Growing up in a small town wasn’t always easy for me. I felt that I was constantly hiding and denying the person that I was and the life that I lived. I was forced to be someone that I really wasn’t due to the fact that I had a “family secret” that I was withholding in order to protect the well-known, family name, Hutcherson. In highschool, no one but family members and close friends knew that I lived with an alcoholic father. As a child I was always taught to keep our family life secret and never let people know the struggles that our family faced. People always thought that I had the best of everything because of the material possessions I accumulated from my dad. They assumed that because our family had money, we were problem free – and oh, how wrong they were! It was until my senior year at Halls High School that I kept leading people on to believe a lie. I finally got tired of feeling as though I was two different people with two different lives.
After attending counseling for several months, because of the depression that had taken a tole on me, my psychiatrist helped me to realize that it wasn’t my fault that my father has this addiction. I soon figured out that there was no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed for things that I had no control over. If people liked me, they should like me for the “real me,” not who I had been pretending to be. I learned to deal with my father’s alcohol problem by acknowledging the stages of the grieving process. Dr. Bell taught me that in order to make peace with the hardships in my life, I had to overcome each of the five processes; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Denial was the first, and probably the hardest stage of the grieving process. It seemed as if denial overwelhmed my entire life, even from childhood. It was hard, at times, to admit that living with an alcoholic parent was a part of my life. I didn’t want to accept the fact that this was a definite part of who I really was. I was ashamed and humiliated. I remember being embarrassed to tell Dr. Bell the whole truth. I also felt like by doing so, I was dishonoring my family and degrading my father. However, after I came to terms with the truth that I had been denying for so long, I felt like a ton of bricks were lifted from me.
The second stage of the grieving process is anger. I can remember being so mad at Dad for putting our family through this. There were times that I hated him and wished that something bad would happen to him, just so I could go back to the life I was accustomed to living, that of lies. I blamed my mother for staying with him and giving us children no choice as to what we wanted. I envied her just about as much as I envied him. I know now, that even though she wasn’t happy, she was doing what she felt she had to do, and that was support him 100%. I no longer look at this situation as something to be angry at. I see my father now, as a sick man and not one that intentionally has this horrible addiction to hurt the ones he loves.
There were times that I remember bargaining with God, asking him to please take this away. I would pray at night that if he would just heal my father, I would be willing to do whatever it took to show appreciation. I would make deals with my father, “Dad, if you don’t drink for two weeks, I will mow the lawn for free.” It was things like this that would sometimes be the only thing that gave me hope. At times, the things that I would say to my father would work, only because of the quilt that he felt, but it wouldn’t be long and he would be back in the same boat he had been in for many years – drinking, uncontrolably.
The forth stage is depression. I have to say that this is the hardest thing I have ever faced (and still facing) in my life. Looking back now, I remember the thing that depressed me the most was thinking that things were getting better and then being disappointed again. There were times that Dad would stop drinking, sometimes weeks at a time. Though I always knew in my heart that it wasn’t going to last long, I still had hope that that particular time could be different.