My father wasn't the trustworthy Dad I longed for and it affected me for years. Although he did love me, it was almost always from afar, where he was safe enough to not get attached to me. When he did get close, I was often the one who got hurt.
When I was a kid, riding bikes was the one activity my Dad and I enjoyed together. We'd often race to see who was faster. One Saturday when I was 12, my dad and I were racing down remote country road, a few miles from home. For the first time ever, I pulled ahead. My lead grew and I peddled harder. My Dad was so far back that I could no longer hear him peddling behind me. When I turned around to celebrate my victory, I was all alone. As a joke, my Dad had silently turned around and rode home.
I was terrified and cried all the way home. I was afraid to be that far away from home all alone, but I was more afraid of making my Dad upset. After I pulled myself together, I went into the house and pretended like nothing happened. This bike riding prank wasn't an isolated incident.
A few months after that, my Dad offered to teach me how to swim. It was our first family vacation in years. I was so excited to spend quality time with my dad. He took me out to the pool. Instead of jumping in with me or explaining anything, he pushed me into the deep end. When I emerged screaming, he yelled, "Swim!" On my way back under, I swallowed a lot of water. Finally, my Dad jumped in to save me. He pulled me to the side where I cried so hard, I threw up. Then he yelled at me for embarrassing him.
These two incidents summed up our whole relationship. At the time, I didn't know he struggled with alcoholism or mental health issues. I just knew I couldn't trust my Dad.
Recovery Gives A New "Father"
Recovery gives me a new family of father and mother figures, sisters and brothers. Nate is a perfect example of this. At my first Al-Anon meeting, I was greeted by Nate. Nate is one of our group's infamous "Old-timers," who has made it his mission to greet newcomers. He took me under his wing. Nate invited me to go breakfast after the meeting with the other old-timers. He made sure I knew how to get to the restaurant. When we got there, he introduced me to the other people at the table. Every time I see Nate, he greets me with a smile. I know I can trust Nate.
In recovery, I learn to accept people and situations for what they are. Before recovery, my Dad was a major force in my life. That's how co-dependency works. I depended on him and other unhealthy relationships as my sole source of love and validation. As I became more independent, I forged healthy relationships. I no longer depend on my Dad as my only source of emotional support. This surprising benefit lets me look back without so much animosity. It lets me see that my Dad does love me, but he is a hurt person. Without expectations, I'm able to accept him for who he is.