Helping a problem father?
May 31, 2011 5:38 PM   Subscribe

My irresponsible father's health is declining and relatives are trying to get me to move him in with me, but I don't think I can cope with it.

I don't even know where to begin, but I'm going to try and keep this condensed. My father has always been extremely emotional, judgmental, and irresponsible. He tends to deal with things by lashing out, assigning blame, and then becoming despondent and taking everything personally. He has chased away most of the people in his life at one time or another for years at a time. I don't really have any positive memories of him and hate that the situation is what it is. He's been extremely verbally abusive and eventually, my Mom left him. It's hard to say but for years he blamed the divorce on me. He's an alcoholic who as far as I know hasn't ever abstained for more than a month or two. Twice in college, after the divorce, (during periods of lucidity) I tried moving back in with him to support him and make sure he got to AA. Both times he never did any housework of any kind, never really kept a job, and continued being verbally abusive and negatively emotional. Every time he'd get drunk he'd kick me out of the house, and eventually I left. He tried dating but couldn't keep a relationship.

Fast forward a few years, and he's not doing so well physically. He can't drive very well anymore and he frequently falls down and the ambulance has to assist him. Rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and so on. For a few years he's been living a state away with his father but now my grandfather's getting to old to take care of him. (I am midtwenties, he's 50, and my grandfather's just over 70.)

Today my relatives called asking me to start taking care of him--specifically, for him to move in with me. My heart dropped. Frankly, interacting with my father is torture to me. There's just nothing positive there. He loves me, which just makes the way he acts hurt worse. Every time I gave him the benefit of the doubt he's made me regret it. I don't think I can survive living under the same roof with him. My wife agrees.

He has no income or assets I'm aware of, I'm an only child, and nobody else knows what to do. I think he's chased most of the people in his life away. In addition, we're young ourselves and living paycheck to paycheck between living expenses and student loans for the foreseeable future. Now what? I don't know what to say, I don't know how to help him, and don't know what to do. I don't want him homeless but I can't have him here.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (48 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Say no. For God's sake, say no.
posted by bq at 5:41 PM on May 31, 2011 [71 favorites]

Have you looked into state-assisted living programs? If you cannot afford it, financially and/or emotionally, it is ultimately your decision to take him in or not. If you expect certain behavior, you need to set ground rules, and he gets one chance--if he breaks them, he's out in state-assisted living in a home.

People like that need understand that their actions (or lack thereof as the case may be) have consequences, and they cannot just dump the burden that is their life on someone else.
posted by Elminster24 at 5:42 PM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Today my relatives called asking me to start taking care of him--specifically, for him to move in with me.

Tell those people you can't house your father, but maybe they could? Oh, they CAN'T? Why not?! Seriously, turn any guilt they throw at you right back at them. Nobody gets to guilt you for not doing something they themselves won't do.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:43 PM on May 31, 2011 [123 favorites]

I know you might get the world's biggest guilt trip from your relatives, but stand your ground and Just Say No. You are under no obligation whatsoever to have an abusive alcoholic live with you, even if (perhaps especially if!) he's your father.

If your relatives are so concerned about him, they can pool their finances for a nursing home-type situation for him. Or he can move in with them.
posted by rtha at 5:44 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

If he has no income or assets, contact public assistance. He should qualify for low income housing...which perhaps the family could pitch in to pay for.

I know he's your father, but maybe he needs to hit rock bottom before he realizes he needs his family and reevaluates his behavior.
posted by virginia_clemm at 5:44 PM on May 31, 2011

Yeah, what they said up there.

There are ways for you to help him without moving him into your home. You tell the relatives you cannot afford it and that you have been there done that and it was unsuccessful, but you are willing to brainstorm with them for alternate arrangements.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:45 PM on May 31, 2011

Also, can he get a full workup and physical? Is it possible he has been selfmedicating with alcohol for mental health issues? Worth a shot.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:47 PM on May 31, 2011

Without getting too much into it, I was recently faced with a similar, though not quite as actute, problem. My father died shortly after his health started to decline, quite recently. My father was a wonderful man with a serious chronic drinking problem that he would not manage, deal with or acknowledge. My sister and I were two of the people he hadn't entirely driven away, but there were many people on the sidelines urging us to do more, help more, save him.

And it wasn't my job. Especially because he wouldn't take care of himself and was frequently verbally abusive or downright inappropriate/scary to me when he was drinking, which was often, daily. I made a tough decision to let him walk down that road alone. Stayed in touch, but wouldn't save him.

I'm sure there are people who thought I did the wrong thing, or who blame me, but I felt like I was right with him and I was definitely right with myself. I'm sad and sorry about the life he made for himself but it wasn't my life to save. Other people wanted me to do the work that they wouldn't do. And I don't and didn't think it was my job to parent a parent who wasn't really much of a parent to me.

It's a terribly shitty set of choices you are confronted with, but your wife is your chosen family and if she's on your side then the two of you should move forward as a team, with good boundaries, and tell people what you will and will not do. Help where it's appropriate. Don't take this on if you don't want to. Say you're sorry, offer to help out, draw the line at getting sucked down with him. It's okay to do that.

MeMail me if you want to talk about this. My decision was difficult, but I can live with it and I sleep okay at night.
posted by jessamyn at 5:48 PM on May 31, 2011 [119 favorites]

Absolutely not will you let your father be foisted off on you. Stand your ground! The guilt train hasn't even left the station....stand firm and don't let this disaster happen. You owe him nothing.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:55 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

but now my grandfather's getting to old to take care of him.

This is just wrong. He has not acted as a father to his child, or as child to his father.

Listen to ThePinkSuperhero. Tell the relatives to man up and find somewhere to get him into state or other assisted living. The cynic in me believes these are relatives that were not available to help you as a child, and most likely are in a better position financially than you and your wife. If you absolutely must do something, do it via long distance and financially, not in your home and not engaging emotionally.

You can love someone, and they can love you, but it can be toxic to one or both.

Don't let your father ruin the rest of your life and most likely your marriage. You can NOT afford this. Take care of yourself. Take care of your wife.

Do. Not. Do. This.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:56 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

this seems like a perfect time for the phrase, "i'm sorry, but that won't be possible."

sure, help from afar in whatever way you can/feel comfortable with. but i'm giving you permission to not feel guilty and not explain yourself to people who know full well why you won't be letting him move in with you.
posted by nadawi at 5:57 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you do this it can destroy you. It was an absolute nightmare taking care of my mom. My marriage and health still haven't recovered AND my story even had a happy ending for her (so far at least). Feel free to memail me if you want to talk about any of this. I know the guilt and pain that can come from all of this and it's a lot to shoulder (too much!) for anyone!
posted by rainygrl716 at 6:13 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nothing new to add but just agreeing with everyone else. There is nothing you can do or not do to make him better. Please don't let him move in. And don't feel bad about it either.
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:23 PM on May 31, 2011

Adding my voice to the "No, don't do it, and don't feel guilty about saying no!" chorus.
posted by luckynerd at 6:24 PM on May 31, 2011

My wife's mother moved hundreds of miles away to take care of her ailing father, who was a cantankerous ass. When he died, she got stiffed in the will, like one last opportunity for the old bastard to kick her teeth in for all the thankless help she provided for him. When she moved back, her home that she had been renting out while she was away was completely ransacked by the asshole tenants that weren't paying their rent and were angry that they had to move out. Her wedding dress that has been in storage was found in the carcass of a van that they had left derelict on her property, filled with other bits of childhood memories, loose beer bottles and trash.

I guess what I'm saying is, life can be pretty shitty. Don't volunteer to let miserable fucks make it any shittier for you just because they go by the name of Dad.

I'm sorry for the tough decision ahead of you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:27 PM on May 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

A person's mere existence does not place an obligation on you. An obligation is something that you make a choice to accept, bot something you are forced to accept just because the world is the way it is (someone happens to be related to you, someone happens to need help, someone happens to be located near you). A parent (more or less) chooses to create a child and place an obligation upon themselves to care for the child. A child has no such burden to the parent, particularly if the parent has already failed in their self-chosen responsibilities to the child, and has further made it impossible to care for them.

You may accept a responsibility for a situation if it's appropriate and if you can; otherwise, it's not yours. Others trying to MAKE it yours...doesn't make it yours.

It sounds like you have no obligation to this man, and you have no responsibility to him. If you choose to do help him at all, that's more than he should reasonably expect.
posted by galadriel at 6:32 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fifty is pretty young, anon. People, even alcoholic people with no one to support them, live a long time sometimes...

It sounds like you are being pressured vigorously to sign up for caretaker duty. It's hard to resist if you have a kind heart and are subject to manipulation.

You also sound like you have a full plate, too. Can you really see adding the workload and emotional burden to your life for perhaps another 30 years?

Dad is part of the susceptible population for whom alcohol is more important than anything else. My father was the same way, but mercifully died at 66, though not before wringing a lot of stress out of the fabric of the cosmos.

People are going to do what they are going to do. Even though he's making bad choices, he is a free agent. He is the only one who can save himself from himself. You can't do it, and human sacrifice such as you are resisting is not effective. It just adds your life to the destruction; it does not help him in any way. You'll be making it safe for him to stay on his path.

Your dad will die. When he does, you'll probably be sad. No one said this life business is easy. His job after deciding to father you was to be a good father; one who really loved you. He failed. No one cares why. Loving people do not act like this.

The ship comes first, anon. You've got to save yourself and hope that Dad can swim. It's not your job to drown with him.

Find the strength to be firm and say "No." You owe no one an explanation. Anyone who looks down on you for this difficult choice needs to be extremely peripheral in your life. It's ok to take care of yourself when no one else is. You are all you have. Spend it wisely.
posted by FauxScot at 6:32 PM on May 31, 2011 [7 favorites]

Consider getting ALL the relatives to split the cost of an assisted care facility. Aside from that advice I agree with everyone else who said to say "No!"
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:32 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm seconding nadawi's advice: "That won't be possible." That's a good phrase. Stick to it. Don't let this happen. Your marriage will suffer, and so will the rest of your life. Very little good can come of this.
posted by Buffaload at 6:32 PM on May 31, 2011

Others have given good excuses to save face against your relatives. I'll give you one that doesn't depend on anyone else...

"Not your problem."

A being possessed of free will has chosen to destroy his own body. The amount of DNA you have in common with him has no relevance whatsoever to your "duties" to him, to your family, to society, or most importantly to yourself.
posted by pla at 6:32 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anon, I could've written this ask myself.

Your father and your other relatives are going to try to make you think this is your responsibility because you're his child. There's an assumption-- and it's usually not a malicious one-- that children should care for aging parents "because they're your parents", as if there is some special currency that is earned simply by having a child. But your father has not been a nurturing presence in your life. In fact, it sounds like he was the opposite. Your relatives are looking at the idea of father and child on an abstract level, though, not on the level of what it actually means to you experientially-- and moreover, I think they want to absolve themselves of the responsibility by foisting it on you. They don't want it; after all, your dad doesn't even know how to take responsibility for himself and the rest of your family knows that.

Just to reiterate what you posted: He has disappointed you every time you've given him the benefit of the doubt. This is a big thing, committing to take care of your dad, even if the two of your were thick as thieves. It just sounds like he's only going to make things difficult for you in return for your kindness. Financially, psychologically, and socially. He may feel gratitude toward you, but you can't count on him to show it. His behavior will probably stay the same, whatever he feels. I don't think that's something you should have to live with. You don't owe him this.

You have expenses and challenges of your own to deal with. Your dad has not helped you with those things in the past, and he is not going to help you with them now. This is not on you. Live your life. Enjoy your own successes and make your own mistakes-- don't take on your father's mistakes as something you have to be responsible for, too.
posted by the liquid oxygen at 6:33 PM on May 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

No way, no day. Especially if there's any chance there will be kids on the scene one day too. (I don't think you should have to justify your decision but not wanting future kids around an abusive alcoholic is one anyone should understand. And if he's in his 50s, he could live another 30 years, so who knows what your family will look like then.)

Tell the interfering relatives that it's admirable they feel so strongly about your dad's health, so naturally, you expect they will take him in themselves. It's wonderful that people like them exist in the world, but sadly the abuse you received at the hands of your father means that you don't have the capacity now to look after both you and him. I'm sure such caring people will understand and do what they are telling you is the right thing to do.
posted by Jubey at 6:41 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not only is this unacceptable to you, but will not be ideal for your father. and that's what you can tell people who want him to live with you. Instead of using your energy trying to fix his life, find out what services are available to assist him.
posted by theora55 at 6:46 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

If he truly is unable to care for himself physically or financially, then he should be able to qualify for your state's public guardianship/conservatorship services, and they will be able to find appropriate housing/health care/personal aid services for him. I used to serve on my state's public guardian board and it was very common that the people we were caring for did have children who were able to care for them but refused to do so because they were completely alienated from their mentally ill/substance abusing parents. It happens all the time. It's one of the main reasons that public guardianship exists.
posted by HotToddy at 6:58 PM on May 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you find yourself feeling guilty or selfish about your decision, remember, you are not just saying 'no' for your OWN sake. You are doing this for your wife.

You have a choice between letting one person continue to ruin his own life, or actively contributing to ruining another person's life (you wife's). The selfish decision, in my opinion, would be to inflict this terrible situation on your real, chosen family (your wife and any future children).

Don't let yourself be guilted.
posted by lollusc at 7:09 PM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

You're doing a lot for him, and have for a while, by being independent and not requiring him to take care of you. Given the amount of help he gave you, this is quite an accomplishment and you don't need to feel bad about not doing still more. You can tell your relatives, "I'm able to take care of myself right now, so he and you can do what you need to without worrying about me."

But: some problems are just hard. Or impossible. Good luck, and be gentle to yourself.
posted by amtho at 7:12 PM on May 31, 2011

I agree with all the above. You should not take this on alone. Look into adult guardianship and state funding for an assisted living facility. Most of all, take care of yourself. Consider Al-Anon as a resource to help support you through this crappy situation.
posted by goggie at 7:14 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

My grandfather moved in with my parents when I was off to college. He was a drunk and in poor health. My parents felt they had no choice, since my father was an only child, and after years of being waited on hand and foot by my grandmother, the man did not even know how to make his bed or make himself a piece of toast. My grandfather sold his home and moved far away from all his friends to move in with my parents. He was miserable and made my parents miserable. My parents tried to make the rule of no alcohol in the house, and this set off rounds of fighting, and eventually my grandfather left to go back to his hometown. There he got an apartment, and shortly after had a fall there, and died. All the relatives blamed my dad for "letting him" move out, and caused a rift which exists to this day. The whole situation was rotten. It is "the right thing to do" to honor your parent and take care of him but it is equally, and arguably even more so, "the right thing" to honor your new family and your future. Good luck; I hope you are not forced to take him in.
posted by molasses at 7:16 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I could have written this (in fact, I was dialing my sister to ask her if she did when I got to the end and saw the only child thing). When I finally had enough I told my favorite uncle what my childhood was really like (my dad was/is a master manipulator and everyone thought he was great guy ). My uncle made sure that the rest of the family left me alone when it came to my dad. Do you have anyone on that side of the family who can support you like this? If so, talk to them. It helps to have someone who is close to the situation, but doesn't have the emotional baggage advocating for you.

There comes a time when you have to take care of yourself and your own family. Do you want to expose this guy to your wife and children/future children? You turned out well despite him, not because of him and you owe him nothing.

You do need to be prepared for the fact that cutting off your dad may mean cutting off the rest of your family. And that's ok too. Your emotional well-being is more important. When/if they call again, tell them the truth- you cannot afford to take him in- financially or emotionally, and he will have to make other arrangements.
posted by dogmom at 7:24 PM on May 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

A few years ago my 80 year old mother was NOT nasty or violent, but was showing signs that it might not be good to let her live in a house alone because her mind was going (as was the neighborhood).

So we sold the house and she moved in with us, but that only lasted a year because she wouldn't take part in any senior programs or make new friends in the neighborhood. She just sat there in our home and since both of us worked it didn't seem safe or healthy. So we moved her into an "independent living" facility, but then she seemed to deteriorate even further, so she then had to go to a nursing home.

Had her mind lasted she could have lived indefinitely with us, and for quick a number of years at the independent living facility, since her pension was more than enough for anything she might want, and the money from the house just sat there. But of course $$$ goes quick in a nursing home. And the sad part was, even before the nursing home, she became convinced I'd taken her money, and no number of bank statements, telephone banking inquiries or confirmations from other family members could convince her otherwise.

Why do I tell you all this? Because the above was a sad, troubling situation that we had difficulty keeping up with while also dealing with our jobs and kids. If I had it to do again, I'm not sure she wouldn't have been happier living in the lonely house in the worsening neighborhood. She certainly wasn't happy in the nursing home. I thought I was doing the right thing by my mother, but it didn't work out.

To the extent that your situation is far worse starting out than mine, I suspect your outcome will also be far worse than mine. So I add my voice to all others and say not just no, but hell no.
posted by forthright at 7:49 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

To add my little bit of weight: No. Don't do this.
posted by moira at 8:23 PM on May 31, 2011

I need to tell you that, if you care about him or your wife or yourself, you cannot let him move in with you. You cannot. Giving him a place to live is not the solution to the problem. This is heartbreaking as so many families who have faced it know. They will all tell you, as I do, you cannot fix this. Let him go and if he wants to get sober, he already knows how. You already saw to that. Let him go. Let him choose.
posted by Anitanola at 8:53 PM on May 31, 2011

Trying to manage an active, anti-social alcoholic relative in your home will do your marriage and home no good. That said, it is possible that getting kicked out of his current living circumstance may be a "bottom" point that persuades your father into getting addiction treatment. You might look over the whole of the Addiction series Web site for new evidence based strategies for alcohol and addiction treatment, and for new models of community and family support, such as CRAFT.

I don't think that your alternatives are necessarily as black-and-white as other posters; regardless of where your father next lives, you'll go on being his son, and he your father, as long as you both live. As bad as your relationship might be, that you have a relationship at all represents some measure of hope for your father. Addiction may or may not be a disease, but our best means of dealing with it, at this point, seem to be based on the assumption that it is. So, don't get more emotionally involved in this difficult situation than necessary; focus your energy on getting your father into treatment, and if that is still not possible, on remaining a resource (however limited your circumstances dictate) to your father and to the rest of your family for that future path, if at some point it does become a possibility in his mind.

Helping a relative who is in the beginning stages of outpatient treatment, with some short record of sobriety, is still no picnic, and the chances of success for people with long histories of drinking and anti-social behavior is probably poorer than for younger people with fewer burned bridges behind them. But for a person making recovery progress in a good outpatient program, family support in the form of short term transitional housing and transportation can be essential to the process of making a longer term life change. And I suspect that offering that kind of help to your father, assuming he was actually in a successful recovery program, might be a somewhat different proposition than just warehousing him, as an active drunk, might be, as far as both you and your wife are concerned.
posted by paulsc at 8:54 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Now what? What everyone said. You can't, you shouldn't, and hopefully you won't - but you just need the words and the way to get through it. But, what to say? Tell your relatives "There are practical reasons why this can't happen." if you want to go a step beyond "It's simply not possible." It's easy to proclaim what should conceivably happen - but to make it so? Oy.

And, I did read this carefully, but you didn't mention something important: What does he want to do? Because, despite his condition, nobody - not relatives, your grandfather and not even you - can make this happen without either his willingness to make the move or a whole lot of legal stuff, right? So, if at this point he hasn't made the suggestion himself and isn't willing to cede his arrangements to your care, you can remind them that at this point, it's (sadly, really) none of your business either, because these are his choices, and he is his own person, and, as I've had to say about other estranged family members in my life, "Well, we don't have that kind of relationship." (trailing off with a slight head shake). But hey, if they want to offer him help in exploring his options, be they homelessness or treatment or other arrangements, they're welcome to (said brightly)...
posted by peagood at 9:05 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

A possible solution: if you like your grandfather, move him into your house, then there won't be any room for your father.
posted by Scram at 9:09 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not a huge fan of Al-Anon's program, but I really think you could use some meatspace moral support from people who have dealt with and are dealing with the question of what - if anything - they "owe" to addicted relatives, and I suspect the likeliest place to find that is in an Al-Anon group.

Also, what peagood just said. "We don't have that kind of relationship." Yup.
posted by gingerest at 9:10 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite] is possible that getting kicked out of his current living circumstance may be a "bottom" point that persuades your father into getting addiction treatment.

The man is 50 years old. If he sobers up, he could have 15 years of earning his living, saving for retirement, and being an independent, contributing adult. He could spend the next 30 years happily. That's up to him. He knows where the local AA meets.

...focus your energy on getting your father into treatment... support in the form of short term transitional housing and transportation...

No. Don't bother. You've given him a chance--TWICE. Now it's up to him. Suggest that relatives closer to his home state, or in a better emotional and financial position send him pamphlets if they like.

He's been enabled all his life. Don't be the one to enable him again. If relatives want to, so be it.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:12 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was kind of in your situation a year or so ago. I'd just gotten married. My father hit bottom with his alcoholism, which caused my mother to leave him. He lost his job. The "friends" that he had, when they realized there was no more booze to be had, left. Pretty much everything that could go wrong for him did. My aunt and uncle lived close by and started calling me to tell me how horribly he was doing and couldn't I be a good daughter and come help him?

I was raised in a culture where you MUST help your parents. And even I could see that there was simply no way this was going to work. It was not for lack of caring. I love my father to death, but I couldn't help. He wasn't going to change, and I saw that if I got into this, I would continue enabling him, he would come to depend on me economically and this would destroy my young marriage. So I said no. Pretty much everyone in my family called after, trying to guilt trip me into it. I'm not going to lie, I almost faltered once. But my husband kept me going. I didn't do it. My father found himself completely alone, which helped him finally kick the habit. He's recovering now, almost an entire year of complete sobriety. He got my mom back and is trying to start his own business.

But I digress. You need to know that even if your ENTIRE family demonizes you for saying no, you can still say no. This is your life and your marriage in the line. Family is tight, but do you really see yourself caring for your father 20 years from now?
posted by cobain_angel at 9:13 PM on May 31, 2011 [9 favorites]

I agree with the consensus that you should not let your father move in with you.

BUT I want to address something that a lot of comments seem to have glossed over: your grandfather, who is a vulnerable person here. I suspect that your relatives are urging you to take your dad in to protect your grandfather, and that you maybe feel guilty for making your elderly grandfather care for your dad.

I think you should get with your relatives and come up with a plan for taking care of your grandfather in his twilight years that requires your dad to shift for himself. Maybe it's time for Granddad to move to a nice senior living community where- alas!- there is no room for your dad. Or maybe a nice sober college student is going to move into the house and help Pop Pop with the cooking and cleaning and- this is too bad- they'll need Dad's old bedroom.

Then, you can offer a middle ground of, "Well, Dad can't stay with me, but I've found him this nice list of apartments/subsidized housing/whatever assistance."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:51 PM on May 31, 2011 [16 favorites]

1) It's okay to set boundaries. Really. You're entitled to live your own life. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

2) help your dad apply for food stamps, social security disability and low income housing. Talk to a social worker if you need help.

3) I, personally, did not find therapy or alanon all that helpful. To me, it felt like sitting around talking about things that were painful to no real end. But some people find it very helpful, so you might think about attending a meeting or two. If nothing else it helps remind you that you are not alone.
posted by bananafish at 9:59 PM on May 31, 2011

I was raised in a very Catholic family. Add to this a mother, who at times could be very cruel with her words.

When my father was beginning to get really affected by Parkinson's Disease, I was visiting the farm on Thanksgiving break. One night I was sitting with her and she said outright to me.

"You're father is the way that he is because you don't pray"

She had this look in her eyes. And I could swear there was a slight smile on her face. I could not believe what i was hearing.

"You're wrong. You are so wrong!"

It was the first time I ever really stood up to here.

Forward about 20 years. I am at a party and I am telling this story. A woman says to me something like, "Do you pray for him now?" I am a little stunned by this and was even more so by my spontaneous reply.

"My body is the prayer."

Take care of yourself first. Get full. Parry away any guilt trips. You health and well-being is what matters, especially at this time in your life.

I believe that in the larger picture your father would also want this.

And its to your credit that you have posted this.
posted by goalyeehah at 10:08 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Snarl Furillo makes such a GREAT point, I'm writing only to say please read what he said.

I have a parent like yours.
posted by jbenben at 10:53 PM on May 31, 2011

You can care about him without being his primary caretaker.

Anyone who tells you differently is selling something. Or hey, if they feel so strongly about it, can feel free to step in.
posted by desuetude at 12:01 AM on June 1, 2011

He needs rehab not a room in your house. Everything you describe is classic alcoholic behavior and health effects. If he doesn't get clean he will drink himself to death and it sounds like that is getting closer. You cannot save him, especially by putting him up in your your home. Rehab, then a half-way house and then perhaps you can consider boarding him in your house, but do not even begin to consider that until he is off the drink for a sustained period of time and he shows a willingness and commitment to staying sober.

You probably are feeling like you want to do something given his bad circumstances. Do something that will really make a difference. Putting him up in your home will likely only enable his continued alcohol abuse and ill health therefrom. Make a difference, get him into rehab. If your family is so interested perhaps they can assist in some sort of intervention. You of course also want to let him know that you care for him very much and are willing to help him get sober, but not to enable his continued addiction. In the end you are powerless to change him. Only he can decide to save himself.
posted by caddis at 7:27 AM on June 1, 2011

Yeah. No. That's all.
posted by unSane at 8:45 AM on June 1, 2011

I could have written this question and I could have written jessamyn's response. My mother died a year ago almost to the day. She died alone, penniless, and broken in body and spirit. All because she could not give up the alcohol, make healthy choices for herself or accept help for a life without alcohol. Basically, everything I'd worried about for all those years came to pass. And you know what? I still know I made the right decision when I didn't agree to take responsibility for her. I grieve for the wonderful woman who died, I grieve for all the lost opportunities - but I don't grieve for what I didn't do. She made her choices, every step of the way, and the ending was inevitable. I always thought I'd feel overwhelmed with guilt when she died, but surprisingly I've felt practically none. I could have done more - we all could - but in the end, I truly know in my heart that anything I did wouldn't have made a difference. She had, quite simply, made up her mind.

What I'm trying to say, like jessamyn, is that I made my (very difficult) decision, and I don't regret it. You can't save him if he doesn't want it for himself. Let the guilt go.

Rest in peace, mom. I miss you.
posted by widdershins at 10:30 AM on June 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

50 is young. Definitely young enough to change his ways if he's forced to. If you take him in, he won't be forced to.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:54 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just adding another voice of love and compassion to those who've already spoken. You are in a terrible position, but it's not a position you chose for yourself. It's yet another manifestation of your parent's choices. My father's problem isn't alcohol, but the situations are close enough that I could have written a nearly identical post at your age.

Here's what older wiser me would tell younger tormented me if I had the chance:

As a younger person, you weren't able to make choices to keep your life safe and whole and loving. As an adult, it's your turn now, and your responsibility now, to do what you have to in order to have a worthwhile life. Your father never took the responsibility for his own life, or yours. Now that your life is in your hands, you need to do a better job of taking care of yourself than he did.

If you take him in, there is no incentive for him to change his pattern. The only pattern you can change is yours. You're used to the dynamic with this man in which you, your life and needs, your relationships, your hopes and dreams, don't matter. That's not okay. Choose the pattern where you love yourself and your wife enough to take care of the two of you.

It is not only okay, but necessary, for you to make a life for yourself and your new family in which you are not the sacrifice to that man's choices.

Anon, I agree with the postings above: do what you can from a distance, directing him to social services, and seeing what can be done to help your grandfather. Do what you can, accept you can't do everything, and get on with your life. Your relatives are wrong: it's not your responsibility to assume the burden of your parent's care. You (and your marriage) are far too young to be caretakers for a broken, abusive person.

Remember that it's okay to be sad about this. And then remember it's okay to be peaceful, too.
posted by theplotchickens at 12:36 PM on June 1, 2011

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