On Father’s Day, June 15, grown sons and daughters will return home from far and wide to celebrate with their dads. Meanwhile, younger children will surprise their fathers with homemade gifts and personalized cards that will be proudly displayed on refrigerator doors for weeks. Fathers will be treated to fantastic meals at home or in fine restaurants all across the land, as those who love and appreciate them the most will go the extra mile to show how deeply they care.
Sadly, millions of people will not have the opportunity to spend this special holiday with the men who helped give them life. If they visit with their fathers at all, it will be in quiet cemeteries or in private conversations held entirely in the imagination. Naturally, at some point, death will separate every child from his or her parents; it is inevitable and unavoidable and as much a fact of life as the turning of the seasons. But in some instances, death can only be viewed as a cheat, an unwelcome intruder terminating the lives of beloved fathers who should have been able to stay with their loved ones for a longer period of time. This is certainly the case when the killer is problem drinking, a serial murderer without a heart or a conscience.
Alcoholism and problem drinking exact a terrible price. Each year in the United States, 79,000 people lose their lives to alcohol, passing away well before their time. More than two-thirds of America’s 14 million problem drinkers are men and 47 percent of all men are fathers, which means tens of thousands of sons and daughters are being forced to say premature goodbyes to dads who have fallen victim to the ravages of runaway alcohol consumption. On average, problem drinking shortens one’s life span by 10 to 12 years – therefore, if 25,000 fathers succumb to alcoholism each year, that would result in more than a quarter of a million future Father’s Day celebrations being sacrificed to alcohol on an annual basis.
Excessive and uncontrolled alcohol consumption is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, trailing only tobacco and the lack of good diet and exercise. Problem drinkers face an elevated risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, diabetes, lung disease, liver disease, gastrointestinal bleeding, hepatitis B, delirium tremens (severe withdrawal), suicide, cancers of various types (esophageal, liver, colorectal, mouth, throat and gastrointestinal) and accidents—all of which can be fatal.
Much has been made of the fact that more than 40 percent of fatal car crashes are linked to excessive drinking. However, most people are not aware that alcohol use is connected to more than half of all murders. When people drink heavily and steadily, they lose their health, their self-control and their sense of judgment, all of which put their continued existence at risk. Needless to say, problem drinking endangers other people too, and many fatal victims of alcohol abuse are innocent bystanders randomly caught in the crosshairs of tragedy.
Of course it would be naïve to suggest that every father who drinks himself to death has been torn away from a happy, united family. Alcoholism frequently causes rifts to form in relationships, breaking families apart and causing estrangements between dads and their children. But when ostracized alcoholics pass from the earth of drinking-related causes, the sons and daughters of these lost souls will always be haunted by a great “what-if”: what if their dads had been able to beat their addictions before their addictions beat them? Could breaches have been healed and the ties that bind re-established forever? Temporary estrangement doesn’t end love and it doesn’t end the pain associated with the loss of a parent, and it would be wrong to assume that the children of alcoholic outcasts suffer any less when their fathers lose their battles with addiction.
Sobriety: The Perfect Father’s Day Gift
If you are the adult son or daughter of a problem drinker, you should use your full powers of persuasion to convince your dad or mom to enter treatment as soon as possible. This may not be easy to do, but the stakes are so great and the hazards so profound that you cannot afford to take no for an answer. If you are younger and still living in the home, by all means, you should express your concerns to your non-alcoholic parent, older siblings, aunts and uncles and anyone you can find who is willing to listen and offer assistance.
Because two-thirds of all problem drinkers are men, children are twice as likely to face this scary situation with their fathers. Unfortunately, too many desperate family members were never able to talk their dads into taking steps to save themselves before those doomed men ran out of time. If nothing is done and no intervention occurs, tragedy may be inevitable, and this is something that no child of an alcoholic should ever forget.
As we approach another Father’s Day, we should all reflect on how much our dads mean to us and how eager we are to have them in our lives for many years to come. If your father is drinking too much and not making any effort to overcome his problem, you should take action today. Not next week and not next month—do it right now, in honor of the coming holiday and before it is too late.
For the dad you cherish, your refusal to accept the status quo is the best Father’s Day gift he will every receive, bar none. It is the ultimate gift of love.