Doctors, my family, friends, they often have to remind me that alcoholism is a disease. It’s an addiction, the same as heroin or crack. 1 in 12 American’s is an alcoholic, and 40% of the beds being used in hospitals are used to treat conditions relation to alcohol consumption. When I was younger I was quick to cast blame. It’s my way of coping, and anger was the only emotion I know how to harness and work through. As long as I could get angry with my dad, I could push past the grief and anguish. So that’s what I did, because it was easy to do. His drinking led to my parents divorce. It led to jail visits, DUI’s, and a constant fear in my life that I’ll be an alcoholic.
I had a lot to be angry about, and rightfully so. What I was too young to realize is that being angry won’t help me. It won’t help me move past grief to a place of forgiveness. It won’t help me come to terms with my own drinking. It won’t do those things because anger is a secondary emotion. It’s what we exude when we don’t know the root cause of our internal turmoil. Typically we as people are not emotionally mature enough to realize that we could actually just be scared, hurt, or embarrassed. I don’t cast the blame anymore, because I can’t bear to hold onto the bad memories any longer. I hold onto memories of bringing frozen duck organs to fourth grade show and tell after dissecting the dead bird he’d hit while driving home the night before. I cherish memories of him teaching me how to use a welder and a plasma cutter when I was twelve years old to cut pumpkin faces on propane tanks. I treasure memories of him wrapping socks around the stock of a 12-gauge shotgun so my shoulder wouldn’t bruise when we shot targets and old washing machines at the gravel pit.
I hold onto those because I know Jason didn’t drink to hurt our family. Acknowledging that has been a long process, but I’m now able to recognize that he had a disease for which there is no cure. His gravestone forever reads:
A generous heart, an adventurous spirit, an inventor’s mind.