I grew up with an alcoholic. I never called my step-dad “dad,” but he treated me like his own He as an alcoholic, and it took his life from him. 10 years ago today.
Seeing someone you love lose their life changes you. From the inside out. At least, it did for me. The reason why I try to savor every single day of this breath on earth is because I saw someone take their last one at a pretty early age. It changed me. It made me realize how very precious each day, each moment is. It made me want to live better. Have no regrets. Not settle. Make a difference…
If you didn’t know him, you never would have known he was an alcoholic besides the ever present faint smell of vodka that he tried to cover up with his cologne. He seemed happy on the outside and had a great job, a wife, a step daughter, a son, a dog – the almost white picket fence life. You never would have known he was an alcoholic.
He became really sick, only to find out he had sirrois of the liver. They said that if he quit drinking it could re-build itself, so he did. Cold turkey. 10 years of sobriety didn’t save him though. He got sick again and they determined he had a spot on his liver and he started undergoing tests for a transplant. He had a doctor’s appointment that got rescheduled a month later due to a snow day… He went in and had more tests done and left feeling hopeful. A week later my mom got a call saying that he had cancer and that it had spread to his blood – he had 4 months to live.
The doctors were right. He was diagnosed in February and passed away in June. It was a terrible, beautiful, sad and joyous time. That time was truly a paradox… It was a beautiful, ugly time. A time to do things he wished he’d done, a time to say goodbye… He checked off 2 of 3 things he wanted to do before he died – going to the beach and coming to see me in NYC. I flew home as much as I could to see him, watching the once over 200lb man I grew up with reduced to 100 pounds of skin and bones . One moment I will never forget is when I sat in front of him with tears running down my face – him in his trusty ol’ recliner with our 16 year old dog at his feet – and me sitting on the carpeted floor hoping I could find the words… I thanked him for all he did for me, and I let him know that even though he wasn’t my biological father, I am the person that I am today because of him, his love and support.
I grew up with an alcoholic. He was robbed of many years of living this beautiful life. He can’t love anymore or feel his heart beat too fast in his chest. He can’t cry or laugh or breathe in a sunny day. He had so much taken from him far too soon.
I don’t wish anything different for my life – only for him. As for me – when you have an alcoholic family member it changes you. It sculpts you into a certain type of person. You may not even realize it, but it does. I never knew how much it affected me until a few years ago. I was changed by it, broken by it, but I realized it and sought help. I still struggle with some of these things to this day, but ultimately I am stronger because of it.
I have many friends affected by this disease. Those who have fought it and are winning are my heroes. I’ve seen lives changed because they MADE THE CHOICE TO CHANGE. You always hear “oh, people don’t change.” That’s bullshit. Trust me, you have it in you to change anything you want – to DO anything you want – you just have to believe, have faith, and surround yourself with people who support you. I’m nobody special, but take it from me – sometimes change is worth it. Really worth it. Sometimes the smallest change can go the longest way… Maybe you have nothing to change, maybe you just need to be more alive. Why is it that when we are told we are going to die we finally have the urge to really live? It doesn’t have to be like that… Savor every minute of this amazing life, my friends!
I’ll leave you with a few quotes on change that really strike a chord with me…
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent. – Martin Luther King Jr
For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. -Steve Jobs