(As told to Sukanya Majumdar)
Ever since I was a kid, I used to see my father bring multiple glass bottles of Royal Stag, Royal Challenge whiskey home. He consumed multiple foreign brands of whiskey as well – they were heavily priced, considering that they were priced at INR 1,600 during 2005-06. That was my reality of living with an alcoholic father.
My mother first discovered that he used to drink regularly and not just limited to occasions like social gatherings or parties in October 1999, when I was about 7-8 months old. It was flooding in Kolkata and he started drinking at home itself, unable to get out and drink at a bar or pub. Whiskey was his poison of choice, according to mom. Once his drinking habits came out in the open, he started drinking at home regularly.
Living with an Alcoholic Father
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I was a kid at the time, but slowly and surely growing up. Back then, I didn’t understand why my mom was so agitated all the time about the fact that I had an alcoholic father. He had kept this vital fact to himself all this while that he used to drink regularly since even before they were married.
Add to this the fact that my mom had never seen anyone drink in her life except in the movies – her being shocked and terrified at discovering her husband was alcoholic was only natural. Theirs was an arranged marriage – his second after a divorce – and before the match was finalized he had casually mentioned to her that he drank occasionally.
I couldn’t talk to my father because of his alcoholism
As I was growing up, my father stayed withdrawn from me. This was a critical phase of my life – my formative years when I needed him the most, but I felt a sense of loss and abandonment from the very beginning. It was almost like this man was completely unknown to me. Just some random stranger who happened to live with me and my mom. I could not talk to my father because of his alcoholism.
I was a single child and felt very lonely at times. My father also had a daughter from his first marriage who was quite elder to me. However, we were not in touch with my step-sister because his divorce with his first wife was not very amicable.
I would wonder why does my dad drink so much but was too young to talk to him about it.
Even when sober, my father was not very kind or cordial with most people, including my mom. She used to love reading books and magazines – she still does – but he resented this habit with all his heart. Music, theatre or arts didn’t interest him either. The only routine he followed religiously was drinking heavily, right from sunset, sometimes till late into the night.
We couldn’t get him to stop drinking
Once he was transferred to Asansol, we had to shift to a bungalow there near the coal mines. There he found ‘like-minded colleagues’, which further escalated the problem and he started drinking from the mornings. He was a central government officer and his job profile entailed looking for coal mine mafias and having them arrested. This, of course, involved a certain amount of risk.
But he made the situation even more precarious by indulging in his addiction day in and day out.
It was during this phase that I clearly remember him becoming increasingly abusive towards my mom as well as his subordinates in the office. People avoided any social interaction with him. At home too, we tried our best to keep him at an arm’s distance. That’s when the struggle of living with an alcoholic father started hitting home. I was a young girl at the time, and completely clueless about how do you deal with a drunk abusive father.
Related Reading: Here’s How My Father’s Money Bought Me A Happy Marriage
Alcoholism took its toll but my father didn’t stop drinking
He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes before his marriage to my mother. He had to take medication for the same daily. In early 2008, the tablets stopped working. He had to switch to insulin injections twice a day. He didn’t stop drinking though.
It was almost like he had made up his mind that he would not listen to anyone. His entire nervous system was deteriorated since he was a diabetic and a high functioning alcoholic.
A Life Lost to Alcohol
On 27th March 2009, he had a mild brain stroke, however, regained consciousness in a while. The doctor was called at home and he prescribed certain medications, which were promptly brought. Finally, on Sunday 12th April 2009, he had another stroke while asleep and never woke up again. He slipped into a coma spent his last days in the ICU. We lost him on 23rd April 2009.
Could we have saved him?
I was all of 10 years at the time and didn’t completely understand what was going on and how addiction ruined relationships. Today, when I look back I wonder if convincing him to go to rehab or seek professional medical help could have saved his life and our family from so much trauma.
If you too are in a similar situation and wonder ‘How do I get my dad to stop drinking?’, know that alcoholism is a disease that cannot be countered by the sheer force of will. It needs the right medical intervention and expert guidance. Even if the addict in your life is not ready for it, you have to push them on the path of recovery for their sake and your own.