It has been three weeks since my three boys started 2nd grade and kindergarten.
Eight weeks since my boys’ dad died from alcoholism.
Ten weeks since he showed up drunk to a family event for Father’s Day and ended up in the ICU.
Fifteen weeks since he started drinking again.
Sixteen weeks since he left rehab for the third time.
Forty weeks since I filed for divorce.
Have you ever had a range of emotions so strong and so confusing that it completely engulfs your existence? How can an emotion be so crushing that it feels like 100 elephants stampeding on your chest?
At just 38 years young, I never thought I would feel it.
But my sad, secret story is exactly that. A life of seemingly endless possibilities, but my family’s life being scarred day after day by alcoholism. Not just mine, my boys, the close friends and family around us having to once again pick up the pieces. A life that ended too quickly because of addiction. I long for the day when someone can provide some rationale, some explanation into the chemical dependencies and obsessions that are alcoholism.
I am thankful that I understood what was happening and could prepare for the end of a relationship and of a life. I’m also thankful for this new life that is now the bliss and stability I strived to find.
I remain broken by the miserable days of watching someone you should love, you should care for, but that no matter how hard you tried could not get them to put the bottle (and then the next bottle and the next bottle) down.
The two separate weeks in detox, the five weeks in rehab, only to find an apartment full of liquor three days later. The constant lies about being “cured” and, of course, talking to the sponsor that never existed and attending the AA meetings that just happened to be trips to the park with another 12-pack of beer.
All this life shadowed by vodka, beer, and anything else that could get him to a state of delirium – despite the damage it did to everyone around him. Consuming the drink just to make it through the morning, then the afternoon until a drunken oblivion set in. He was physically there in the room, but the mental awareness had been long gone since earlier in the day. His three young boys playing around his passed out body on the floor.
Another call for a wellness check at his apartment is how I learned of his death over the July 4th holiday. Followed by a heart-wrenching session with a child psychologist to help share the news to my boys that their dad was dead.
I spent the months leading up to his death angry. Angry at how someone could throw their life away. A one-time successful job for over 30 years with the same company, a wonderful family with two adoring sons always searching for a glimmer of hope that Dad would throw the ball or play Legos with them. Aching for some time with him away from the bottle.
I was the overbearing, “controlling” wife who longed for a life without the constant need to drink being the center of every activity and every conversation. As we waved goodbye to 2017 and hoped
for a better 2018, I had already begun preparing. I dropped everything for the boys, left a job I adored so I could be home when they got off the bus from school. I took over as soccer coach, paying bills, attending doctor and teacher visits on my own.
I had begun to build a life as a single parent while he continued to give up on everything and everyone around him. The constant lies and promises to stop drinking followed by trips to liquor stores and the hidden bottles around the house to be sure he could always get that quick fix that his body now medically needed.
The boys and I are just now starting to find our way in this new normal. A mix between my guilt and their despair at the loss of their dad, because little things would remind them: hockey on the TV, baseball practices, or other dads at the bus stop.
I went into autopilot, trying to be their rock, the mom and dad they needed, but I was exhausted. By evening’s end, tantrums and tears would consume us. I needed a break and some time to rebuild myself.
Weeks with a wonderful counselor have been my lifesaver, along with dear friends and family who dropped everything to be at my side so I could unload the situation or events of the day.
Then, slowly, things started to fall into place: the boys and I re-built our new rhythm. We have a lot of fun, but we have rules. They do not rule the roost anymore, but respect my role as head of the house.
So tonight after eight long, angry weeks since my ex-husband’s death, I have decided to turn my anger to grief for a short moment in my life.
A wonderful life with three amazing boys and I am thankful that we walked away stronger, happier, and with the sense of knowing that as a family we did all we could to be the rock for him. That at the end of the day, he made a decision to continue to drink and do exactly what would cause his death at 51 years old.
As his boys hug me a little closer each night, the memory of a “dad” fades but so with it the visions from the past that no child should have to ever experience. Whatever it is your families are going through, take solace in the fact that you have each other and you can and will find happiness once again. You can do it, and you will come back stronger.