By Catherine, 2021
It’s nearly five years now… five years in which so much in my life has happened. Milestones that my dad should have seen. My graduation from university, my first ‘adult’ job, my moving away from home, meeting my boyfriend and buying a house. All the milestones that my dad should have been a part of, but he wasn’t. Something that will continue to be the case throughout my life.
My dad died on April 19th 2016. Something I never saw coming. After a phone call from the hospital, my life changed forever.
The first man I ever loved had gone in the blink of an eye. No goodbye, no last hug, no chance to say I love you one last time.
My dad died of Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis. Something I used to be ashamed to admit but not anymore. He was a fantastic father and a fantastic person. And that shouldn’t be diminished by the fact he was dependent on alcohol.
I have wanted to write this for a couple of years. I have put pen to paper multiple times but something has always stopped me from finishing.
The stigma that is associated with alcohol addiction has caused me to wonder what impression that would give people. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression.
My dad dying from an addiction to alcohol does not define him as a person. The stereotype associated with this disease, not only can stop the person from seeking help themselves but can also affect their family.
A major study in the US found that people with alcohol dependency were more than 60% less likely to seek treatment if they believed they would be stigmatised once their status was known. I’ve decided to write this to help remove the stigma that this illness is ‘self-inflicted’. Everyone’s story is different and nobody has the right to judge. If you have a dependency yourself or have a loved one who does. Never be ashamed. Ask for help.
There is a strong correlation between alcohol addiction and mental health issues. Along with the effect long term heavy drinking can have on the brain, alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism and can be used to mask the way we are truly feeling.
My dad suffered depression for most of his life but he only began to use alcohol as a coping strategy in his last 5 to 10 years.
Several falls in his personal life caused him to turn to alcohol as a way to make himself feel better and numb the pain.
Unfortunately, this led to dependency. The addiction made the man that I looked up to and that radiated so much fun and joy, turn into someone that would forget that I had arranged to meet him or turn up under the influence. What was most frustrating was, I could see my old man in his eyes. His true self was in there but he couldn’t get out. He was stuck in a rut and that broke my heart.
My dad’s death caused me to suffer my own mental health issues and around a year after he passed, I was diagnosed with depression myself. I saw a counsellor for 6 months as I felt resounding guilt that I had not done enough to help my dad to defeat his addiction. I felt a guilt that I had almost split my world into two separate parts, one with my dad and one with everyone else, for reasons I now deeply regret. I didn’t want people in my life to meet my dad because I was so concerned about what others would think.
Now when I look back at those few years before he died, I wish I had included my dad in more because I would give anything to have that chance now.
The stigma associated with people with alcohol problems of any nature needs to be changed. As so many of us often say, we don’t know someone’s story. Our harsh words can often be the reason why someone doesn’t seek help. So let’s not judge, but instead, check-up and offer help to more of our friends and family. You never know who is struggling.