I Had to Be Inhumane in Order to Make Sure My Father Didn’t Swallow Me

When I think of gaslighting I am reminded of the talks my father used to give to me when he was drunk in his chair in front of NASCAR, smoking menthols until he turned white while telling me with slurred words and with a drooling mouth falling slowly off his face how nobody cared about him and that he was good as dead.

This he deflected with diatribes about how he should try to steal my girlfriends for himself, and that because he had more experience being married three times, he was the better suitor. His drunken manipulations usually ended with him threatening to kill himself and me asking him if I needed to call someone and him saying no and apologizing alongside sudden compliments meant for someone else.  

That was so unreal and demoralizing to me it was no wonder I decided to stop enabling it and moved out and stopped talking to him for years.

Now, I know I was cold and insensitive and detached when it came to him, and I agree that’s a robotic and inhumane way to be. And sure, maybe I’ll always be quick to overreact whenever someone I care about and look up to deflects onto a subject that has nothing to do with the topic brought to the table out of concern for everybody, and begins to fault find around it like a passive aggressive character judgment meant for an imaginary father.

But as many adult children of alcoholics know I had to be that kind of inhumane in order to make sure he didn’t swallow me, and how I know the best way to deal with someone who’s trying to make you crazy in order to make themselves feel less so, is just to give them as much time and space as you can while giving them the info. they need to help themselves.

But while also knowing that’s maybe just delaying the inevitable total blackout of their own heart, and that regardless of how proactive you are, many more people are probably going to be hurt until, either, the lights start to brighten and stay bright again, or stay off.

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