Not her father’s keeper

Joey Garcia

My dad is going through a rough patch so I let him move into my apartment. Now I realize that the reason he’s having problems is that he’s drinking again. I manage a bar and have to deal with drunks at work. I hate coming home and dealing with my dad’s booze breath, vomit and the empties all over the house. I tried talking to him. He won’t listen to me. My roommate is threatening to leave and I can’t afford this place on my income. I don’t want to abandon my dad but I can’t deal with him, either. Any advice?

Yes, look in the mirror, stare deeply into your own eyes and say, “I can’t save my father. I must save myself.” Repeat these words three times. Make them your mantra until you understand that it’s your life that’s at stake. Parenting your father is hopeless. Get yourself to an Al-Anon meeting and listen to the tales of other people in codependent relationships with alcoholics. At the meeting you’ll wonder why these people don’t get their lives together. You might even feel like you’re wasting your time. Suddenly, reality sucker-punches your denial. That’s right, you’ll realize that your father isn’t going through a rough patch. Your father is creating a rough patch. And you’re his partner in crime.

Your next step is to commit to your boundaries. Want a sober household? You have the power to demand that. Want your father to stop drinking? You’re powerless over his addiction. Only he can decide to wake up. If he chooses alcohol over your requests, it doesn’t mean he finds you unlovable; it means your father is an alcoholic. Don’t take that personally.

One last thing, please consider why you work in a bar. Or does it seem obvious now? As the manager, you can tell a patron that he or she has had enough to drink, and send that individual home in a cab. You have the power over adults that you lacked as a child. The good news is that you are no longer a child. So tell your father you love him. Tell him it breaks your heart to watch him wasting away, but you respect his choice. Explain that you choose not to live with his addiction. Offer to help him find a 12-step program and a recovery home. If he prefers to continue suffering, don’t give up. Remind him that he can choose sobriety any time.

My sister was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis is that she has six months left. She is close to my daughter who is on scholarship at a very good university. My daughter wants to come home now to be with my sister. I don’t want her to drop out of college. I don’t think she will get another chance like the one she has now. My daughter and I have wept, screamed and argued over this. She’s barely speaking to me now. Do you think she should drop out?

I think you should be proud of your daughter. She understands the nature of sacrifice, and of genuine love. Her willingness to give up something precious (her college scholarship) in favor of something more precious (a long goodbye with her aunt) is exquisitely beautiful. Who knows what kind of transformation will ensue? One thing is certain: The education she receives from life will be more profound than that a university curriculum could offer. The question that remains, however, is for you: Are you a bit jealous of your daughter’s affection for your sister? If so, remind yourself that your daughter’s capacity to love is not finite. The love that flows to you is enough. Live that reality and your daughter’s decision will enlarge your own capacity to love.

Meditation of the week
“The most common way that people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any,” said Alice Walker, novelist and activist. Are you willing to stop pretending that you are a victim and make choices that inspire a vibrant life?

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