Saturday, 23rd April, 1983
28 years ago today, something very sad but significant happened in my life. It was on this day, in 1983, that my Dad, at the age of 44, died from skin cancer. I was seven years old. I would love to be able to say that I remember this day clearly, but I really don’t. In fact, I have only a few memories of my Dad. One memory is from when I was very, very young and we were living in Hong Kong. I remember being on a junk boat in the ocean and people were jumping into the sea and I was very afraid, and I remember holding my Dad’s hand. Another memory was that he used to sing a song from Mary Poppins when it was time for me to get ready for bed. I also remember taking my violin to the hospital to play it to him on one of his many visits there. I think I don’t remember a lot about him because he was very sick for a long time before he died and was often in hospital.
I could say that his death was the cause of my alcoholism but that would be very, very incorrect. I don’t believe that this event caused anything in my life that was to follow. Just as I don’t believe my Mother’s long term grief was to blame for my drinking. I honestly believe that I was born an alcoholic and nothing that happened in my childhood would have changed this fact. This realisation, however, has taken a long time for me.
After his death, I went on to have a happy childhood. However, my childhood came to an end at the age of 14 when I had my first drink. After that drink I was thrust into an adult world and lived the life of a ‘grown up’. For many reasons I had very few boundaries as a teenager which I took full advantage of. I used to blame my Mother for not giving me boundaries, and thought if only she would have given me a curfew or enquired where I was going of an evening, then everything would have been different. I also used to blame my Father’s death for my drinking, especially when I was younger, and the old “I deserve to drink because...” argument would justify all of my behaviours in my mind. It has taken me a long time to realise this isn’t true.
Acceptance is the biggest gift that sobriety has given me. A passage from the AA Big Book (p.417) talks about this:
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy.”
My sobriety is only possible because I can fully accept everything that has happened in my life without adding blame. I have finally been able to accept life on life’s terms without the ‘poor me’ attitude. This acceptance has given me a great deal of serenity. It has also given me the strength to find out who my Father was. In the last few months I have been able to openly talk about him with people who knew him and find out what sort of person he was. Apparently he was funny, highly intelligent, caring, a good but firm Father, had good fashion sense, and never had one alcoholic drink in his life. So on this day, I will be grateful that he was part of my life, even if it was only for a short amount of time.
In honour of my Dad on this day, I am sharing the only picture I have of me with the two of us together. If you would like to see it, then please click here.
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