Not everyone can say they have the best father in the world. Father’s Day is the one day a year that people are encouraged to acknowledge and appreciate their dads, but if you grew up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home, the thought of honoring your father in any way, or even the thought of trying to spend time with him, may bring up a lot of volatile emotions. Dads disappoint their children in a lot of ways, ranging from neglect to abuse to abandonment. There probably are as many stories of hurt and disappointment as there are children. If your dad is or was an alcoholic or addict, you probably had negative feelings toward Father’s Day at a very young age, maybe as early as preschool or kindergarten when you were encouraged to make a present or a card for your dad. If you never had a dad present in your life, you may be carrying a wound. If your dad was violent or unpredictable when you were a child, you probably never understood why you should make something for him. Feelings of hurt or anger that started as a child have probably intensified as you have gotten older. If you have been deeply hurt by your father, it’s time to come to terms with your pain and let it go to the best of your ability. Here are some suggestions about how to embrace reality and get past the pain:
- Think of at least one positive quality your father has. Do you have any pleasant memories of your father? Maybe he was very loving toward you or your mom when he was sober. Maybe he was a good provider for the family even though he was difficult to live with. Try to think of something positive to focus on and embrace that thought.
- Recognize how your father helped make you who you are. Through genetics, your father might have given you good looks or natural intelligence. He might have given you a love of music or the gift of gab. Through pain, he might have made you strong. Whatever went on in your life with your father, he has helped make you who you are today.
- Forgive your father. When you hold on to anger or resentment, you are hurting yourself much more than you are hurting the other person. To forgive your father is to let go of the poison in your own heart. Recognize that he may have been a sick person who never got the help he needed. Release the anger—for your sake, not his.
- Let go of the past. If you are no longer in contact with your father, but you are continually reliving disappointment and hurt, you’re the one who is hurting yourself today. Let go of the past and let yourself live in today.
- Honor other father figures in your life. Father’s Day doesn’t have to be about your own father. Somewhere in the course of your life, there must have been someone who was a sort of father figure to you, whether it was a teacher, a minister, an uncle, a grandfather or a friend. On Father’s Day, honor the other father figures in your life. Express gratitude for the times these men were there for you.
Not all of these suggestions are appropriate for everyone. You have to find your own path to peace of mind. If you’re in a great deal of pain, reach out to a friend in recovery or a therapist. Don’t try to pretend your feelings aren’t there. Remember that the intense pain you may be feeling today will pass. As an adult child of an alcoholic, your job is to take care of you. Take what you like of these suggestions and leave the rest.