Just after 10:00 PM, I sat in front of my father’s flat screen Dell PC after a long day at school. I loved sinking into the cold leather of his hunter green work chair and letting it encase my body as I surfed the web. Disobeying the rules, I was on MySpace sneaking a status about latest dish of the 6th grade.
I soon learned that the petty secrets I kept were about to be outweighed. Right under my parents’ room, my ears strained to hear what was being discussed above me. I could make out a few words but then the conversation turned into a fire-fight of screams. Frozen, I let the chair hide my fear. The door suddenly swung open, hitting the wall and sending waves of defiant denial right at my face. Wobbling down the stairs was my father sporting a face I never knew he possessed. He was a stranger.
Bag in hand, coat and shoes sloppily thrown in the direction of placement, the stranger stumbled out of the house, slamming the door behind him.
A squeal of wheels, and then he was gone.
Without a sound my mother appeared, face stained with tears, and she looked at me with such apology my heart stifled a wail.
“Bianca,” she said. “Daddy has a problem. He’s an alcoholic.”
Putting the pieces together, I did not want to believe it. My dad was the one who taught me right from wrong, and now he was making a decision I was told never to give into.
I cried a lot that night. I cried the next day, and the day that followed that. I cried because I did not want to come to terms with my father not being invincible. I refused to let reality add to the nightmare.
With all my twelve year old innocence drained, I became one dimensional. I focused on not only being the voice of reason for my otherwise cowardice family, but I tried to define who I was after living with his disease.
I fought of his cure. I fought for his heart, his liver, and brain. I fought for all the years that I still wanted him to be around. I fought for my mother’s well being, my sister’s youth, and for my brother’s future.
Fighting the inevitable only took more away from who I was. I came to terms with surviving and not living.
The breaking point in my family’s battle against alcohol was on a contrastingly calm summer night. My mother rested in the room that started it all, her newfound safe haven from the monster downstairs. My sister and brother shared spots on the couch in the family room, adjacent to where the stranger sat.
“Dad?” My sister’s voice shook as if she knew the outlook was grim.
“You know that play I was in last summer? Well, I was wondering if I could try out for the one this summer…”
“You want to do WHAT?” The stranger’s eyes met her’s and glared.
“You did horrible last year. You didn’t look like you cared about that stupid play, you just stood on stage and your acting was shit!”
I had built a thick skin to handle the weight of having an alcoholic parent, but that didn’t mean I would let my sister carry that burden too.
“Gianna, come upstairs with me. You do not deserve this.” I walked over to grab her hand has her head turned to hide her violent tears.
And then, the ticking time bomb in the stranger finally went off.
“Who do you think you are, challenging me? His bloodshot eyes tried to make me back down, but I stood stronger than I ever thought possible.
“Who am I?” Disgusted, I pushed forward.
“I am your daughter. So is she and I wish you could hear the way you are talking to her. It’s bizarre to think you are capable of doing this to your children and your family. You need help, dad. I don’t even know who you are anymore.”
I said every word with intentions of getting to the core of his beer soaked brain. I saw his defenses start to back off and his senses sharpened. As soon as his storm hit, it left. Just like two years prior, we were left to pick up the pieces.
To this day my father, my family, and I struggle with his alcohol addiction.
I will always remember every word, stare, grimace and tear with extreme clarity. My perspective on alcohol prevents me from ever being a stranger to the ones I love. Even though this separates me from the average high school student, in the end I am better off not experimenting with alcohol.
Having the addiction in my blood provides me with strength and determination to prove the odds wrong. I will never let myself down like the stranger did to me.