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To feel so guilty about my relationship with my dad

(4 Posts)
Frillsandspills Wed 29-Jul-15 16:36:40

Sorry for how long this may be - I appreciate it if anyone reads.

when I was little I was always very much a daddy's girl. When I got to secondary school my relationship with my dad began to deteriorate as he began drinking heavily. I wouldn't class him as an alcoholic but I'm not sure if that's because he's my dad, but he wasn't the sort of person to go to the pub and get pissed, he'd sit at home and drink whiskey every night and it helped him sleep as he'd always be very stressed with work. Eventually it escalated from just drinking of a night to have a small glass here and there through the day, then he'd do it at about 5am. He'd never appear drunk just more relaxed but because whiskey is quite strong I'd always smell it on him and I didn't like it.
After a couple of years of this myself and my mum (I have no siblings) were really worried and frustrated because of a night he'd be quite mean. Never physically abusive or anything like that he'd just say some nasty things like drove him to drink, particularly me (I was about 13 years old when he first started saying that and I still remember how much it hurt me). Night after night id pour his whiskey away and it would fuel a huge argument because he couldn't cope without it. He had a professional, well paid job and we were always comfortable financially so him drinking whiskey so much luckily wasn't a financial burden, but because it wasn't it made it easier for him to do it.

When I was 15/16 myself and my parents went on a holiday to New York. As soon as we got off the plane we got to our hotel and we didn't have enough time to unpack before my dad collapsed and started having a seizure. Neither myself or my mum had seen anyone have a seizure before so it was petrifying. We called an ambulance and when we got to hospital the doctors asked if he drank a lot and my mum broke down and said "I knew this would kill him". His heartbeat was ridiculously high and the paramedics said he should have been dead, it's a wonder his heart didn't fail as it was beating so fast (I can't remember how many bpm).
He was given Valium for the withdrawal symptoms he was experiencing (his seizure was due to alcohol withdrawal) and we were told that although he may not have appeared to be an alcoholic in the sense he was always pissed, his body had been so dependent on the levels of alcohol he was consuming a long flight without the alcohol sent his body into a frenzy.
When he was at hospital he developed hospital acquired pneumonia at the end of the 'holiday' myself and my mum had to come home whilst my dad stayed there as he was on a breathing machine. I was too young to stay with him and my mum didn't have enough medication to keep with her. My GCSEs had just started too, so we both really had to come home even though neither of us wanted to leave him, but we were reassured that his lungs would be clear of infection soon anyway, and as he was sedated us being there was pointless.
When we got home we received a phone call the next day saying he was on life support machine, and eventually they told us he wasn't responding and we should fly back to New York to be there to turn the machines off.
Last minute flights were ridiculously expensive and there was no way myself or my mum could afford it and the insurance company wouldn't only pay for one of us and my mum didn't want to go alone (she suffers from depression and having had a breakdown in the past there was no way she could do that on her own). Luckily, the delay in us getting flights meant that he had a bit of extra time and made signs of recovering. Then, 6 weeks later he was home.
He never touched whiskey again, or any other alcoholic drink except Guiness which he only ever has one of. He was told if he drank any more he would kill himself.

I was unbelievably happy when he came home and was rid of alcohol but I never forgave him at the same time. whilst he was on deaths door I went into a kind of depression convincing myself it was all my fault because hed told me that's why he drank. As much as I love him and I'm happy he was ok, I never let myself get too close to him.
Me and my mum are really close, and I wish myself and my dad were but it's hard for me to just forget what he was like when I was a teenager. I didn't often have friends round when his drinking for really bad because although he was never really 'pissed' and falling all over the show he was tipsy/merry and it was embarrassing, especially when he'd shout at myself and my mum and say horrible things which I've blocked out my mind now.

Me and my dad clash quite often, I moved back in with my parents as I'm having a baby and my partner left me and since being back myself and my dad don't really speak that much, we do on occasions but we have nothing in common. He keeps saying we should go for a drink (Guiness for him)and I feel awful because I'm always busy. He's not very sociable and since being made redundant he doesn't leave the house and I think that's why I used to get wound up because when I was a teenager, apart from the disaster that was our trip to New York we never ever did anything as a family and I'd get really jealous over my friends who's dads would take them places (I know it sounds petty).

I love my dad to bits I just wish I had patience for him. Since New York and his seizure he's never really been the same, he is forgetful and suffers from short term memory loss and sometimes I snap at him when he asks me to do something and he repeats himself, I forget he's not nagging he's genuinely forgot he's asked.

My dad found out today he has mouth cancer and I'm honestly distraught. I feel so guilty for not having a relationship with him like I did when I was little but my mum explained we're totally different people and it's understandable given what happened when he used to drink.

I'm currently 5 months pregnant with a little boy and I was hoping it would bring our family closer together. I do want a better relationship with him but I can't shake the guilt of our relationship breakdown and I wish I'd never held some sort of grudge for the way he was when he chose a bottle of whiskey over myself and my mum but even then I'd only ever tried to help him.
I don't know how to begin trying to be closer to him again without suffocating him and he'll hate any fuss as everyone will be so worried about him now.

I think I'm still in shock hearing he has cancer and I'm hoping they've caught it early but I'll no more when he gets home. I just can't stop thinking of where things went wrong and if anything happened to him I don't know how I'd cope with the guilt I've felt.

Thank you to anyone who got this far, I'm not sure if AIBU was the right place to put this but I guess I'm wondering whether I was being unreasonable for not being as close to him perhaps?

Fatmomma99 Wed 29-Jul-15 16:44:12

I think you need to stop being so hard on yourself.

It sounds to me that what you went through as a child was horrendous, and I'm not surprised you are scared to be close to him (or anyone, for that matter). What he did was horrendous and selfish. You were given levels of responsibility and experiences way, way too old for a teen to be able to deal with, and it sounds like he effectively robbed you of at least part of your childhood.

No wonder you struggle with your relationship now.

Congrats on your pregnancy.

Salmotrutta Wed 29-Jul-15 16:48:36

I don't think you were unreasonable.

He broke your trust after all by his behaviour.

That said, you are in the here and now and you probably are in a bit of shock.

I'd try focusing on what you can do practically to help out like driving him to appointments if possible or getting errands etc.?
On a relationship note does he like playing cards, or scrabble or anything? Maybe things like that might help take his mind off his illness as he undergoes treatment.

I didn't want to read and not offer any suggestions flowers

MrsTerryPratchett Wed 29-Jul-15 17:53:35

Firstly, mainly for any lurkers, he was absolutely, dictionary definition of an alcoholic. Hard to deal with that label but it's hard to deal with something you don't name.

Secondly, your DF said things to you that were unforgivable and if you don't want to forgive him, you don't have to. Addicts do blame other people and want to push responsibility off. Doing that to a child is wrong. Part of the reason people in recovery 'make amends' is to help those they've hurt heal. Did he ever apologise?

Have you ever had any support, counselling or groups about alcoholism in the family? Al-anon are good, so is AdFam. A decent family therapist could work.

Remember: You didn't cause it. His addiction wasn't your fault.

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