This is a story about my relationship with my father. When I was little, I knew my daddy loved me deeply. However this belief slowly diminished when I began to experience and witness his alcoholic lifestyle. Every night, my mother and I would leave the house at wee hours desperate to find him. He was very absent in my life due to his alcoholic lifestyle. It was difficult to have a strong and good relationship with my father. Whenever he got very drunk, his behaviour was unsightly. The feeling of witnessing the father that I loved vomiting, wasted and completely drunk was incomprehensible. In fact it was scary and traumatic. Watching my mother suffer because of my father’s alcoholism was even more painful to bear. My mum would take it out on me sometimes as a result of this, and our relationship was very strained. I grew up believing that my parents didn’t love me, that nobody loved me.
Back then I did not have a relationship with God and my experiences made it even harder to understand and believe God’s love for me. When I was 10, my mum and I stopped going to church.
But God was faithful to me, despite my unfaithfulness. In 2008 when I was 13, my father attended the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) at the Catholic Spirituality Centre and a major eye operation immediately after. This was a turning point for him and my family, it felt as though God has made him a new man again. He shared that he wanted to quit drinking because he felt that God had given him a second chance to live. He was moved and determined to give up his addiction. We were all shocked and taken aback by what he said, because never in our lives would we think he would ever say that. True enough, by the grace of God, he stayed true to what he said. My father became more present in my life and our father-daughter relationship began to grow. It was as though I was experiencing a second childhood for me, but this time, at my teens. His conversion also brought my mother and I back to church.
Recently, I was triggered by my dad’s addiction and struggle with alcohol. I felt deep pain and anger within. All the memories of him being drunk as I was growing up became so intense and painful, it was as if I was reliving them again. It felt as though his behavior was a direct equation of his love for me. Him not cherishing his life meant that he did not love me. His addiction also affected my self-image and identity as a daughter of God. I felt angry and very disappointed. But I also knew that he chose alcohol as a way to cope with the stress at work. And this time witnessing it, I saw the brokenness of my own father. A part of me understood and had compassion, and yet a part of me struggled with this too.
In my moment of pain, I cried out asking the Lord, “Do you even love me? Do you love my father? Why do you allow such a painful thing to keep happening in my life and how could this ever bring glory to you through my brokenness and pain, through all this ugliness and mess?”
God spoke and the truth that I received was that even through my struggles with my father, through the healing of this relationship, God’s glory would be shown through my witness. At that moment, I realized how much God the Father loves not only me but my father too. All he asks of me is to allow him to heal me, love me so that I may extend forgiveness to my father.
It has been a few years, and my relationship with my father has gotten better but he still struggles with alcoholism and I still struggle to love and accept him as he is. But I know now, that I do not go through this alone, but with the community and by the grace of God. And my identity is not based on my circumstance or even my earthly relationship with my father, and that I am made in the image of God, and I am cherished and loved by Him. I am able to look at my father with compassion, by the grace of God. There is light in my struggle, not all darkness.
You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you will get through this.