Sometimes when I glance at myself sideways in the mirror, I see my father's reflection looking back at me. It is scary how much I look like him when he was my age. I can see today that,like me, dad tried to control every aspect of his life. His family, his work and especially his alcoholism. He even used a shot glass to measure his scotch! His suicide was a final act of control, an exclamation point.
I grew up afraid of him. He was an ex-military officer. His
favorite expression was "straighten up and fly right." I resented him
for not being the dad on the TV program, "Ozzie and Harriet." His
constant criticism, nitpicking, and non-stop judgement drove me and my
sister away from home as soon as we were able. I vowed never to become
like him. Yet I became exactly like him.
Thanks entirely to AA and the 12-steps, my resentment against my
father dissolved first into pity and finally into compassion. My father
is no longer the cruel task master of my memory, but a garden variety
drunk like me, just trying to hold it together as best we can.
I do not believe all gifts come in pretty packages. My alcoholism
was far from pretty, but I consider it a gift -- divine grace. Without
becoming an alcoholic I could never have learned to forgive.