s relationship with him. It was hard, but despite his alcoholism I loved him, so I wanted to stay to help him. I thought I could fix the problem. To be fair, I didn’t fully understand what alcoholism meant nor did I know the extent of his drinking.
I tried about every tactic I could think of; finding the alcohol and throwing it away in secret; finding it and showing him; being understanding; being angry. I actually poured it all over him once out of anger. I did lots of things I’m not very proud of to try and make him stop. Nothing I tried helped in the slightest. If anything, it made it worse because not only was he still drinking every day, but my own self esteem was completely gone. In my eyes if he loved me, he would stop, so I couldn’t have had the great relationship I thought I had with him if he wouldn’t even stop for me. I became short tempered, I was always sad or angry.
After a few months of trying everything I could think of, I think in the back of my mind I knew I couldn’t fix it. One day he was drunk, no better or worse than on any other day but for some reason I snapped and sent my mum and sister quite a nasty message saying they had given up on him and how could they leave me alone. Once I had calmed down I called my mum to apologise, to my surprise she wasn’t angry at all, she just asked me to go to Al-Anon just once. She had been going on about it for months and I always refused. This time, I was at an all-time low, so I decided to try it, mostly so that my mum would stop talking about it.
The first meeting I went to, I was given a pack of leaflets and in one of them there was a list or “dos’ and ‘don’ts”. I realised I had done every single “don’t” on the list an embarrassing number of times, which also helped me understand I wasn’t going on be able to fix my dad, but that I might be able to make myself feel better. It was quite emotional - I cried. Everyone understood what I was going through and it made me realise the importance in talking to people. After leaving the room, I felt relieved.
I didn’t know how big the Al-Anon community was until I travelled to Australia last year. I didn’t know anyone. In despair I thought I would try an Al-Anon meeting. When I entered the room, everyone was so lovely. A lady from the meeting, whom I had never met before, gave me her number and suggested I called her if I needed anything or anyone to talk to. You don’t get that kind of support anywhere else.
Al-Anon is different from other organisations as it doesn’t offer just a quick fix but a permanent life changing experience. It helps you to focus on yourself, and the programme can be used on any aspects of your life. Most other organisation offer a short-term fix but it never last.
Al-Anon gave me a different perspective on life and on my situation. It allowed me to see that I couldn’t make my dad stop drinking, that was his illness, and it had nothing to do with how much he loved me.
My relationship with my dad has had its ups and downs. Over the past 4 years I have been through times where I didn’t want a relationship with him, and Al Anon has helped me through a lot of that. It has helped me understand that alcoholism is an illness, and that while my Dad still isn’t at the stage of recovery that I want him to be, I can still have the relationship I’ve always had with him - if I take it day by day.
Ultimately, I have been able to get myself to a position when we can have a relationship on my terms, which might not be ideal, but it keeps me saner than I was before I knew he had a problem.”