What’s it like to drop your dad off at rehab? – I shall divulge…

I dropped my dad off at rehab this weekend, hopefully marking the end of his 42 yearlong rollercoaster ride with alcohol. This is his fourth time going into treatment and will most likely be his last. No, I’m not over-optimistic or delusional. I say this because he’ll either remain sober, or relapse and die. Those are the two options we are all faced with at this point with the progression of his disease. The health of his body has been one of the most important factors in his seeking sobriety, which is why this time around things are different – his motives to get sober are much more meaningful and essential.

As a sober alcoholic and the child of an alcoholic, I’ve gained a wealth of experience and knowledge on alcoholism. No matter the known facts or what I tell myself, I still feel things deep inside that I know are not true. I admit that the following story is an everyday element of my life: If he really loved me, he’d stay sober.

So, with THAT nagging at the core of my existence, it was an interesting drive toward his house to pick him up. The following cycle of emotions seemed to play in my head on repeat:

  • Fear – What if he decides to quit rehab halfway through? What if he dies in detox? What if he gets out and loses his job? What if they find out he has cirrhosis of the liver? What if he has a mental breakdown? Is he going to bullshit another recovery plan, or actually make some realistic goals? What if he doesn’t follow through with his recovery plan? What if he falls off the wagon?
  • Hurt – He’s ruined his life up until now. What a waste of such a unique and special human being. He must be in so much pain and so broken inside, so isolated and alone. He’s lost so much; so have I, for that matter. I sure have missed out on having a dad who has been present and involved in my life. I have experienced how awesome he is when he’s living sober and I want my dad back. I want my son to know his wonderful Grandpa. Aren’t we important enough? Why hasn’t he made more of an effort to see us? We’ve lost so much time.
  • Shame – I’m sure he has enough of this for the both of us, but I still feel pangs of shame here and there. This is the emotion I could really go without and in fact, I hate it. As fleeting as these feelings may be, they’re just absurd enough to bother me. My husband doesn’t “get it” (he’s learning!), so I’m certain his family isn’t educated about alcoholism either, so naturally I assume they a bit judgmental as a result. They all tend to lead with their hearts, so I really don’t think they would react negatively toward me or him, but who knows? What about my mom’s friends? They are real shit-talkers, I wonder what they think? The realization that I have no control over how someone else views me or my family and that it actually doesn’t need to have any effect on my life in the slightest, is what keeps these shameful thoughts at bay, or quickly launches them back there. Then I feel guilty for feeling the shame…
  • Anger – children should NEVER have to escort their parents to rehab. Children certainly shouldn’t have to PAY for part of it, nor should they have to clean up shit hole apartments (for a fresh start) that are better off ablaze. Because of how withdrawn my dad has been at times growing up, I ended up dating a bunch of losers (bad boys) who were also withdrawn – ultimately breaking down my self-worth by my feeling like I had to fight for attention and love. Say what?! He has absolutely no idea how much he’s affected me, or anyone else. My husband has been around for almost 8 years and has had little interaction with him, so they really don’t have a relationship to speak of and that pisses me right off. Nutt up, Dad! It’s time to kick some ass, laugh and enjoy life! What’s the point, otherwise?! I want to slap the sad right out of him.
  • Hope– he’ll instantly have more self-esteem once he’s been sobered up for a few weeks. His desire to talk to a counselor is a great sign. With his unresolved issues no longer covered up with alcohol, dulling the pain, he needs to learn how to overcome them. I can’t wait to have neat conversations with him again about nature and animals; he knows so much and is so passionate about that stuff. Maybe he’ll find a hot little number in an AA meeting, gaining a sober partner to offer support and love. Maybe his social phobia will dwindle away and his confidence and dreams will soar high above with the eagles.

It was a tearful goodbye as we parted ways, but as I drove away I noticed only one resounding emotion. It was a new one and it was GOOD:

  • Relief – There’s nothing but positive stuff going on now. He’s safe, he’s detoxing, he’s in a supportive environment and he chose to go. I no longer have to fear that phone call telling me he’s either in jail or dead. I’m actually glad I had the opportunity and could help him one last time, as it symbolizes the end of this chapter of this co-dependent reality for me. I can now be at peace with the fact that I have done everything I could do to help him.

I fully expect my dad to work his ass off to recreate a life for himself in sobriety. I’ll do my part to learn what I can about how best to support him – by going to some of the lectures and family meetings – but the rest is up to him. If I can do it, I know he can do it. There’s a little gift sobriety has brought me and it’s a strong sense of PRIDE. It’s an amazing feeling and even more amazing to welcome others into this circle. Go Dad!


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11 thoughts on “What’s it like to drop your dad off at rehab? – I shall divulge…

  1. While my father may not be an alcoholic, my brother is. I related far too much to your post… but in different ways. I hope for you, and for all of us dealing with addiction on some level, that the level of peace we crave knocks on our door. I wish I was as eloquent with my feelings but right now I still struggle with anger.

  2. It seems to be a great start, keep it going. your courage I bet had a very profound influence in your fathers decision to get well, I wish you and him all the best.

  3. Chrystal,
    What an awesome daughter and person you are. I can’t help but think that he has a lot of his mom’s emotional/social problems, but on a much larger scale. Both his mom and his dad would always say how smart and talented he was as a kid. I hope you know that any of his siblings (and spouses) will do anything and everything we can to help him, but we need to know WHAT to do.

    I love you!
    Aunt Carol

  4. What an amazing and moving post! You bring a very unique and poignant point of view in experiencing your dad’s journey to recovery. It is so difficult when the child is put in the position of parent, and trying to help them make a good decision/turn their life around/take the first step to recovery/etc.

    Your experience with your father is similar to what you’ve been through yourself. The conflicting head vs. heart battle that goes on is difficult and there is no way around that. But you are able to pinpoint the different feelings and determining what facts support that or how to help overcome the feelings of shame, hurt, etc. The mindset of “What if…” or “If….then” statements are human nature, but you realize that they are only thoughts that perpetuate all of those negative emotions and thought processes.

    You have the ability to look at the present situation and reflect back on your own journey and experiences to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That sense of relief comes from maturity, big-picture thinking, and compassion.

    You are such an inspiration and a beacon of hope! Hopefully, this is an opportunity for your dad to evaluate his life and to be inspired by your journey. Sending warm thoughts of recovery and well-being to your dad!

    – LM

    1. Laurie, thank you so much for everything you just said. The only other time I’ve ever been referred to as an inspiration was in 9th grade gymnastics when I was voted most inspirational (NO idea why, I wasn’t even very good!), so to hear that just makes me feel so awesome, I just can’t put it into words.

  5. Chrystal, we always look forward to your insightful blog posts. That you can see it both as a recovering person, and as the family member of someone who needs to “get there” is priceless. That you can communicate it eloquently is a gift.

    Your Dad may or may not make it this time. As someone who’s “been there” you’re aware that:

    a) No one is to “blame” for his trouble except the disease;
    b) He’s the only one who can actually make the change happen; and
    c) You can help by being involved positively, but that involvement (or lack of it) will neither make nor break this opportunity for him.

    But as you point out– “knowing” and “feeling” are two very different things.

    Fortunately, we have the program, we have the Steps, we have sponsors and support in the rooms, to help us reconcile the feelings and the knowings.

    We’ll be holding you and your Dad in the Light for a safe & stable recovery.

    1. Thank you, Cecile. Your comment touched me deeply. Your letter, “c” was a good reminder to me, as I’ve been feeling guilty already about some of the lectures I’ll be unable to attend due to my schedule. I am so glad to be in touch with you and your organization.

  6. Chrystal, this really moved me. You are an excellent writer and talented at putting your feelings on paper. This brought a tear to my eye. I enjoy your pictures of your beautiful family on Facebook and know how hard you have worked to get to where you are. You rock Girl!! Kellie

    I am going to subscribe my sister and my daughter to your blog. I think it will be particularly helpful for Blair as she is struggling with her feelings about her own dad and his alcoholism.

    1. Thank you so much, Kellie, that means a lot to me. It’s tough not to have “real” perspectives to relate to, so I’m happy if I can offer something useful to someone else. It’s not any less heart-breaking, but the more we understand things, the better we can react to them. Tell Blair “hi” from me.

      1. I just found this while searching for some helpful resources as my dad has just entered rehab once again. He is not an alcoholic but he is an addict and this blog captures the emotions and stages of grief perfectly. As a fellow child of an addict I have had to drop my dad off at rehab, watch him get arrested, pretend everything is okay while all I want to do is lay in bed in cry, pick my dad up from jail, find out he had me drive him to the gas station not for cigarettes but to score, confront him about his use, break the news to the rest of the family, and so much more. Each time I hear he is finally going to see help I feel that same relief. Let’s hope this is the last time as at 55 I am not sure how much more his body can take.

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