Being the daughter of an alcoholic is far more common than one would think. Far more common than my seventh grade self would think. This is the start of the story, but the challenges came much later. I did not know that alcoholics could be amazing fathers that cared so much for their child, who were funny, lovable people. I did not know that the one thing more important to an alcoholic than their family, than their children, was the alcohol. I did not know that having an alcoholic father would shape my ability to hold relationships, my self-worth, or view on the world that it still holds to this day. Now my father was not the typical alcoholic that drank every night, in fact I had never seen him take a sip of alcohol until almost 6 years after I found out about the alcoholism. He was sober the majority of my life growing up, only drinking when my mom would go out of town on business. This occurred in seventh grade, which marked the time I discovered he was an alcoholic. The nitty gritty of the situation is not important – what came later is where I see the largest effects.
Trying to figure out feelings as a teenager is f*cking hard enough. But when as I carried around the baggage of my father’s drinking, & the idea that I am not good enough to make my father stop drinking added some extra difficulty. I did not have a healthy relationship with my father after my parent’s divorce when I was fifteen. If anyone asks if my parents’ divorce was hard on me, my typical response is “I knew it was coming, I encouraged my mother to leave him, I had my own life so I didn’t really care”. However, as much as I expected the physical divorce, I did not expect my father to find a new woman who he could drink with, with young children he could spoil, & to feel replaced like no other. I did not have a healthy relationship with my father for my last two years of high school. I felt like I was not good enough for him because I refused to support his drinking. I began dating a guy in high school, who while he treated me very well, I knew he was going to be temporary because I was leaving for college. & deep down I knew no one would want me long term because if my own father wouldn’t even choose me over alcohol, why would anyone stay with me long term? This has been the thinking my whole teen years – in friendships, relationships, really everything. I will never be good enough for my father to choose over alcohol, so why would I be good enough for anyone else?
As college began, I found myself making some very dumb decisions – ones that I now do not regret, for the fact they made me realize how emotionally unhealthy I was. I struggled making healthy relationship choices & would find myself hating most of my choices. I turned to partying, late nights, & bad choices to numb the pain of my own father’s refusal to choose me. I hid my emotional instability by making jokes about my “daddy issues” & trying to find emotional fulfillment in all the wrong places. I continued this path until the beginning of my sophomore year of college – this is where I had some big revelation, so big I can’t even remember what brought it on, but I realized I was not treating myself the way I needed to be. I had started mending the relationship with my father (but it was still nowhere near healthy) through the insistence of my mom (more on her later cause she’s the best). Living with some of my best friends caused me to have some late-night life talks on the couch which got me thinking. It had never occurred to me how much of an impact my father had on my life. It is so clear in hindsight, but at the time I thought I was just living the college life. As I continued my “daddy issue” jokes though my sophomore year, I took a hard look at my life, & calmed my actions. I still found myself making a few semi-regrettable actions in dark moments, but I was thinking more & more about them. I replaced reckless actions with food, something that has always been an issue for me. This is something that also does not help my feeling of self-worth left over by my father. The ideas that flow through my head include “well if my dad can’t even choose me – no one will, so who cares if I eat all the foods.” At this point, I went home for a few weeks after my second year of school – 8 months ago. This does not seem like a long time now, but it feels like ages looking back. My mom, who has been the only reason I did not go down a truly regrettable path in life, has been my rock my whole life. She was the one who put me in therapy with a family counselor when I was eight, when she encouraged me to build a relationship with my father, for the sole purpose that he is my dad & does love me. She is the one who drove me across the country to pursue my passions. She is the one who puts aside her own feeling toward my father so I can build a healthy relationship with him.
The week I went home after my second year of college I went back to therapy. One of the best decisions I have ever made. I broke down on the couch, I cried, I laughed, I screamed, & I admitted out loud, that I needed help in fixing myself from the inside out. I have always put myself on the outside of relationships, friend groups, & experiences. Need a leader? I’m your girl. Need someone to take care of everyone? I’m your girl. I always set myself to the outside of things because then no one can put me there. If I isolate myself first, them I will never have to have someone do it to me again. It took some serious soul searching to realize this. I might sound like I have figured myself out, but I struggle with to this day. I feel so alone sometimes, I still feel like I have no friends, I feel like I am no one’s number one. While this may not be true, the emotional scars of my relationship with my father will always haunt me. I have had the same best friend since I was three years old. We have been to hell & back together. She is the only person who has ever seen me cry over my parents’ divorce – or really anything emotional as I now think about it. She is my rock in college. She is the only one who can get me to snap out of my own head. For her friendship & support I am eternally grateful.
I had been handling it fine on the outside. I served in leadership roles, I was happy, I laughed, I was friendly, I never let my walls down. My Instagram feed is a perfect example of this. Freshman year you would never have known it was the darkest part of my struggles. Every photo is a smile, a happy portrayal of the darkest times. But what I have realized is that I was masking my deep insecurities about being accepted, loved, & appreciated for who I am. The hardest part of this is accepting that I will always face this. I will never not be the daughter of an emotionally unavailable alcoholic. I will always wonder to myself, is this influenced by the issues left behind from my dad? Now, I do not claim to be okay. I do not claim that this is something that does not affect me. I have worked at accepting my experiences as a part of me. I have made goals towards putting myself out there. My New Year’s Resolution was to “make new friends” which is so simple, yet SO HARD, I have realized. I am learning to speak out, which is why this project spoke to me. I have talked in different organization I am a part of, but never shared on social media. I have thought about starting a blog, the title Another Girl with Daddy Issues. But the title alone shows how I still seem to laugh at myself. I don’t think this will ever be something I will stop thinking about, sharing, & speaking about. It is a tough subject because this is my father, someone who through all the sh*t we have been though, I still love. I still admire. & I don’t think I will ever stop. I do not want the world to see just how vulnerable I have been, & still remain. I have been to hell & back emotionally, but I want to prove that through it all, you can laugh, you can smile, & you can find the positive. I never realized how common my experiences are. & to Girls Who Handle It – I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring light to it. Because to everyone reading this – you are worthy & you are enough.