My parents got a divorce when I was six years old. I remember the constant bickering and arguing. I was too young to realize my father was an alcoholic. After my mom left, I became the scapegoat for all of his problems. I was constantly reminded I was the reason my mom left. Hearing this as a kid creates an unsettling feeling. We are a lot more gullible and susceptible to lies at that age. Growing up was traumatizing because I was always getting beaten down- physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
A Childhood Denied
I was kept sheltered at home with my alcoholic father. I was never able to go out and play like a normal kid. I would hear kids at school talk about riding bikes, playing sports or learning how to swim. Every time I mustered up the courage to ask my father for normal kids things, I was accused of acting out. My father would yell and hit me– all for wanting to be a kid.
I thought these were normal behaviors for a parent. I was conditioned to believe this was normal, anyway. I never questioned it. Perhaps I was also afraid. I was always kept in isolation. I was not able to have friends. The only social interaction I had was at school. Even then I remember being quiet and reserved. My teachers would show concern and ask if I was okay. My father was disturbingly good at hiding his true self when he met with my teachers. I lived my childhood in fear and denial.
As I got older, I started realizing the truth about my childhood. I did not have the freedom I should have had growing up. My father kept me sheltered for his own selfish reasons. I was his punching bag, his outlet. I was the reason my mother left, I was the reason he was an alcoholic…I was the reason he was miserable. It was always me, not him.
My teenage years would create resentments and alcohol-fueled arguments with my father. My grades in school were slipping. I was sneaking my father’s booze in school and skipping to smoke pot. I had reached a point to where I started calling my father out on his abuse, neglect and poor parenting.
He would always justify his behaviors by saying he gave me food, shelter, clothing, etc. as a parent should. One particular night I came home intoxicated and retaliated by telling him what hurts the most- the truth. I finally told him I see why my mom had left. I unleashed everything that had been building up in me over the years. My father hit me, and I started throwing and destroying objects in the house. The police were called by the neighbors.
Finally, I would be set free from his wrath…but my problems were only beginning.
I was sent off to live with my mother. I certainly had a lot of questions for her. I was not questioning why she left my father but rather, why she had abandoned me. Her answer was hard to swallow. She admitted I was an accident. She felt she was not mature or financially stable enough to take care of me on her own. She was also afraid of what would happen if she tried to take me away from my father. I could not fault her. I had to be sympathetic and understanding.
Trauma and Addiction
Over the years, the issues with my father would create my own personal demons. I was still traumatized by what I had been through. I felt a lot of guilt, shame, and resentment even against myself. I blamed myself for putting up with my father. I blamed myself for not being brave enough to speak out or let someone know what was really going on. My trauma would lead me to a drinking problem and a heroin addiction.
A lot of people who experience trauma are highly susceptible to drinking and drug use. We turn to it as a means for medication. It is our way of coping and escaping reality. I was grateful for my mother saving me, however, she was not capable of understanding the mental and emotional damage. She was not capable of understanding how the trauma led to my addiction. She felt as if I was blaming her for my addiction when in reality, that was not the case. I was the one having difficulty forgiving myself for not doing more. I agreed to go get help for my struggle with trauma and addiction.
Rehab and Therapy
I attended an inpatient rehab center for an extended period of time. Through intense cognitive behavioral therapy, group sessions with others who had similar experiences and individual therapy, I was beginning the healing process. I was able to forgive myself and come to terms with the fact that I was not to blame.
I ended the toxic relationship with my father once and for all. I did the best I could in such a difficult situation for a teenager, let alone a child. I stepped out of the shadow of my past and into a better, brighter future.
– Dave McCall is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. He writes for websites in hopes of spreading awareness on addiction and alcoholism. He stays active in his recovery community, encouraging others to live and enjoy a sober lifestyle.
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