My Dad and Me.
By Simon Measures.
My Dad, Eddy, was an addict. Just like me.
Unlike me, he never found a solution. Dad was an unhappy man by and large and he became a lot more unhappy when I was around 9. He was 39. I recall him being like a proper Dad at times though. I remember running against him up Spenser Road. It was great fun and he called me Stick and Turk and I never found out why on either count. It seemed reasonable funnily enough. My overriding recollection of my Dad after he became ill, or at least demonstrably mentally ill, as In retrospect he’d clearly had these tendencies, was him sitting with a deathly look of fear and depression on his face, wearing a woolly hat to hide the bandages from his hair transplant.
I sort of knew what the deal was at the time but I know now more than ever the truth of my Dad’s illness so it is hard to work out how much I knew at the time. He was an essentially good man my Dad but very vain, fearful, shame and guilt-ridden, resentful, self-centred and afraid. An almost complete facsimile of me in fact. Curiouser still, as I was informed by Mum during an angry exchange during one of my bouts of drunkenness that he wasn’t my biological father. It then tuned out that there was a one in four chance that he was. I’m increasingly minded to believe that he was my biological Dad the more time goes on.
If it’s not true then between nature and nurture, nurture is winning through big time.
My Dad’s illness and behaviour clearly had a significant impact on me. He was a compulsive gambler, prescription drug abuser and, I see now with clarity, a sex addict or sexually compulsive. He had coping mechanisms involving getting lost in resentment, shouting at the TV and justifying his envy and jealousy at every turn by blaming and denigrating others, especially materially successful folk. He would manage one addiction by turning to another for a while. I’ve done it myself. It’s like the game at the fair or arcades where you have to hit a little critter as soon as he pops up.
As soon as you clobber one, another one comes up somewhere else. This is what happens when you try and manage the symptoms of an illness like this instead of getting down to causes and conditions. Of course, you need a measure of awareness to know that the symptoms aren’t causes and conditions. I sense my Dad knew deep down at least intermittently. this was true but couldn’t stay there for long enough or with sufficient conviction to really look at what was going on deep inside; just as I have had to and still do.
Dad searched and new the answer was in religion and spirituality somewhere, he just couldn’t quite take that leap ashore. He conned himself his whole life that if he won the pools, or spot the ball he’d be happy. It never happened and he wouldn’t have been. Not for very long. I know this because neither would I.
One of the last things my Dad said to me while he was in the hospice was that it was nice to be free from lust, to just look at women as women, as people. The medication and illness had simply removed all libido from him, so the faculty was no longer there. I now know he was plagued by lust all his life and it fuelled his resentment. It imprisoned him and it enslaved him. Just as it has me. Only now with time and awareness that comes from self-searching and honesty and I guess just as the water settles over a picture at the bottom you can see it more and more clearly.
I blamed my Dad, and others, all my life for my drinking, my woes, my problems, my lack of career success and happiness etc. The truth is it’s me. It’s my defective relationship with the world seen through the childish, self-entitled, irresponsible mesh of self that has kept me separated, isolated. That doesn’t mean that people always behave impeccably. Far from it, some people have treated me abysmally and abusively just as I have abused and bullied. I can decide to stand in the mire of selective victimhood and use the wrongs perceived or actual as an excuse to to remain in victimhood and self pity or I can take responsibility for the way I feel and look to move on, to grow, to help others and to cultivate more presence, more faith and more love.
I could very easily say I’ve been very very lucky to have been afforded the opportunity to recover, to find out what’s really going in but it is clearly something very much bigger than so-called luck at work.
I am sober and sane by the grace of God. What I mean is that I had very clearly placed myself beyond human aid. Nothing could keep me from drinking. Not doctors, priests, the pleading of friends and family, even my darling Mum, my own experiences of drinking, the police, hospitals, dry outs, deprivation of liberty, degradation, incontinence and really a dehumanised existence time and time again could not keep me away from that first drink. Even then I had to have a couple of convincers in AA, you know, just to make sure I really had absolutely no control over what I drank and what happened to me once I started to drink. I’m a slow learner sometimes.
All this happened so that I could recover and help others do the same if they want it. I see and feel and know this with increasing clarity and conviction. I’m coming up to 17 years clean and sober.
About our author, Simon