16 June 2019

Dear Dad – Worker, Entertainer, Addiction Survivor – I Wish you Love on Father’s Day

On Father’s Day, we’re sharing a letter from Lizzie, 42 to her father Harry, 71. They have both been in addiction recovery since 2007.

There is hope for people of all ages to recover from addiction, to rebuild relationships and to find joy in sobriety. To free yourself from addiction, please call UKAT today. Wishing dads everywhere a very happy Father’s Day.

Dear Dad, You’re the Great Survivor

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I’m in the comfort of my living room, my little girl is dancing to Nowhere Man by The Beatles. And I’m inspired to write to you, dear Dad, this Father’s Day.

At 71, you have won so many battles – heart attacks, a quadruple bypass, cancer, liver disease, diabetes, alcohol addiction. You’re a formidable force, a master of comebacks.

Addiction was the big one. Smoking broke your heart. Alcohol hurt your liver and contributed to cancer and diabetes too. It’s extraordinary that you survived these trials.

Today, you’re a quieter man. You haven’t had a drop of alcohol for almost as long as me – we’re both 12 years alcohol-free now, who would have predicted that?

You still get annoyed with the world and how it’s run. But you’re no longer angry with the people who love you. Nor are you (quite so) frustrated with yourself. Recovery from addiction has calmed you – day by month by year – and this has given your wife and your children great happiness.

You’ve helped me in recent years with so many practical things – like moving house, deciding which car to buy, facing my own health challenges. You’re a brilliant granddad too – I am delighted that my girl gets to hang out with you in sobriety.

We say much kinder things to each other today. We allow each other to get things wrong. We say sorry (some of the time) – progress!

Alcohol, in your hands and mine, was a destroyer of health and harmony. Recovery continues to heal us. For over a decade, we’ve lived again, repaired the damage done, moved on.

Happy Father’s Day, dear Dad. Thank you for everything you do for me.

Dear Dad, our Addiction Years were Rough

In my earliest childhood memories, you are not there, Dad

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Today, I understand why you are missing from the picture. Those hazy images of my first years, you were working so hard in London. We were out in the countryside – Mum, my brother and me. You came home late most nights, past our bedtime. Then, you were out again, so early each day – I’m guessing before we woke.

We lived in our first home until I was 4 years old. I remember the back garden, the overgrown grass and the wooden shed, tall trees and the duck pond. I remember bouncing on sofas, jumping down stairs. Then, when my little sister arrived, I remember Mum with the wriggly pink baby. We went for walks along the lane by the field. We played with paints, read stories, dressed up. We fought and we made up, more times that I can remember.

It was exactly how childhood is meant to be – except there’s nothing of you, Dad. I know now that you were paying for it all, in more ways than one.

When we moved house, I got to know you and alcohol

Like so many people in the 80s, you drank a lot of alcohol. You drank wine with clients. You drank wine and beer with friends. You drank spirits to relieve stress or extend the party late at night. You smoked as much as you drank – everyone seemed to love the ‘booze and fags’ back then.

At home, I remember so many parties – our house bursting with guests. Music in every room, noisy conversations, glasses on every surface, ashtrays overflowing. People loved your stories and hospitality, Dad. I was proud of you for that – the man in the middle of it all.

On the way up in your drinking, you were a dazzling entertainer. Flashes of energy. The loudest laughter. Music blasting in the car, driving too fast. You gave us handfuls of silver to feed the fruit machine at the pub. We played pool and we bought Coke and crisps at the bar. In summer, we played outside for hours, days – exploring the village, wandering without supervision, getting lost and finding our way home again. That, for a kid, is a delightful riot – no rules, a crazy amount of freedom.

On the way down in your drinking, you were something else altogether. It’s hard to name. You weren’t a monster. You weren’t evil or cruel. I did know I was loved, I’m sure that I always knew that. And yet, there were times it was frightening to be near you. What mood would you wake up in? Would you be angry when you came home? What could I do or not do to keep you happy?

There were times you would smash things. I was never in the room when you did that. I was listening in the hallway or at the top of the stairs. I remember holding my breath, as the crashes and shouts came through the wall. If I stayed dead still, I believed I had the power to change things and sometimes you did stop at the very moment I wished it the hardest.

Otherwise, you were sleeping, crashed out on the sofa or upstairs in bed. My siblings and I pulled at your cheeks, tugged your hair. Nothing would stir you.

With your new family, alcohol was how we all coped

It was a relief when you left us – a shock, of course, but mainly a blessing. We didn’t see you for a year or so. There was too much anger between you and Mum. She didn’t want to see you, so you stayed away.

Then came the day when we met up again. You were with your new wife and her kids. We had an extended family to get to know – step-mum, step-siblings. It was odd, awkward, so we all drank together throughout the 90s and into the new millennium. Booze was the glue in all our get-togethers, it was the way that everyone could forget the past.

And it seemed really fun for a time. Exciting, entertaining, unpredictable – all the things I wanted my teens to be. You were cool in my mind, still just out of reach, but back in my life. And alcohol was our model for how to function – how to socialise, get to know people, have fun, relax. I followed that path for the next 15 years.

Then, for both of us, addiction was all downs

For you, there was your crumbling health – first your heart, then your liver. Warnings from doctors, surgeons, your wife. The drinking was destroying you and yet, it was still impossible to resist the glass, the bottle, the case.

For me, there was the mental destruction of addiction – the disease warped my thinking, turned me against myself. I ended up in Accident & Emergency, too many times, having drunk too much alcohol or stayed up for days on drugs.

I remember the end of my addiction. I was working very hard at the time, just like you. I was drinking every day, just like you. I was taking ecstasy and cocaine, something you’ve never done but if you’d have been of my generation, I think you might have done. Everything fell apart. I couldn’t work or sleep. I didn’t want anyone near me. I was physically sick, mentally smashed.

And suddenly, help was there. I don’t remember much about it. I called a helpline. Then somehow my employer got involved. Then I was going off to rehab. It’s incredible when I think about it now – how the help came when I most needed it.

I remember you saying that you were proud of me for getting help. That was the start of everything good to come in our relationship.

Dear Dad, We Both Recovered from Addiction

Rehab changed everything for me – and soon after, you freed yourself from addiction too

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For me, residential rehab provided solid foundations. A month inside with the best kind of support – there were professionals who knew what they were talking about and peers who understood me, often better than I understood myself.

They spotted things I couldn’t see, which was fascinating and frightening and so very healing. I made friends with people in treatment, some of whom I still speak to today. I was shown how to live without my addictions. I left rehab and continued to care about my recovery. I’ve never needed to drink or take drugs again.

Not long later, Dad, there was your final warning from the GP about your liver. If you didn’t stop drinking, you would die. This time, the stark and simple message appealed to you. I don’t know what help you got to recover from addiction – I’ve never asked – but you stopped drinking and you gave up cigarettes too. With a lot of love from your wife, and probably a fair few miracles, you have recovered from addiction – the disease that almost killed you.

Dear Dad, Here’s to our Sober Future

Let’s enjoy the moments we have together, forgive easily, stay kind at all times.

There is so much to look forward to and so much to love.

I’m wishing you the best of health on Father’s Day, dear Dad – raising my cup of Yorkshire tea to you.

With love,

Lizzie

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