Living with Jack Daniels

Teen describes life with an alcoholic father

Story by Jessica Emerson, staff writer

The slur of words. The hazy look in his eyes. The unsteady stride. I have lived almost 16 years being a human sobriety test.

My dad. My best friend. My right hand man. The guy who taught me how to shoot a basketball and catch a softball has been an alcoholic all of my life. Don’t get me wrong, my dad is a great father and person. He is a very decorated war veteran, he was an Army Ranger, a Green Beret, and a part of Army Airborne. He also has a law degree and a degree in criminal justice. Just because you make bad decisions doesn’t make you a bad person. My father has struggled with alcohol addiction since he ended his service.

Since my daycare days, I’ve grown up with the stress of wondering where my daddy was when he was supposed to pick me up. When I was only 5 years old, my daycare teacher had to stop my dad from taking me home because he was intoxicated. I’ve sat in a car before, knowing my dad has been drinking just praying to get home safely. Praying that we’d get home and that a cop wouldn’t pull us over and take my daddy away. Sometimes I think my dad loves the bottle more than he loves me.

The worst part of living with alcoholism is the constant worrying and uncertainty. Worrying about where he is. Worrying if he’s going to pick me up or not. Worrying if we’ll get home safely without hurting ourselves or anyone else. The uncomfortable feeling I get around alcohol. It’s a burden I’ve lived with all my life and carrying that weight around comes naturally to me. He can’t grasp the fact that he has a problem. He accepts and thinks that it’s okay to drink.

One of the most painful memories I have is the day after Christmas, 2011. My dad had slipped up and drank a little too much that day. He disappeared. A definition of disappeared in my life is when I know my dad’s been drinking, and he may or may not be home for days.  He wouldn’t answer his phone. He had been gone all day without a word. Maybe to a lot of families that’s a normal thing, but I’ve gone searching for my dad late at night countless times with my mom before. Strange disappearances with no contact in my house means Daddy has been drinking and we have no idea where he is.We spent almost four hours that day searching for him. We bought an app on our phone to search him, too. Still no sign of Daddy that day. I remember that heart breaking moment intensely––when I saw a white truck pulled over with a cop car sitting behind it. I didn’t look to see if it was him or not; I just started crying. You can imagine the relief I felt when the man I saw being pulled out of the truck wasn’t my dad. I thanked God for keeping my dad safe and keeping my family together that day.

My dad has been in Fort Defiance, Ariz., the past few months. He’s been working with people who have worse drinking problems than himself. I believe he is changing his life. I hope he has seen how much alcohol has impacted his life and ours. I hope he’ll finally be the dad that I can count on.