Thursday, 3 May 2012

Tough stuff

Recently a few events have led to me looking at some stuff - some stuff that had been swept by me back under the carpet - but the carpet was lifted, I could have just laid the carpet back down or swept the stuff further under a bit not lifted but I didn't this time.  This is tough stuff for me.  Some people talk about the onion of recovery, you peel of one layer only for another to be underneath needing peeling - I like the onion analogy as well since when I peel onions I cry - this stuff has a similar effect on me.

Firstly - my Dad.  A couple of times recently relationships with fathers etc. have come up and caused me to look at my relationship with my Dad.  My Dad retired early (in his late 50s) when the local dockyard was shut by the Tory govt in the 80s.  He had worked there 42 years - gave his bloody life to the service of this country did my Dad.  He had major issues with his hips through work stuff, he'd had a nasty fall when I was very little and I believe that gave him the problem.  Anyway now retired and enjoying pottering about in the garden and his shed he went in to have one of them replaced.  I saw him on the Friday night a couple of days after the op - he was happy, looking forward to coming home and planning to do stuff he'd been putting off.  He was talking about possibly getting the other one, which wasn't as bad, done as well. He died the next morning in the hospital from a massive heart attack.  I had just turned 22 years old. I bought my first house a few months later and was married less than a year after that day.  My Dad never saw that house, the house I have now, the wedding, he never got to know my kids at all, never saw my career move on or anything I've achieved as an adult.  In rehab I talked a lot about my Dad - but then out came that broom and back under the carpet it all went.

So recently I've been looking long and hard at this relationship with my Dad - he has been dead well over half my life now but still this huge presence.  Why?  Well for one I think I've spent a lot of my life dissatisfied because the one person who I wanted to make proud of my achievements wasn't there to acknoweldge them.  People can say "Your Dad would have been proud" etc. but it isn't the same is it.  Also my Mum passed away a few years back and I don't feel the same with her - why?  Because my Mum wasn't the demanding one - in my perception.  Frankly my Dad wasn't that pushy but I always felt he wanted me to do better for myself - but that "better" was never defined, hence this continual dilemma.  I've got to another recent consideration on it.  My son says we're middle class, due to income, financial position, education levels, blah blah.  I refuse to acknowledge this, I'm working class.  You know I've realized this is all because of my Dad - he was Labour through and through, union man, his father before him too in the 30s was on a national exec of a union.  I can't move on to accept that I probably have done better for myself and should call myself part of middle Britain now - because, I don't know how my Dad would feel about it.  Proud?  Or ashamed a son of his had betrayed his heritage?   Daft but there it is - the crux of my relationship with my Dad today.

Secondly - what I did to the family while drinking.  Last weekend my daughter recounted the last days of my drinking and my wife joined in.  I've heard this before from my wife - rightfully she has told me how I treated her.  I've spoken with my son at times about issues from then - he is too ready to take too much of the responsibility onto his side but we are cool with it all I believe.  My daughter however is an area I've not gone too deep into.  She is now 16 - she has a right to tell me what I did to her.   To be told how she locked herself in the bathroom whilst I was drunkenly raging and that her brother came to check she was ok was horrific.  I never hit my daughter but some scars frankly hurt more than the physical ones don't they - it doesn't in my eyes make my abuse of her as a scared little 8 year old girl any better.  It really fucking hurt when she told me this, she is relaxed about it, she is a pretty level headed young lady and I'm sure she has processed this all through.  I know she is proud of my achievements in not drinking - she has had forthright conversations with peers of hers who have perhaps a more stereotypical tabloid views of what an alcoholic is as a testament to that. 

I spoke to her about "the Promises" which are in the Alcoholics Anonymous big book about page 83 after the discussion on Step 9.  In there it says "... we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it...".  I'm only just ok with having that door back ajar in some instances as regards this stuff but the phrase"not regret"?  Sadly for me I'm a long way from that as I do very much regret the past.  However being told how my actions hurt others that I deeply care about is a huge incentive, probably bigger than the hatred I have myself for the old me, to continue trying to stay sober another day at a time.  To me this is Step 9 - this is living it, there is no point me saying sorry and then still acting like an arsehole, drunk or sober, I have to live a better life and particularly treat those I hurt in a better manner day in day out.  This is not something I can say that I've ever finished it has to be continual action and I have to learn more as I go along the road of recovery.


  1. I'm moved by and admire your candour - and your self-awareness and ability to express all this is brilliant. I can understand the issue about your Dad, I have something slightly similar with my Mum in that there are some sad ironies in the direction my life took only after she'd died. But what can you do - the past is gone and can't be changed - the present and the future can. And that's exactly what you're doing!
    I know what you mean about that "we will not regret the past" bit in your book sounding a bit weird! I wonder if it's just a way of trying to say: don't hate yourself, don't be too hard on yourself? I think regret can be a way of preventing you moving on, so maybe it's worded that way to try and put a different perspective on things. I don't know - but it's just a thought!

  2. A thoughtful post, and I think you have probably hit the nail on the head when you say that your regret is serving as an incentive to behave in a different way now. I think that's one of the things regret is supposed to do and that is healthy. I'm rather surprised that the AA thinks ex alcoholics shouldn't regret. Maybe they mean "not regret" in the sense of "beating yourself up" because there is sure no point in doing the latter. But learning not to do things we regret is an important part of what most of us would call "normal" behaviour. That you have internalised this and live according to it, seems to me massive progress from alcoholism, and something to be extremely proud of.

    As for class, I don't know what can replace the idea of "working class" because that in itself has changed now, and so many people would like to work and can't.

    Your dad sounds like a powerful character. I hope you feel more peaceful soon.

  3. You know, it is kind of surprising to me that AA would mention not regretting the past when it seems (from the outside) that it is rather religiously based (if not specific as to denomination) and most religions require that you wear sackcloth and ashes and flagellate yourself for your past "sins".

    Just a thought.

    1. Just to clarify for anyone interested in AA - it is not religious at all - in fact I know many atheists in AA. There is no concept of God in AA, other than the individual cares to define for themselves.

      I read earlier on another blog something about view your history dispassionately like in a history book - what is done is done, I think that is point. For me though with some of this stuff there is considerable raw emotion around it still

    2. . . . And also just to clarify (if that's ok) I can't speak for all religions, but they all seem to have similar principles to Christianity; they do not require you to suffer for your past sins at all. And certainly no "God" would want you too either.
      Regret doesn't mean "sackcloth and ashes" . I think it's more to do with repentance (in the case of AA and "God") . . . then moving on, happier and stronger, for the better. Repent not regret. Just saying.

  4. Thank you Furtheron. It's an honor to read this difficult stuff. I've found my own writing about it to be difficult and often confusing. But it's good to put the truth to the page, eh?

    1. It is indeed good - it means you have to face it and work it through

  5. Thank you for stopping by and saying hello. I believe I'm going to add you to my blogroll since you seem to be very interesting :-)

    One of my favorite quotes from the text is "More will be revealed.." And indeed it will as you trudge this road of happy destiny. The past will begin to take on a new meaning as time goes by and you begin to view it in relation to your current sobriety. As I'm sure you already are.

    Its a pleasure to meet you. British and guitar player.... I'm a big Roy Harper fan.

  6. The past can be difficult for many of us. I know this sounds a bit crass, but at least you've got the alcohol to semi-blame for how you treated people. I don't drink that much, but there are episodes in my past that I cringe from and I can only blame myself for acting like a complete arsehole. We live and we learn.
    Keep going forward; it's either that or falling flat on our face.

    Keep going.

  7. Gosh, all the parent stuff, having them and being one, is so loaded with what is 'the right thing to do' and 'the right way to behave'. It's what shapes us from birth and continues to do so..

    I'm glad you can talk to your daughter, so many things in families remain forever unsaid and unresolved. Children are resilient and you sound like you have a great relationship now. She has survived and as you say, sorted it out in her head. Bad things happen, and you have and will go on making up for it for years to come. I'm sure we cherish our children more in these instances. I look at others who have nothing to make up for; they seem to lack the appreciation of the wealth and preciousness of continuing to treasure their kids.

    Hope you don't mind my thoughts here?

    1. indeed all that grown up stuff - flipping hard frankly ... thanks, I don't mind the comments at all thanks

  8. I love that line "we will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it..." I sometimes wonder if I should get that book. I just love the quotes you give provide us and all of the insights you provide.

    Recovery work is very much like an onion, layer by layer - years and years later. We have to be willing to be open to self examination on a continual basis.

    Great post, Mr. F!

  9. Heavy stuff to carry around, for sure. Not sure what to say about your father, but I can relate, having lost a parent when I was very young.

    As for your daughter, I can't imagine how we couldn't have regret for some of the things we've done. I have regret from various things throughout my entire life, even before I started drinking! It doesn't rule me, but at times bothers me and I think it's important to never forget. This guilt or shame or pain makes us human.

    I am too afraid to hear my 11 year old tell me what she remembers about my drinking. I'm sure it will come up one day, but for now I will stay blissfully ignorant.

    Thank you for sharing all of this. One of the things your regret no doubt brings is hope to others. You can reach so many via your blog, so just know it is appreciated and more useful than you know.

  10. dragging those demons out of the closet and giving them a good look every now and then is important. being able to keep the communication with your family open is important as well. and appreciating that our lives woulod not work out well without a healthy working class - even if we've found other professions - is important.

    you covered a lot of turf in this one, sir....

  11. I think it's very important to regret when one has treated others' badly -- above all one's children -- but then to take some practical action about it. Your being sober is the best apology that you can make to them. It's difficult, terribly hard work, but work which I bet they acknowledge and realise its severity. That in itself is the best penance.

    I veer between working and middle class; sometimes I'm one, sometimes I'm the other. There are aspects of both that I like. You meet a lot of people with only the one class identity. As soon as you hear anyone say "Money's not important--it's how you are inside that matters," you instantly know they're middle class and don't understand what it's like to be short of cash.

    At the same time, there's a anti-intellectualism in working class culture which I detest and have suffered from myself, being accused (even to this day) of being a snob, or posh, or up myself. I feel like punching someone's lights out when they say this, as my background was far poorer than that of teh people doing the accusing.

    Anyway well done for coming this far Mr F.

  12. Honest stuff, furtheron.

    My mum died when I was 18 and I never knew my dad. I never really knew my mum either. She went out to work and I only saw her evenings. I was just starting to get to know her when she died. Maybe that's why she doesn't have the presence in my life that your dad does in yours.
    I think he'd be proud of you for doing well while retaining your working class beliefs.

    From what I've seen and heard of your daughter she is well-adjusted and loves you to bits. I can understand how bad you feel about the harm you think you've done to her but if she can put it behind her then you must too. Easier said than done I know. We all love to beat ourselves up now and again.

    1. Thanks Liz - yes beating myself up sadly isn't recognised as an Olympic event yet otherwise I'd be in with a medal chance :-)

      Interestingly it was that last year with Dad at home not working 6/7 days a week 12 hours a day (the kids today don't know etc. etc.) that I was just beginning to get to know him. I was at home much of the early part of 1984 on study leave for my finals at college and he was an ever present presence, sticking his head in with a cup of tea, biscuits and asking how I was getting on and how I could concentrate with that racket (Yes, Rush, ELP or the like no doubt) on the music center.