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10 Ways to Be a Better Dad: #1

Spend time with your kids. It’s the best way to show them your love. And it will keep you from going completely nuts every weeknight. My kids go crazy when I get home from work. They love being with dad. It’s not about what I can give them or do for them or teach them. What they want is simply my time, my attention.

I went through a period of time earlier in fatherhood when I lost my patience easily and felt annoyed by the constant interruptions and attention-seeking of my kids. These feelings were rooted in my unwillingness to sacrifice my time.

I am by nature a very selfish person and I realized that I was being a selfish dad. I made a decision to focus my attention on my son and daughter when I got home from work, putting all else aside until they were in bed. I found that I had patience with them and really enjoyed the time because they weren’t competing with my own agenda for attention.

I was being a better dad and I felt better around the kids. I think they felt better too and as a result there was less fighting and whining, more playing and laughing in the home.

>The Alcoholic – 7

>She signaled the server and ordered him another double and a glass of Cabernet for herself.

“He started hitting me the second year of our marriage. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there, but I always felt it was my fault. If only I’d done this better, or said that differently, he wouldn’t have gotten angry. Of course, he understood this and exploited it every day. I felt less than worthless and came to feel that I deserved the abuse.”

“That’s crazy,” he blurted. “Why didn’t you just get the hell out of there?”

The drinks arrived and he grabbed his and took a gulp.

“Why don’t you just stop drinking?” She replied.

“That’s different.”

She didn’t respond, but instead continued her account. “It was my pastor who figured out what was happening and approached me. I denied it at first, but later after my husband broke my arm, I took the chance. He was very understanding and had experience with other women in similar situations. He introduced me to a support group and they eventually helped me get away from my husband.”

“Why didn’t you report him to the police? Get a restraining order?”

She was quiet for a moment and sipped her wine. “I don’t expect you to understand. I just couldn’t. I didn’t have it in me.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I know.”

“So what about now? He just tried to kill you. Why did we run away instead of binding him and calling the cops?”

“And how long will they hold him? Will they believe me over him, with a drunk as my only witness?”

Her words stabbed him and he withered inside. He had almost forgotten his own situation for a moment, as he lost himself in her problems. He felt himself shutting down, pulling away from her.

She spoke softly. “I’m… I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just–”

“It’s fine. That’s what I am.” He stood up. “Thanks for the drinks. Good luck to you.” He shuffled out of the bar before she could protest.

He was halfway down the block, purposefully heading nowhere in particular. “Hey,” she said as she grabbed his shoulder. “Please stop. You saved my life. Maybe I can return the favor.”

He stopped and looked at her.

“I don’t want to be saved. I want to be dead. And I doubt you have that kind of power. You have no idea who I am or what I’ve done.”

“No, I don’t know you and I don’t personally have the power to help you. But I do understand alcoholism because I watched my father suffer from it and I watched him recover from it. If you want freedom and a chance at getting your life back, it’s possible. You’re not alone or unique. At least try to find help before giving up on yourself.”

He wanted to believe there was a glimmer of hope. Of course he had heard of people “recovering” but that wouldn’t work for him. How could it? He’d tried to quit with everything he had but he’d failed. What more could he do?

He wanted a drink and felt ashamed. People streamed past him on the busy sidewalk, but he only saw her. Her passion spoke softly to him in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time. In fact, he hadn’t felt anything in a long time. Something stirred in him that he didn’t understand, but couldn’t ignore.

“I’ll make you a deal,” he finally said. “You let me help you with your husband problem. I’ll let you help me with my living problem.”

She grinned. “I think we can work with that.”

>The Alcoholic – 6

>”I won’t bore you with the long version,” he began. “I used to have a life. A good job, a family, dreams. Everything seemed to be falling into place for me and I never saw what was coming. I liked to drink, but it seemed to me that most everybody else did too and I wasn’t much different than them. Sure, I drank a little more often and a little bit more than most of the people I knew, but I didn’t understand what it would become.

“I think the trouble began when my wife asked me to cut back and I found that I didn’t want to do that. I told myself that I could quit any time I wanted, but now wasn’t the time. She didn’t understand the pressures I was under at work. She didn’t know about the worst of the memories of my time in the service that haunted me. Drinking helped keep me sane, took the edge off the stress I was feeling. So I took most of my drinking underground. I wanted her off my back but I still wanted to drink my way. I know now that I was only fooling myself. It wasn’t about relieving stress. I liked the feeling that drinking gave me. I liked getting drunk.

“My wife was suspicious of course, and that began the cycle of fights and attempts at reconciliation. I would try to quit and found that I couldn’t. The shame was too much and I would again try to keep my drinking secret. When I lost my job due to my drinking, I stopped drinking for about a week but I couldn’t hold on. I was so depressed and I hated everything about myself. I drank. That’s when my wife and daughter took off. I miss them but in a way I’m glad they left because I was so terribly tired of the emotional pain I was causing them. Now I can’t hurt them anymore.”

“How long ago was that?” She asked.

“I don’t know. The days have been running together lately. Probably a few months. I lost my house several weeks ago and have been on the street ever since.”

“Don’t you have any friends or family that can help you?”

“I ran off all my friends long ago and I don’t have any family besides my wife and daughter.”

She think she knew what he meant. She recalled the painful years of her father’s drinking. His deceptive living, broken promises, isolating behavior and complete narssicism that eventually drove away everybody in his life who cared about him. But the last ten years of his life had been wonderful. He’d finally found an answer to his drinking problem.

“You’re not alone you know. There are many people with your problem and there is help available for you.”

He looked down into his now empty glass and said nothing. He wanted another drink but couldn’t muster the courage to ask her for more. At least his tremors were gone for the moment. Alcohol was no longer his friend and he didn’t derive any pleasure from it. There was no feeling of drunkenness or escape from problems. The only thing drinking did for him today was to temporarily push back the horrible symptoms of physical withdrawal. When he drank enough, he could slip into a black sleep for several hours. It was the only peace left for him.

“I’m beyond help. I just want to–” He stopped himself from finishing, but she knew what he was going to say. “What about you?” He asked. “How’d you get mixed up with that psychopath?” He wasn’t sure he really cared to know, but he didn’t want her to leave him just yet. It had been weeks since he’d had any conversation with somebody. He usually just wanted to be alone with his misery, but not today. There was something appealing about this young woman and he was curious how she had gotten herself into such a situation.

>The Alcoholic – 5

>His tremors eased considerably as he started into his fourth drink and he began to feel more at ease. He hadn’t wanted to enter the bar with her and had tried to convince her to just buy him a couple bottles and leave him alone, but she’d insisted. Street people who looked and smelled like him didn’t enjoy warm welcomes in business establishments and it had been no exception when they’d slipped in and took a small table by the front window. Several patrons made their disapproval known with hostile glances and whispered remarks.

“Thanks for the drinks,” he said, watching her sip coffee.

She didn’t say anything for a moment and just looked into his eyes. He awkwardly shifted his weight and looked down into his glass. “It’s the least I could do. Back there, I thought I was—“ Her voice choked off as she forced down a surge of emotion. She swallowed and quietly said, “You looked like you needed it.”

He felt ashamed and wanted to be alone, but he wanted another vodka even more. “How did you know that?” He asked.

“I saw your hands shaking. You were sweating despite the chill.”

He was grateful she didn’t include the fact that he reeked of booze.

She continued, “My father was an alcoholic so I’m all too familiar with the symptoms of detox.” She caught the attention of the waitress and ordered another double. He gulped down the last of the one he clutched.

“Who was that guy?” he asked.

She hesitated, then seemed to make a decision. “My ex-husband. Apparently his obituary had a few facts wrong. Like that he’s dead. I’d been running from him for a long time. About a year ago I heard he’d died and looked up the obituary to be certain. I settled here and have started to come out of hiding.”

“Which is how he found you.”

“Yeah. I almost wish you’d killed the bastard. He’ll never give up trying to find me.”

The waitress set a drink down with a smile and bounced away to another table. He drank half of it in a few swallows. “Why don’t you go to the cops?”

“I can’t.” She didn’t elaborate and shifted the conversation. “So how did you happen to be in just the right place to save my skin? I didn’t see you in the alley.”

“I was there. You looked my way when you were searching for that door, but didn’t notice me.”

She seemed to accept that. “So what’s your story? You’re too sharp to have been out on the street long.”

He thought about what to tell her and decided to try the truth for a change.