How do you deal with a quarter-life crisis while dealing with an out-of-his-mind, manipulative, controlling father, who has an alcohol problem to boot?
posted by orangeshoe to human relations (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Warning: This is VERY long, train-of-thought babble, but I am desperate and just needed to type, so if you are bored, please read on.
For some context, it is not only the grueling, self-doubting years of grad school that have contributed to my ungodly state of mind, but also, invariably, family problems. Namely, my father has been losing his mind for many years, taking many others selfishly along for the ride. My father is what I would call a "functioning" alcoholic. That is, he works his ass off and does well for himself, but ruins his own life and the lives of those around him.
For many years now, my father has been a control freak, a dominating man who can do no wrong, a highly defensive, super-sensitive, manipulative crazy person. Yet he is one who is rational in his day job (at least until about the early evening hits, when he starts drinking at work).
To boot, he does really shitty things, like for years he has engaged in absurd conversation to his children and wife about his impending death. He does so to feel self-worth; he wants to see how badly we will miss him and to see if we in fact "realize" all he's done for us. He is very manipulative in an excruciatingly selfish way. Only, he believes he is the most selfless person in the world, and any challenge to this belief makes you a "traitor," a word he uses often, because he works like a dog, etc., etc. (He and my mother fight a whole fucking lot, I am much like her.) What's really true, though, is that HE'S the root cause of basically every problem this family has.
His alcoholism has turned him into someone with whom I cannot have any excuse of a relationship, and the moment you point it out, he explodes in intimidating anger (not physically violent, but he's one heck of an intimidating guy, verbally speaking). He lashes out and immediately deems you a hateful, awful, evil person. What is worse, he has every other member of my family wrapped around his finger; they are controlled by him. He intimidates them into hearing what he wants to hear. He hears this only because they're scared. They tell him what he wants because they are afraid not only of him, but of losing him, a fact he points out over and over. Further, they feel sad for him; he has this remarkable way of making one feel guilt and sympathy.
I too have these feelings, and often succumb to them, apologizing when I should not have, biting my tongue until it bleeds. I have also spent many years distancing myself from him, to salvage what remains of my sanity. Because of this, I feel I have the foothold to tell him what I f**king think, sometimes. That he's becoming an embarrassment to himself and his family. But I only tell him this because I think he has done so much in his life to be proud of -- that he is seriously jeopardizing his integrity and standing in the community. And also -- he perpetuates a dysfunctional family -- so much so, that it is "normal" to him and the rest of my family. Anything or anyone who challenges the dysfunctional status quo is himself dysfunctional and crazy. (I feel like I am taking f**cking crazy pills sometimes!)
He makes me out to be this evil daughter, and turns everything I say into eliciting more sympathy for himself from our other family members. One example, he comes over to MY house in the middle of the night the other night, banging on my front door -- my dogs going crazy, screaming to my sister about things he thinks I said about him -- while drunk, and while my boyfriend is upstairs, with the sole purpose of demonstrating that everything I said is wrong -- that he is not a drunk and going on and on about what he's done in his life, and what I've "not" done in mine. (Which is ridiculous, because I am the only child he has who has needed no guidance; my siblings, on the other hand, have majorly fucked up many times). Further, he screams so loudly and scarily, I am literally mortified and, concurrently, frightened at the prospect that "this is my father, this is what he is and what he's become!" Two days later, my mother brings up the situation, and upon hearing this, he flat out denies ever having done it (which is ABSURD, if you were there), immediately phones my sister and in essence demands to hear that he did not do it, to which my sister understandingly obliges. She answered that it NEVER happened. That's right -- that is how twisted the entire situation is. That is how far he has weaved his dominion over peoples' lives. This is because my dad intimidates people into telling him what he wants to hear, and then believes that it is actually true. This accounts for only, like, a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the amount and types of conduct in which my father engages.
He hasn't talked to me in days, has cursed me to hell, and is "no longer my father." I have ignored this, because the situations I have recounted have recurred so many times in my life -- that it is almost nauseating to apologize. By the way, he asks family members daily when I am going to apologize to him, and that soon he'll be dead anyways. I am really quite unsure what I would be apologizing for. Not to mention that I would be apologizing to a man who really believes that if he says he played no part in a psychopathic hour-long fiasco just the night before, his reaction to hearing someone challenged his behavior and demeanor, it is actually true. This is a man whose last words before leaving that night were, "I am not a drunk," while banging on the wall.
My dad needs a certain modicum of control -- over his life and over people. He cannot be told he has a problem, and he does the most horrible things to his family. The domination, the guilt, the countless fucked up selfish things that I could never enumerate no matter how hard I tried. (He's also sacrificed a whole damn lot - and for that we are all grateful -- yet he is constantly trying to make us realize what he's done and what he is).
The reason I am the only one with the balls to stand up to him, I think, is that I no longer "need" him for anything. The siblings, on the other hand, do need him -- and have needed him throughout their lives for things I have easily been motivated to do myself. He uses this control over them to obtain whatever he wants -- to validate his claims of his own sanity and to what he deems my pretentiousness (which, in normal-people-world, is rationality).
He lives in world he has created for himself and he believes all of these lies. I have NO IDEA how to deal with him. I am losing my mind. I feel this utter guilt -- but I feel equal conviction in standing my ground. It's just that, continuing to stand my ground can literally destroy the relationship I have w/my dad -- at a time when not only is he an alcoholic, but he's also got a pretty serious health condition. *And if it wasn't apparent from the posting, I actually do love him.* PLEASE HELP.