Monday, January 21, 2008
The Fine Line Between Self-Control and Self-Abuse
O's relationship with her father is strained at best. At the beginning of November, O got a phone call from her step-grandmother, informing her that her dad and stepmother were splitting up. Again. Her dad didn't bother to call her about this for another month. Her step-grandmother, meanwhile, has kept in touch with O vial email and the occasional phone call. She's even made a couple of trips out here to take Olivia out to lunch and hang out for a couple of hours. Her father has made no such effort and aside from a five minute meeting to hand off some of O's diabetes supplies, it's been over a year since she's seen or spent any time with her father.
The run up to this break in relations was stormy and coincided with us moving about an hour away from him, when we bought our house two years ago. They saw each other infrequently during that time and it was usually fraught with tears and hollering matches. There was an idyll of about 6 weeks, when her father and stepmother split up the first time around, but they soon reconciled and O was out in the cold again. She had no desire to spend time with her stepmother and I wasn't exactly anxious either. K, the stepmother, had been needlessly cruel to O over the last year prior to the first break up, at one point even locking O in her bedroom when she thought O had been snotty towards her. Now, O can be snotty with the best of them, but locking her in her room is excessive. And dangerous, considering O has type 1 diabetes. Being locked in a room for a couple of hours, with no access to juice to treat a low, could have turned into a bad scene. Thankfully nothing happened, but still. Who the hell locks a kid in their room? Talk about epitomizing wicked stepmother.
Since her father and stepmother have split up again, O has been making an effort to talk to her father. He moved back in with his parents, so she calls there. Most of the time, her dad isn't home and so she chats with her grandparents for a bit and leaves a message for him to call her back. This rarely happens. She's disappointed, but resigned to the fact that her dad is like this.
This past weekend, she saw her step-grandmother again, for lunch. When O came home, she was a bit down and I asked her how things went. She told me that P, her step-grandmother, had finally told her why her dad and K split up - that it was all because of alcohol. That K was an alcoholic and that her dad was, too. That instead of paying the bills, they were spending all their money on beer and at the bars. And that her dad and K hadn't planned to split up, but when they got evicted from their apartment, her dad said they could live with his parents. On the day they were supposed to move in there, he told K that his parents didn't want her there. She moved in with her mother, but they still talk and still see each other.
I was sad for O, but not surprised. This is the same reason that he and I split, lo these many years ago. He drank away the rent money and got us evicted from three apartments in the space of 16 months. The third eviction was the final straw and I moved out and never looked back. He admitted at the time that he was spending the rent money at the bar and that he had a drinking problem. When I tried to get him some help, he didn't want to hear it. Since the marriage was on its last legs anyway, I didn't push too hard.
But it seems nothing has changed. He's still a drunk, he's still getting evicted from apartments and not paying his bills. But this time, he has his parents to fall back on and they keep letting him move in there, allowing him to spend all of his money on booze.
I talked to O about all of this and told her that's what broke up our marriage, too. She can't understand how he can prefer alcohol to her and I couldn't really help her because I could never understand how he could prefer it to the little family we had either. I know alcoholism is a sickness, but for some reason, I don't have the capacity to be forgiving about it. Maybe that's a failing on my part, but I honestly don't understand how you can wreck two marriages and your relationship with your only child and not realize that the booze is controlling you rather than the other way around.
I'm not quite sure what to do for O at this point. I don't know if Al-Anon would be helpful for her or not. I don't want her to make excuses for her father and I think she has every right to be furious with him, but I also don't want this to make her bitter. I don't want her walking around angry at the world because of her father's failings.
I could kill him, though. With pleasure. I don't deal well with this sort of thing. I find it to be weak, like he's looking for a crutch, an "Oh, I can't help myself, I'm an alcoholic." Not that he'll ever admit that. Nothing is ever his fault, it's always someone else's fault, someone's always out to get him, to screw him over, to throw him under the bus. He refuses to see that his actions have consequences and he refuses to take responsibility when he fucks up.
It's just a shame he can't see that he's also fucking up his daughter, causing her pain and creating irreparable rifts in an already-rocky relationship.