Christmas 2002 & An Intervention

In my post, Hospice Care and an Alcoholic, I mentioned that we had held an intervention with my father.  Since that time, I have heard from many people who have loved ones suffering from addiction or who have also held interventions.

The experiences are all too familiar, and the common theme is that everyone who has gone through this has done so thinking that their experience is uncommon or unique.  The fact is that addictions are rampant in our society.  There are addictions to drugs, smoking, food, gambling, shopping, alcohol, and many other things.

Christmas 2002 – this was the last Christmas we celebrated with my father.

My father was a lifelong alcoholic.  But, according to him, he could not be an alcoholic.  He had many reasons to support this belief.  He did not take sick days from work.  He worked at the same company for his entire career until his late 50s and only left that job because he got caught in a corporate downsizing.

He was active in the community.  My father was a decorated war veteran.  He was a Past Commander of the American Legion.  He was a Past Exalted Ruler of the Elks.  He was an elected official.  He was a tri-athlete.  He went to Mass nearly every day.

Behind closed doors, however, it was a different story.  My father was a small man and painfully shy.  When he drank, his filters lowered, and he was able to be more outgoing and be a leader and do public speaking – all things that he considered to be the measure of a good man.  He referred to himself as the “benevolent dictator,” and he would exercise his dictatorial reign arbitrarily.  He considered being “king of his castle” as his God-given right and duty as a husband and a father.  But not all rulers are kind and generous.

Unfortunately, the older he got, the more he drank.  The more he drank, the more cruel he became.  His filters lowered to the extent that we could no longer let our children be around him.  He acted out in inappropriate ways.

In 2003, we decided to go to Florida with him on vacation.  Bad idea.  We lasted 1 1/2 days before we aborted our vacation and headed back home.  My siblings came to me and insisted that now was the time to do an intervention.  I had been in denial to that point.  I was close to my father, and I was the classic enabler.  I was convinced that he was only hurting himself.

After much discussion and deliberation, we proceeded with the intervention.  We attended counseling and training on how to properly conduct one through the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA).  This organization helped us tremendously.

An intervention is an act of love, and we took it seriously.  We prepared the venue, the statements, the consequences, and those who would participate.  His physician and his lawyer were aware of what was going to occur.

It did not go well.

My father was honestly totally shocked that his behaviors were considered unsavory and unacceptable.  Of course, we were wrong, and we were sadly mistaken about him being an alcoholic.  And he was going to make us pay for humiliating him.  He nearly decked me.  He considered my participation to be the ultimate betrayal.

We followed through not only with the intervention, but with the consequences.  My father did not get to see his grandchildren again until shortly before he died.  He did not join the family for holidays, graduations, and other celebrations.  He missed over 5 years of family gatherings.

He threatened to take us all “out of the will.”  He never understood that his possessions and money did not mean anything to us.  We just wanted a father who loved us and a grandfather who loved his grandchildren.

My father chose the bottle over his children and family.  He loved the booze more than he loved us.  It’s important to me that my family know about this.  Because nurturing good relationships with our spouses and our children are more important than possessions or alcohol or drugs.  And Christmas, in spite of all of the hype over gift giving and eating and partying, is really all about family.

Spending time together.  Loving one another.  And making happy memories.

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