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As promised in some of my parentheses, I want to talk a little bit about my story and how I decided following the 12 steps was right for me. I thought to myself just the other night, “you have to start where it REALLY starts”.
The moment I knew my dad was an alcoholic. It is not the story most people would think, and it actually focuses far more on another terrible, powerless subject than him, but it is here to prove a point.
Back in 2000, when I was in 7th grade, I would say I was a “smart” kid, but by no means a popular one. I had a core group of good friends, I was babysat by a wonderful woman I considered a second mother, and I was heavily involved in dance. I did incredibly well in school, and at the time did not know how to NOT express that. So when my friends would complain about getting 70’s on a spelling test, I’d pipe up about my 95. I hadn’t quite learned how to be tactful and keep it to myself.
One day, in the age where internet was JUST starting to become popular, I saw 4 of my friends huddled around a locker, purposely ignoring me and giggling with a few boys while pointing at me. On the white board? a URL to a website I had never heard of. I brushed it off and went about my day…until my babysitters son pulled me aside to show me the website during library time. It was dedicated to making fun of me: calling me fat, ugly, a nerd. Exposing the childhood crush I had trusted them all with to the world, and reminding me that he would NEVER like me. They posted it in their AIM profiles, brought it up during classes, yelled the URL at me when I walked by. I was mortified…and utterly alone.
When I got to my babysitters house, she hugged me. When I got home, my mother made me my favorite dinner before calling every single one of those girl’s parents and screaming at them. There were people in my corner, sure, but I still felt miserable. That night, I sat under the stream of the shower and wondered if I could actually go into school the next morning. I played with my razor for my legs and wondered if the blades were sharp enough that I could get out of school until something equally embarrassing happened to someone else. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.
When I came downstairs that night, my father had just gotten home. It was pretty typical of him back then, although I didn’t know what it meant. He was poorly shaven, his work clothes were frumpled, and he smelled like what I would one day know to be vodka and very little soda. I knew he drank: we got new 30’s of budweiser almost every weekend, and I knew that he constantly argued with my mother about being “sober” on drives home from family parties. But I didn’t know how deep it went. My mother yelled at him immediately; she had been calling him all afternoon. I was a daddy’s girl after all.
He slumped into a chair and asked me what was up. I told him what had happened, what the girls had done, how my life was over. He looked at me then, with glazed over eyes, stood up, and said “Life sucks, glad you learned it now. Tomorrow may be different, or it may suck too.” before walking up the stairs.
I understand now that I experienced probably the very start of cyber bullying, and I understand more than anyone else how kids end up committing suicide to make the hate stop. I also understand that to most kids, those words would have been the worst thing possible to hear. A parent not really helping them. But to me? They were magic. They were a window into the man I kept on a pedestal: he didn’t think the world was full of rainbows, he acknowledge that it COULD be terrible. All I had done all day was CRY. And MOPE. And be coddled into thinking that I was a poor victim who couldn’t do anything but sink back into my shell. I was told tomorrow would be little-orphan-annie sunshiney; instead he had leveled at me and told me it might not immediately get better.
My father was an alcoholic. I knew he had a problem, even if “alcohol” wasn’t what I connected it with. He fell into alcohol because he had problems dealing with how much life sucked, and how much tomorrow wasn’t always different from the day before. He dealt with life’s pains with alcohol, but he also knew that those pains wouldn’t just disappear. He KNEW that yes, life sucked. And YES you need to just buck up. And YES, it was better to learn young then learn late.
The next day? I went to school. I held my head up high. I didn’t cry once, and I didn’t let them get to me. Was it easy? No. Day 2 sucked just as much as day 1: my teacher’s saw the website, and most didn’t know how to handle it. Or handled it at all. And yes, the next couple of days sucked. Bullying is a terrible thing. But I went on to be stronger for it, better for it. I grew up quickly that day.
And I learned my dad was an alcoholic. He saw the world through an alcoholic’s not-so-rosy-colored glasses. He saw the real PAIN that exists in life. He LIVED the real pain that exists in life. I learned that night that my father saw the world a way I didn’t, and the fog of booze made it a little more bearable.