Death of an Alcoholic Father

January 5, 2012

When you wake up in the morning the first few days after someone has died, it takes a few minutes to remember that they’re gone. Other things snap into place first.

Where am I? Click. Who am I? Click. Your life story and the continuous timeline of your awareness of your life snap into place (unless you’ve had too much to drink the night before; then there may be holes). But the first few days after someone’s died, you might be awake for a few minutes before that segment of reality clicks into place. Oh yes – they’re gone. It’s a new part of your story that you have to unconsciously remind yourself of – that person is no longer breathing somewhere on this planet.

My father died a few days ago. To be honest, it was a relief. After I’d gotten the call I spent a few hours grieving, but I think it was more for myself than for him. Well, now that I write that, it seems obvious that grieving is never really for the other person. They’re dead. It’s for you, or it’s a show for those around you.

There was no one around. I made a playlist of the Motown, Soul and Pop music that he’d played throughout my life and was the soundtrack of the time we spent together, and like I did when I was young, I lied on the floor by the stereo, and I cried.

I grieved for the little girl who was subjected to her father’s drunkenness and manic rages, to his threats to kill her mother and threats to leave her an orphan who would live on Skid Row. I grieved for the girl who witnessed a man crippled by his fears and addictions and inability to express true feelings or be vulnerable; I grieved for the little girl who learned from his example, internalized it, and has lived the painful lesson:

Being invulnerable doesn’t protect you – it destroys your chance of having the thing that humans long for most deeply: real, true intimacy with others, and the ability to love and be loved.

And I did grieve a little for that baby boy who was born at an orphanage, bastard son of an unwed Catholic servant girl in Ireland in the 1940s – a time when sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by priests and nuns was an epidemic more insidious and incapacitating than any communicable disease. That little boy was adopted at age four by Americans who I’m sure had no idea how to manage the emotional scarring that a little Irish redheaded orphan had endured, regardless of whether he’d escaped the odds of abuse. Being abandoned by a mother, whether she had a choice or not, sets the stage for life-long and profoundly painful questions of self-worthiness and lack thereof.

I felt relieved when I got the news that death had freed him from his suffering; relieved for him, and relieved for me. Since the age of 13 or so I’d wished he would die so I wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. Over the last three years, since he fled the state of California to avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a student, he lived in motels and steadily drank himself towards his grave, as have many of his Irish ancestors. So by the time he died physically, I’d already let him go, and let myself off the hook for being an ‘unworthy’ daughter.

He may have believed that his mother abandoned him because she didn’t love him enough; but his daughter abandoned him because she loved herself too much to continue to allow the choices he made for his life to affect her in negative ways.

I find it poetic that my alcoholic father passed away a few days after I’d made the decision to give up drinking for good. The synchronistic timing of his death will give me the impetus to stay sober, present, and conscious for the rest of my life. I don’t want to lose another moment of awareness to alcohol, and I don’t want to continue believing that having a drink somehow makes my life better.

I don’t want to live my life like my father did, tormented by fears, controlled by cravings and aversions. Unlike my father, I’m not going to wait for death to arrive to free me.

I choose to be free while I’m still alive. I choose to live.


52 Responses to “Death of an Alcoholic Father”

  1. Sara San said

    Thank you for choosing to be vulnerable. xoxo

  2. Erika A. said

    Oh my darling, I’m so sorry. Grief, regardless if it’s a relief or not, is painful and consuming. I’m so proud of the choices youve made and the path you’re traveling down. Thinking of you and sending you a big hug from afar. xo

  3. alivingoddity said

    I loved this. Beautifully written and somewhat haunting. Your father may have been an alcoholic, but just remember that he still loves you. I lost my grandfather just about a week ago. It truly is relieving to know that they aren’t suffering anymore. I’m glad to hear that you don’t want your life to go down a similar path. I wish you the absolute best in the future, you seem to be a very strong person who really wishes for a change in their life, for the better. Keep writing.

    – Evan

    • lunasealife said

      Thank you Evan, I appreciate your kind words. I know my father loved me; I’ll explore some of the good parts in another blog…

  4. Rich said

    Love you, miss you…come north some day and visit us…

  5. Zia said

    Wow! I am a bit stunned, i knew we had similar fathers in the affect that they had on both of us, but i didn’t know this much detail about his life. It’s the situations that have me a bit stunned.

    I am happy for you, that you seem to be doing ok with all this. I am happy for your decision to be and stay sober. I am on my 30 day challenge of no alcohol. Which in all honesty won’t be a big will-power issue, more of a habitual thing. I’m doing it as a consciousness balancing, now that I’m off my meds and readjusting to my new supplements etc. I want to be clear and not have anything throwing me off.

    I was blown away by this and it’s so true, “He may have believed that his mother abandoned him because she didn’t love him enough; but his daughter abandoned him because she loved herself too much to continue to allow the choices he made for his life to affect her in negative ways.” I feel you described my situation in the perfect words. I abandoned him, because i loved myself too much to let him affect me negatively anymore.

    You are a true inspiration in my life. I love how you light the path. I’m working towards the same things as you, and I’m a little bit behind on the path you’re following. I was thinking about you this morning when I awoke. I miss you being local. I wish you the best on your journeys.

    • lunasealife said

      Thank you love!

      I’m sure many people – ESPECIALLY in the scenes we ran in – have similar stories… there’s something we were all searching for in the music and its accoutrements… luckily we figured out we’d never find it there.

      Your feedback and encouragement keep me sharing and opening… you inspire me as much as I inspire you!

  6. rougebuddha said

    When my father died I cried too – I couldn’t figure out why. He was a real son of a…let’s say gun, and the thought of crying for him puzzled me. But you just made me realize my tears were for the wounded litte girl I once was. Thank you. Sounds like your motivation to stop drinking is failproof!

    Happy New Year – Happy New You

    • lunasealife said

      You’re most welcome. That’s why I shared this – I googled “death of an alcoholic parent,” looking for an explanation to my conflicting feelings, but didn’t really find one… I hoped the understanding that came to me would help others with similar stories.

      Thank you!

  7. Shawnté said

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful post. What an eloquent way to write about something so complex and emotional; your talent as a writer really does come from the soul.

    I’m sending you a lot of love and the biggest international internet hug possible.

    • lunasealife said

      Thanks Shawntweezlah. That means a lot coming from one of my favorite writers and biggest inspirations! 😉 This was one of those pieces that just flowed out intact – I typed it up on my Droid at 6am and transferred it to my computer (then spent a few hours fidgeting with it, but still…).

      Giant international internet hug to my CVPOS!

  8. Michelle, you are an amazing writer and lover…of life. I love you. I didn’t know your dad died till I read this. I send you love, love and more love for your willingness to be vulnerable and be you. I love you my friend. You are greatly loved because you are love. Xoxoxoxo

    • lunasealife said

      Thank you Ally. You’ve been a huge part of my healing, soul sister! Thank you for being YOU and challenging me and loving me and always being supportive. I still remember you encouraging me to have a temper tantrum once…I’m pretty sure that’s the first time in my life I’ve ever been encouraged to have a tantrum. 😉 I still need to practice that one… Love you.

  9. Very deep and poetic stuff here. I’m sorry you lost your father but glad you’ve chosen sobriety. You have the chance now to live a life he never could-one with beauty, dreams fulfilled and love. Congratulations and remember this all happens one day at a time. much love, sean

    • lunasealife said

      Thanks Sean, I appreciate your words. Just checked out your blog and will be sure to check in! Funny, I believe I saw that you live/lived in SaMo & used to promote in Hollywood? I went out almost every night of the week in LA for about 7 years…We probably crossed paths, maybe at Beige or Ultrasuede? 😉

      Thank you for your support!

      • Oh I’m sure we did cross paths during my days of “disco damage.” Good times. Well until they weren’t 😉 Good to bump into you online! It’s amazing how many of us LA club goers are now sober.

  10. D said

    Wow, Shells, I can’t really add anything to what others have said, but I thank you for sharing your feelings, and my thoughts are with you. l,d

  11. Fantastic blog. Excellent writing. Congrats on your decision with alcohol. Happy New Year to all the Lunasea Life readers!! 🙂

  12. Lauren said

    I totally understand the feeling. My father passed away 9 years ago, right around this time. I had similar feelings of relief.

  13. melin-head said

    I’m sorry, I didn’t know until now. Our dads were different and our relationships with them different, but when my dad passed it hit me in different ways over the course of the next few months. My biggest reaction was that everything felt weird to me.

    I do have to say, that sometimes being left by your mother puts someone in a position to have an even better one – as in my mother vs. my gramma. Just had to throw that out there.

    From my limited exposure to your father I will remember the little good things I saw: our trip to Disneyland, him bringing you to visit in Fresno, his visits to elementary school with all the cool bug knowledge…. hope that’s ok…. what an crazy thing, the different windows we’re seen through by different people.

    He did help bring you to the world, and that’s AWESOME.


  14. Michelle,

    Dearest. What a massive event. What a conscious being you are. What a blessing that he is now at peace. What wonderful spiritual lessons you have given each other in this life time. What strength you have. What grace. What a wonderful transition and opportunity for transformation.

    with so much love for you.


  15. Mae Mae said

    Beautiful Belle – an incredibly moving.
    Until now I’d not realized we had a father in common.
    I can’t decide yet if I am willing to let him go of his own angry volition or if I should intervene but I’ve let his anger plague me for a quarter of a lifetime now.
    Sometimes it is too easy to forget Luis is my biological father – I find myself celebrating my dad Brad, never forgetting his birthday nor to honor him on Father’s Day, but somehow he finds a way to remind me he’s still alive and viciously kicking.
    I have fantasized a peaceful transition for him – hoping he’ll have another lifetime to make better decisions and to find the light.
    I have to remind myself each day to make better decisions, to fight the inclination to make excuses that keep progress at bay.
    You radiate Chelle, radiate, thrive, and inspire.

  16. Francesca said

    Michelle, that was so powerful! Thank you for having the courage to share it with all of us. My sister and I always say that once we share something with each other it helps unblock the energy that is building, like a sense of relief. You can almost feel that in your post. I’m so proud of you and how much I’ve seen you grow! It’s inspirational! The irony is just before your post I read a post that is floating around on Facebook of 5 regrets people have on their death bed. It was so synchronistic! One point was to have the courage to express your feelings. I feel like our parents are our biggest tests in our life’s. How far can we move beyond our own DNA. Look at how far you have gone! Sending you lots of love my dear friend!

  17. colleen said

    i am very proud of you for being strong enuff to grow and to remember in those times that ” u” are so worth it ..that is hard and to take yourself on a better forward path to heal yourself..never feel remorse for the are happy to finally know the litle girl in you is safe now..and that my friend is absolutely fine..may god be with u and always protect you with his gentle but strong hands and heal your wounds from the inside my friend..are free of the chains that bound you..dont ever be sad of that..more power to you litle girl and bless you with all my heart..ur new friend..colleen ❤

  18. becca said

    i am so touched by your message and writing. we are each and every one of us blessed by your honesty and vulnerability. though we don’t know each other well, we have more in common that i had realized when we crossed paths in LA. i feel we are of like hearts. wishing you much joy and laughter on your path of presence. i am glad to know you. xoxo, becca

  19. WEJA said

    Wow! You are indeed strong! Inspiration for many of us! Wishing you the best in your endeavors.

  20. Louis Hale said

    I’m so glad you know how to turn feelings into art. Thank you for this. ‘Niteshift’ is an excellent choice ❤

  21. Torin said

    The similarity between our lives is stunning, so it’s no wonder that we found each other as friends. I too, began to value myself over the preconceived societal notions of “you must always be there for your family” and that is what set me free from the diseases of my own parents and the destruction that their own illnesses caused. Being able to love somebody, without be there, without judgement, and without expectation is truly a gift you give to them and yourself. I loved my father while he was drunk, while he was sober, while he was alive and when he died. I too was relieved when he finally passed less for myself, as I had already let him go, but more so because he was finally free of the pain that caused him to sick. Thank you MP, this made my morning. I miss and love you and know you are living the lunasea life down there.

  22. Torin said

    So many grammatical errors…sorry, it’s early for me 😉

  23. […] I’m still trying to figure out how to follow up the Death post… the response was incredible, and filled my heart with love. Thank you to everyone who […]

  24. Joshua Heath said

    Lovely post, I’m so happy I read it. Sending lots of love to you darlin!!

  25. misty said

    I love you and I’m so proud of you for being such a strong person! I miss you tons, and even though you may not have a father you know you have a HUGE family that loves you dearly. A family that loves not because we share the same blood running through our veins, but for who you are in your spirit and soul.


    ps. this was such a beautifully well written post!

  26. […] posting my most vulnerable and honest blog ever, and getting the most feedback ever, I was left with the question… Now what do I write […]

  27. […] debt – I had the unemployment coming in, I got a good tax return, I received a few grand from my father’s death, and I chose to take a job in a remote town in Patagonia that covered all room/board expenses for a […]

  28. Greg D. said

    I came upon your blog entry as I was wrestling with conflicted feelings over my own father, a “functional” alcoholic who died over 6 years ago now. Your article really spoke to me, and I want to sincerely thank you for sharing your story, and being vulnerable. As therapeautic as I can imagine it was to write and post, it has clearly helped many others including myself.

    I say my father was a functional alcoholic because he was always present…gainfully employeed…and fully supported his family financially. We did not want for much growing up, although we weren’t rich and didn’t have a lot of fancy things. We were comfortable, and for that I was always thankful. It was the emotional side of the house that was always in turmoil. I never felt good enough…I was always walking on eggshells, wary for the next bad mood from which the next big blowup would result.

    To this day, I feel a sense of guilt for complaining about how this made me feel…how I still feel about it…because I was always told how lucky I was and I believed it. My father regularly told me he loved me growing up, which is something many fathers did not. But when he drank, he became a different person. The look on his face said it all…don’t cross me….don’t do anything wrong…don’t SAY anything (or pronounce anything) wrong, because nothing is off limits. I will put you in your place, for your own good.

    I mourned and grieved my father’s death, but a big part of it was mourning what my relationship lacked with him. Things HAD improved over the final several years of my father’s life. He and my mother stayed together, although my Dad never fully acknowledged his alcohol problem, and my mother continued to enable it until it was too late. My father experienced a severe illness, and after all the progress he’d made healing internal wounds from his own childhood and exorcising many of his own demons, he went back to alcohol against doctors’ orders and largely without my mother’s knowledge. He snuck Scotch downstairs to his workroom, and would take shots from the bottle every once in a while when he was down in the basement working on a project.

    One evening, he tripped while coming back upstairs, fell and suffered a serious head wound from which he never recovered. We didn’t know why he was downstairs at that time of night, and didn’t find out until weeks after his death when his life insurance policy invalidated the payout for his “accidental” death because he was legally drunk at the time of his fall. I still am so ashamed…and sad.

    My mother has moved on, having moved 2500 miles away after having been reuinited with her high school sweetheart. This was fantastic for her, and in many ways for us kids, because we don’t live with daily worry about her being alone. But in a way, I lost BOTH of my parents when my Dad died, and especially after my Mom remarried. I had thought that I would finally be closer to my Mom, but now separated by so many miles, she is largely irrelevant in my and my kids’ lives. At least she has a slice of happiness that she could never have while being with my Dad. I guess a part of me feels left behind by that as well, and a part of me is bitter about it, and also ashamed for feeling that way.

    Anyway, thanks for posting your story, and allowing me to share mine. Your life adventure sounds fabulous!!!! Good for you…no, GREAT for you!

    • lunasealife said

      Greg, thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s been amazing how having the courage to be vulnerable has opened up the opportunity to connect with friends and strangers on a much deeper level… Good luck with your healing, and let go of your shame!

  29. Brit said

    Thank you SO much. Your words are beautiful and really hit home. Especially the last part:

    “I don’t want to live my life like my father did, tormented by fears, controlled by cravings and aversions. Unlike my father, I’m not going to wait for death to arrive to free me.

    I choose to be free while I’m still alive. I choose to live.”

    I can relate to this so much. I hope to someday be at the place you are at and be okay with being vulnerable…

  30. Amanda Jessup said

    I lost my father Jan. 17th 2021 @ 11pm. When I read your story I cried. I felt like I was the only person in this world who lived the life of a alcoholic father. You have no idea how similar our lifes are. Your story is beautiful and has touched my heart. You opened my eyes and made me realize things that I never thought of before. I’m still going through the grieving process. I just wish it didnt end the way it did. But, its a chapter of my life. Im the daughter of a child molester alcoholic. On his death bed, I held his hand and forgave him though. I had to forgive him for what he had done to not only me, but my family. I dont blame him. I never did.

    • Amanda Jessup said

      Typo…I lost him Jan. 17th 2012. Sorry. I was a little emotional when I replied to your story.

    • lunasealife said

      Amanda, thank you. That’s amazing that you were able to forgive him; it’s so important – not for him, but for your own healing.

      It’s amazed me how many others have similar pasts, even friends I’ve known for years. We don’t talk about it so we think we’re the only ones, but we’re not alone.

  31. […] My father died almost a year ago, alone, drinking himself to death in a motel in Arizona. I asked him once if he ever wanted to go back to Ireland. “Why would I want to go back to that hell hole?” he snarled. End of conversation. […]

  32. Sarah said

    Thank you for putting into words how I feel. My dad died Wednesday. He was an alcoholic. No one I know can understand what I am going through.

    • lunasealife said

      Sarah, I felt the same – that no one understood. But as you can see from the other comments, we’re not alone. And people you know might actually understand… that’s the amazing thing I learned by posting this blog. Good luck on your journey of healing!

  33. Clarice said

    I could have written this…thank you for taking the words out of my mouth.

  34. Praying4peace said

    I personally wanted to thank you for writing this as I am currently dealing with a similar situation with my mother. We have been estranged for years due to her abusive nature that has been fueled by drinking and possible mental illness.

    She had a very similar background to your father, growing up in an orphanage, molested at a young age, lost a child to murder, all of which made her very bitter and angry. I have forgiven her years ago as I feel that it is not her fault that she truly can’t help the pain she inflicts, I tried to get her help but that only exacted rage toward me. I had to end ties with her to save my own sanity and that of my children. She is nearing the end now, I know I will mourn, not so much for her as she will finally be at peace but more so for what could have been if she could only have loved herself enough to let us help her. The more I tried the harder she pushed me away.

    I will find some peace in your words it is somewhat of a comfort to know I am not alone although I sm painfully aware of what this was like for you, and for that I am sorry. I wish you the best and just wanted you to know that your words have helped someone else.

  35. Nina said

    My father is an alcoholic, and I’m afraid he’s going to die.
    I tell myself I’ve done everything I could, but I feel that it’s not enough and that I can’t take it anymore. I can’t deal with him, I haven’t wanted him around for a long time – even before the alcohol became a problem.
    He’s always had a tendency to drink, but at this point, it’s an every day thing, and he’s come to the point where he drinks cosmetics and cleaning products.
    I’m not sure why I’m writing this. I don’t want to upset anyone by bringing their bad memories back. I’ve decided that I’m done; but I don’t know what it’ll be like, if he dies. I’ve lost people before, and he’s not even really there, but I’m still afraid.

  36. First of all, I am so sorry for your loss.

    This was so comforting to read. I lost my father to alcoholism 4 days ago, and I have been feeling so conflicted between grief and anger and relief. It’s nice to know that there’s someone else out there who felt the same things that I am feeling.

    Thank you for your honesty.


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