My dad’s drinking spiraled out of control quickly after my mom’s death.
It started with the glass of whiskey after her funeral and progressed to him drinking throughout his bereavement leave. When I would go visit him, he was always in his armchair, already drunk and nursing another drink.
I guess I wasn’t as worried as I should have been because I thought this was just how he was grieving and that he would come out of it. But then, when his bereavement leave was up, dad decided not to go back to work at all and just retire early.
This was alarming because my father had always had a very specific plan for when he would retire, and he was supposed to work for several more years. When I asked him about it he said my mother had a life insurance policy and the financial loss he would take from retiring early wouldn’t affect either of us because the insurance money more than made up for it.
I should have asked him why he didn’t want to go back to work, though. I should have pushed him to see a therapist, or taken his alcohol from him.
Dad wasn’t rowdy or mean drunk. He became quiet and introspective instead. That’s why it was terrifying when dad started experiencing what I now know is alcoholic hallucinosis.
It started when I was sitting with dad another night, with another TV dinner. I had my usual one beer, and my dad has his usual innumerable whiskeys. Out of nowhere, he started talking.
“Christine?” he said, wild-eyed. “Is that you?”
I looked up at him in shock, not understanding. Was he joking?
He had a glassy stare as he kept talking to my mother as if she was standing right there.
“Yes, honey, lasagna would be fantastic! My favorite. You know just how to take care of your boys. I love you so much.” He babbled for a bit; then his eyes changed again. I told him he’d been talking to mom and he told me not to be ridiculous.
At this point, I was very worried and frightened. I knew something was seriously wrong. Was my dad schizophrenic? Was he going mad with grief? Was any of this normal at all?
I should have reached out for help sooner.