A daughter upset at her alcoholic father

“My Father’s Daughter”

A winning essay from our Brighter Future Scholarship contest

It was a Thursday night with my mom and older brother, and my mind raced over all of the things I could be in trouble for. Mom said we need to talk about “something serious”. Was I grounded? What did I do? “Your father isn’t in the military anymore.” There was a moment of relief until it occurred to me that my father’s track record suggested his parting ways with the Navy wasn’t under ideal circumstances. After 17 years, my father was being forced out of the Navy for testing positive for cocaine. Over the next few years, it became clear that this was the first event in a downward spiral.

My father lied for years about his addiction and the truth about getting kicked out of the Navy. My brother and I flew to see him for Christmas in 2021. My mom allowed us to visit as long as we stayed at our grandparents’ house. As we made our way through TSA that Christmas Eve, my mother’s phone rang. Dad was in jail for domestic violence. He and his wife had gotten into a physical altercation. When she looked up, we were already through security and there was nothing she could do. She immediately called my grandfather. He made no mention of my father but did tell her that he was on his way to pick us up from the airport and we’d be staying at their house for our visit. My dad was bailed out of jail on Christmas Day and as always, nothing was his fault.

It wasn’t until his life was completely out of control that he finally got help. My mom had stopped all communication between him and us following that visit. With the support of his own parents, he couldn’t contact us and we wouldn’t see him again until he got sober. It took another few months and more consequences for him to actually go. That was when I found out that he was diagnosed with Bipolar Depression. In detox and therapy, he was also put on medication. He still struggles with his diseases. The Bipolar and the addiction. My role model.

Through all of his failures, I still saw my dad the same way I did when I was a little girl. I saw the guy who woke me up first in the morning to remind me to call shotgun before my brother because he knew I hated to sit in the back by myself. I saw my dad, who gave the best hugs. My dad filled his house with music, laughter and love, he tried to shield my brothers and I from the darker corners of him, showing us the light. When he makes mistakes, I choose to continue to focus on the light. I choose to recognize his recovery over his relapse, because I am my father’s daughter.

I struggled my first two years of high school, dealing with the disappointment of his failures amidst a global pandemic. My grades, mental health, and confidence took hits at every turn. It was losing my best friend to a drunk driving accident that woke me up. It made me realize that I could turn my life around and make an impact on the world. I didn’t have to be a victim to my father’s addiction, I could focus on the good and help people. It also made me realize my dad can also turn his life around and I can love him and give him a daughter to be proud of that could maybe inspire him to get sober. I decided to focus on school, take AP classes, get into college and become a Radiologist so I could help people.

I can hear my dad’s laugh in mine and his sarcasm in my own humor. I have his ears, nose, and jawline. Our hair color and smiles are the same. I get past all of my father’s struggles, mistakes, and addiction because I know he can get past them too. He’s inspired me to accept that we all have darker corners filled with fear and struggle. Because of my dad, I know some people will only see the most lovable parts of me, like I see him. My dad is still an addict but I am still his daughter. I have seen his problems and have been affected by them, but I choose to see his strength as he continues to work toward recovery and his bravery in taking life one day at a time. My role model is the man that stumbles, falls, and gets back up. Those are the steps he’s taken that I aspire to follow, so one day when someone tells me I’m my father’s daughter, I’ll be proud.

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