My father is an alcoholic; a highly functional alcoholic, but an alcoholic none the less.
That is one of the main reasons why I haven't lived with him since I was three years old. Which also happened to be the year that my mother died.
The cancer came out of nowhere and it didn't take long for the disease to kill her. My father was completely devastated and inconsolable, which was why I went to stay with my grandmother and her husband shortly after the funeral.
That doesn't mean my father wasn't in my life. He came over almost every night for dinner and often times ended up staying to help me with my homework and tuck me in to bed when I went to sleep. In fact, my father and I have always been rather close. I may have lived with my grandmother, but he was my dad. It was him I wanted to hang out with, it was his advice I wanted, and it was his face I always looked for at school functions.
Sure, I became familiar with the smell of scotch at a young age, but I didn't realized what it actually was for a long time. And my father was never violent or angry (at least, not around me), he was just using the alcohol to take the edge off his pain. I didn't think anyone could fault him for that.
But my aunt, I knew she never really approved of how much exposure I had to my father's problems. She didn't think it was good for me, though my grandmother disagreed.
"Charles is his father," I overheard her tell my aunt one day; "I would never want to keep them apart. And even if I did, I have no choice in the matter."
"You could petition for custody."
"Serena!" Even I could hear the disapproval in her tone, and I'm sure if I had seen her face it would have been outraged, "You know that is not the solution. I would never put either of them through that kind of ordeal. Not to mention the scandal and embarrassment it would cause our family. Charles does not deserve that. I think he is doing the best he can considering all that he has been through."
My father had his problems, but we worked well together. I did everything I could to make him proud and everyone always said that he was happiest when he was with me.
That was what made me want to move back in with him. When I was twelve I thought I could help him. I thought that if I was the one that could make him happy, then if I was always with him he would be happy all of the time.
It was a foolish plan really, and it was quickly shot down. My aunt was staunchly against it, as was my grandmother, though she was a bit gentler in her refusal. I tried going around them and asking my father directly, but even he agreed that it was a not a good idea. He told me he did not think it would be in my best interest. I had no idea what he meant by that and no one would explain it to me. I had seen my father drunk plenty of times. I knew how he acted. I could handle it, I knew I could.
It wasn't until I talked to my uncle about it that someone finally explained the real reason why no one thought I should move in with my father.
"The alcohol is the least of their concerns," He told me. "Chuck has had a thing for scotch long before any of the stuff that happened with Blair."
"Then why won't the let me move in?" I asked, "I could help him."
My uncle smiled sadly, "You do help him, a lot. But there are some things that you can't handle; that you shouldn't have to handle."
He sighed and answered, slowly choosing his words, "Sometimes, your dad, he goes on these binges-, uh, that involve things you have yet to be exposed to, except for maybe in the movies. But when he is in one of those binges, Chuck-, he isn't-, well, he isn't your dad like you know him. It is worse than when you see him after a few drinks. It can get pretty messy, and no one wants you to be around that."
It was only a few years later that I truly understood what he had meant.
I was barely eighteen years old when I walked into my father's penthouse apartment and found him in the aftermath of what must have been one of those infamous 'binges' that my uncle had been talking about.
My father was passed out on the couch, bottle of scotch in hand, and there was white powder and a variety of pills scattered across the coffee table. There were multiple empty alcohol bottles lying around the room and the bar and kitchen area looked like they had been completely destroyed.
"Dad," I said softly, shaking his shoulder gently, "Dad, wake up."
He stirred and stared at me blankly for a few moments before he realized who I was. Slowly, a smirk spread across his face, "Son," He said right before he took a sip of his scotch, "How nice to see you."
"Dad, uh, how are you feeling?"
"Let me tell you something, Son," He said, choosing to ignore my question, "There is something you need to understand. I know everyone has tried to keep you sheltered from this side of me, but now that you are aware you should know…"
My father trailed off and I thought for a moment that he had passed out again.
He opened his eyes and looked right at me, "How are things going with that girl of yours? You're still seeing her?"
I nodded and he slowly shook his head, "Let me give you some advice: don't let her reel you in. Never fall in love. I did, and just look at me. Your mother made me love her, she made me completely dependent on her, and then she left. Now, while you still have a choice, I'm telling you, I'm begging you, to avoid the pain that love causes." He paused to take another sip of his drink, "You have to understand, Son, I'm only telling you this because life is bitch and I couldn't stand to see you end up like me. She never would have wanted that for you."
My father passed out shortly after that, and we didn't talk about it again until almost a year later. We were on our way back from visiting my mother's grave, like we did every year on her birthday, and he was (almost) completely sober (for the time being). I had thought a lot about what he had said that night I discovered him, and I finally couldn't stop myself from asking, "Do you regret it?"
He looked at me out of the corner of his eye, "Excuse me?"
I usually tried to avoid bringing up my mother because I knew it upset him but I couldn't stop myself, "Everything with Mom; your relationship, loving her. If you had known it all would have turned out how it did, would you still have done it? Was it worth it?"
He was quiet for so long that I thought he wasn't going to answer me. But then he began to speak, though he stared out the window and refused to meet my eyes, "Yes, I don't regret a second. Loving Blair might have been my downfall, it might have crushed my soul, but she was one who discovered that I had one to begin with. I don't know how I would have lived without loving her."
When I married my girlfriend a few years later, my father took me aside before the ceremony and further explained himself. In a fairly open display of emotion that was rare for him he told me that a part of him had hoped I never fell in love, because that would have been easier for me. But he really was happy for me, because he knew being in love, while difficult, was one of the greatest experiences life had to offer, he just hoped and prayed everyday that my experience turned out better than his.
"Now, Son I'm only telling you this cause, life can do terrible things" – 'Terrible Things' by Mayday Parade