This piece is part of the regular Ask Katie* advice column series at The Fix.
A few months ago, my father got his second DUI and now his license is suspended. As a result, I have to drive my younger siblings everywhere, do the grocery shopping, and run other errands while my dad sits at home. I am in high school and already have an after school job and tons of homework every night. My mom works full-time and also takes care of her mom, who is sick. I know my mom feels bad that I have to do all this stuff, and my dad says he does too, but it’s hard not to be angry at him. He isn’t working right now and this is not the first time I’ve had to take on extra responsibility because his drinking has gotten in the way of stuff. He’s been going to AA meetings (there’s a place within walking distance from our house) for the first time and it seems like he hasn’t been drinking since, which is good. Mostly, I’m writing because I understand that he struggles with not drinking and that he doesn’t want to be this much of a slacker, but I’m still so angry with him. I’m 16 and more of an adult than he is. I feel like I’m not supposed to be angry with him, especially now that he’s been sober for a little, but honestly, I’m just as mad—if not more—than I was before this short period of not drinking (and I don’t even know if him being sober will last). My mom says I should try to forgive him because he’s really trying now, but I don’t feel forgiveness towards him at all. Why should I forgive him when I still have to be the person who cleans up his messes?
I am sorry that you are in this position—it’s absolutely unfair to you. You’ve already got a full load with school and a job. That’s plenty to focus on and it’s completely understandable that you’re angry for having to manage your father’s responsibilities. It’s perfectly natural for you to be upset about this. You don’t use the word “alcoholic” in reference to your father, so I won’t either, but it’s fair to say that growing up with a parent who is a heavy drinker—and whose drinking has negatively impacted the family as a whole—is challenging. Your attitude about the situation is quite rational: you understand that your father struggles with alcohol, you are happy that he’s addressing that issue, but you don’t quite trust it. And it doesn’t outweigh the damage that’s been done thus far. From where I’m sitting, that’s a very reasonable reaction to your situation. (continued)
*I am not an expert or a mental health or medical professional; I’m a sober person offering my experiences and advice about sobriety. Every other Tuesday I will one recovery-related question posed by Fix readers, based on my experience. Send your general advice questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Ask Katie.”
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