Did you ever wonder how your alcoholism has impacted your children? Or your parents?
I have wondered. I have forgiven myself for most of the repercussions of my drinking, but the impact that this family disease had on my kids is what keeps me up at night. Some of us are lucky enough to have time to address the pain and trauma. Others are not so lucky.
We are sharing a letter written by our friend, Karen, to her deceased dad. We are sharing it because it is well-written and powerful. We are sharing it because it choked me up when I first heard Karen read the letter aloud. And we are sharing it as inspiration for all of our readers.
If you think your drinking didn’t impact your kids because they were too young or you hid it too well, you are wrong. Transgenerational trauma is real no matter how hard we deny it. Address it before it is too late.
If you were impacted by the drinking of a loved one, follow Karen’s lead, and express your feelings in the form of a letter. You can send it, but you don’t have to. The healing is in the writing.
A letter to her deceased dad, by Karen C.:
As I grow beyond the anger and resentment, and as I come to know myself better, I had two deeper thoughts that I felt I would express to you.
‘Did you ever wonder?’ and ‘I wanted you to know.’
I miss you Dad and I love you more, but I wanted you to know – I always loved you. I always wanted you to see me. I wanted you to understand me – and I wanted to know you and understand you. I think I know now – you were deeply sensitive and felt misplaced in the world like I do. I wanted you to know that I know you cared, even though you didn’t often express it and you were not insensitive, even though you acted like it. I wanted your approval and I wanted to feel safe with you – not so very afraid – and I really, really wanted to know that I mattered to you. I wanted to know that you cared.
Did you ever wonder? How hard it was for me to handle things that you could not or would not handle? Like Mom’s sickness and dying and even helping her divorce you? Did you ever wonder how hard that was for me? And how much it broke my heart?
Did you ever wonder how I felt then or how I coped?
Did you ever wonder why I was so afraid of you and why I felt that way?
Did you ever wonder how I felt when you left us three times when I was a child and I had to take care of my sisters’ and my mom’s feelings because you weren’t around? Did you ever wonder how it was for me to be so tragically dismissed? Did you ever wonder why we all walked on eggshells around you, did what you wanted, and tried to please you? We made sure you got your way! How it felt for me and Mom and my sisters to be so controlled by your anger? And your fights with Mom and how you were so unkind to her?
It wasn’t fair to any of us, Dad – and it wasn’t fair to you. None of us got to tell the truth or be really who we wanted to be. We had to play a game of pleasing you and your addiction that was never satisfied.
Did you ever wonder why we all left home so soon? Did you ever wonder why two of us married alcoholics? How we seemed to have a blind spot to that generational disease?
Did you ever really wonder, Dad, how your disease affected my siblings and me? Did you know how hard childhood trauma is to heal? And what about me, Dad? Did you ever really want to get to know me? Or how your distance and silence affected me? Did you ever wonder how it felt for me to not be able to connect with you?
Did you ever wonder how it felt to be unseen unless I served you? It sucks to be the strong one Dad, and I wanted you to know.
Did you ever wonder how lost I felt when I would play a game with you or race you and I would win and we would never play again? Did you think that rejection didn’t hurt me? Was I never to be better than you? I could be very good – that was expected, but I could never, ever win!
Did you ever wonder how that was affecting the life I was set up to live? Do you know it kept me from excelling and expressing all that I can be? Did you ever wonder how that rejection affected me?
Did you ever wonder how it felt to be the backup daughter, the second born, the extra child? How I always had to prove myself? Did you ever wonder?
Well, I wanted you to know. I really, really wanted you to know. And my tears are flowing freely as I write this Dad, because I love you and I wanted you to know. Because I love you and I wanted you to know that as I heal this grief and I let you know, that I do know that you loved me. And you gave me many gifts – maybe in spite of yourself – but I see them now.
The gift of music – I always admired that you could play any instrument and sing so wonderfully. I know you worked hard to save money and leave me your ‘shekels’ that you so miserly guarded. I am grateful that you came over from Sweden to marry Mom so that I could be born.
As I heal Dad, I see how you loved me and you cared. I want you to know that I know that I mattered to you. And you did not know how to show me.
I wanted you to know that I really wanted you to take me to Sweden and teach me Swedish. And I did want to learn. I wanted you to know that I love that you saw my sensitivity as a gift and that you supported my metaphysical expression and that your mother had that gift too!
I love that you liked my singing and played piano and guitar with me. I love that you shared your writing with me – and now I am sharing mine with you.
And Dad, guess what! I am taking you to Sweden and other places you loved too! I’ll learn to speak Swedish when I get there. We’ll have a great adventure – me and you! I love you Dad and I miss you!
Thank you for being my dad!
If you’ve ever wondered, we hope you’ll consider joining our SHOUT Sobriety program for high-functioning alcoholics in recovery. We tackle the underlying issues like these, and work together to heal the wounds of addiction.
If you are the loved one of an alcoholic with something you wanted him or her to know, we have empathy and resources for you in our Echoes of Recovery program.