Dear Barb – Forgiving an alcoholic father

Dear Barb,

While I was growing up, my father drank heavily and fought with my mother all of the time. I have two younger sisters and because of my parents I ended up having to take care of them. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents, but I couldn’t wait to get out of the house. When I finished high school, I got a job and moved in with my boyfriend. Now my dad has stopped drinking and he thinks I should just treat him as if nothing happened. I’m glad that he’s not drinking, but how can I forget everything that’s happened? My dad basically destroyed my mother’s life and almost did the same to my sisters and me. I’m very angry with him. How am I supposed to just get over this?

Tammy in Bracebridge

Hi Tammy, I can imagine how hard it must be for you to forgive your father. It might be helpful if you try to put things into perspective. It sounds like your father is an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a disease. Try to think of it as an illness that your father had no control over. I know it’s hard for you to understand, but I’m sure your father would not have chosen this lifestyle. Rather, he was genetically predisposed to it by factors which were beyond his control.

Fortunately, your father is no longer drinking. I presume he has received some professional help to overcome this through AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or some other organization. Growing up in an alcoholic home brings forth unique difficulties for all of the family members. Therefore, you also need to seek help for yourself and your sisters. Al-Anon is an excellent organization that has been operating for many years, helping individuals and families overcome the affects of growing up in this type of home.

Tammy, difficult as it may be, try to accept your father as he is now. Your father is probably fighting his own demons, knowing the pain his drinking inflicted on his family. You will never be able to forget what your father has done to your family, but try to see this as a new beginning. You now have an opportunity to redefine your relationship with your father and it definitely will be a new and improved one.

Hope this helps Tammy.

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