April 14 - Happy Birthday, Daddy

One fine spring day in the year 1916, my father was born on the same date that his father was born. I imagine he was like all babies, happy, giggly, and eager to learn. I am certain he probably played with his toes, laughed with his toys, and slept when he got tired. And yet I can’t help but wonder when it was that he first started using an artificial substitute to try to satisfy a true unmet need of his childhood.

His father was a well-respected dentist, and his mother a hard-working housewife and mother. She would kill and pluck the chickens for dinner, pick the apples and beat them into a pulp for applesauce. She spent hours in the basement washing clothes and putting them through a wringer. She washed off ice cubes when you were finished with your glass to save money. She also would tell my grandfather what he wanted to eat, when he should go to bed, and sometimes even what he was thinking!

How did these activities shape and affect my father? I can’t help but wonder. Perhaps she wouldn’t let him eat all he wanted or stay up past his bedtime...ever. Might she have put him through the wringer as well as her clothes? All I know is that one day before I was born, my father started drinking, and once he did, he didn’t know how to stop. He died when I was just eighteen and he was forty-five, so I will never know for sure the answers to my questions.

I never knew my father without alcohol in his system.

There is always the age-old question...do we inherit this disease of addiction, or do the experiences we have early in life determine its course? We need a lot more research to even begin to answer this question, and it is such an important question indeed. This disease played a significant part in my father’s premature death; his sister died at a very early age from alcohol poisoning; and I could have easily died from it as well... many, many times.

Why was I spared? How was I the first one in the family to find myself in recovery? I can’t answer these questions either. There are so many questions around addiction...and so few answers that have been discovered as of now. I challenge us all to take a step and begin making a difference in this area. We have all suffered from addiction...most of us have lost loved ones to the disease, directly or indirectly.

I honor my father on this day of his birth. In spite of his disease, I always knew he loved me. Even with the broken promises, the loud fights, and unsuccessful attempts at leaving the bottle behind, my father’s goodness was evident. I think he got that from my grandmother and grandfather as well...their goodness was also evident. And I have come to believe that I too inherited some of that goodness; that even though I also inherited the disease of addiction, my goodness is able to shine through in recovery.

I am my father’s daughter, and I am my grandparents’ granddaughter. This apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. The one difference is that I have found continuous sobriety...I found it in the fall of 1979, and I have been searching for answers about this disease ever since. I do it in memory of my father, and of his sister, and of all of the others whom we have lost to this disease. I especially do it for the children suffering in silence today. My prayer is that you will join me as well.

As a tribute to families all over the world, as well as my own, who suffer or have suffered from the disease of addiction, we have founded CFAAR…Center for Family Alcohol Awareness and Research. I thank you all for the opportunity to publicly acknowledge my father today with this gift...Happy Birthday, Daddy. Your life will make a difference to many.

What questions occur to you about addiction? What could you do to start to discover the answers? Have you lost friends and/or family to addictive behaviors? What could you do to honor their memory? Will you join me in doing your part in stopping the spread of addictive behaviors?

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