My Dad – A Story of Alcoholism & Atonement

‘Bungling Burglar, Ex-Lag, Gun-Threat Pensioner’.  Let me introduce you to my dear old dad.  Please know, however, these are not my descriptions of my dad, oh no.  These are headlines taken from newspapers.

This is because my dad is famous.  Well, infamous actually, at least within a certain local jurisdiction. The newspaper headlines might be a bit of a give-away as to the reasons for his ‘infamy’.

You see, my dad is an alcoholic who has spent the last four decades of his life serving prison sentences for a mind-boggling variety of alcohol-related crimes, living  in halfway houses when released.

That ‘down-and-outer’ you may have seen staggering about aimlessly on the street muttering to himself,  bottle in hand, looking dishevelled and unkempt?  You could have been looking straight at my dad.

He has been at death’s door several times and his life has been spared just as many.

Last summer Dad went ‘AWOL’  after being released from yet another prison and, as always, I was concerned for his safety.  One peaceful Sunday afternoon  I received a call out of the blue from a hospital staff nurse. He had been admitted with a head injury after falling down, drunk, in the street. But Dad didn’t want me to be involved and the nurse had to respect his wishes to be discharged.   I knew that the next time I would hear from him, or about him, would be when he committed his next crime.  Or worse.

As always, all I could do was to hope and pray, at the very least, that he would be alright.

Some weeks later after my conversation with the nurse I still hadn’t heard from Dad so I googled  his name, only to find out that he had, indeed been arrested again, this time for attempting to hold up a Post Office with a pretend weapon.

Oh Dad. What have you done?

Since it was an  online newspaper, some people had posted comments about my dad’s actions so I wrote my own article in an effort to tell part of my dad’s story.

I pitched my article to Prima magazine but not before first discussing it with my family.  Their support has been phenomenal. I felt I was on a mission, not to air the ‘family’s dirty laundry’, but to tell a story from the heart, to let people know who my dad once was before alcohol obliterated his life and that it wasn’t all ‘doom and gloom’.

When the deputy editor of Prima contacted me to say that she wanted to publish my story I was thrilled but there were some hurdles to cross first, not least of which I needed (and, in fact, wanted)  my dad’s permission, and rightly so.  More than that, I wanted his blessing.

My article was put to one side and I waited to hear from my dad.  Summer grew to a close and one morning in September a letter arrived from him.   Dad wanted to see me and quickly.  Such is the way.  I was, at last, able to tell him about my new writing career and, more importantly, about the story I had written about him and Prima’s interest in it. Dad was knocked sideways and back again.  His pride in me was obvious, written all over his face (it still matters!). He said he wanted every success for me and it made him feel that he was ‘part of something’.

Happier Days - Me With my Dad and My Brother early 60s(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

Happier Days – Me With my Dad and My Brother early 60s
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

I have never been able to ask anything of my dad but after all these years he has been able to give me the one thing I really want – his blessing to write about him.  I told him it was the best gift he could ever give me.

Some of you reading this  may wonder why I’ve still ‘hung on in there’ with my dad.  After all, I don’t mean to gloss over what my dad’s alcoholism has robbed him, me, our family of.

The pain has been raw, the anger palpable, the loss incalculable, of that there is no doubt.

But the simple answer is this: He is still my dad and I am still his daughter and that has never changed. Love is a powerful bond which has given my dad his atonement and given me back my dad.

The April edition of Prima magazine featuring my article about my dad  is out now and is available wherever magazines are sold. 

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri is a writer with work published in print magazines, anthologies and online. As a young British mum of three, she emigrated to California and stayed for twenty years. Today she lives in England's West Country, a full-time carer within her family. Her current WIP after completing her memoir is a psychological thriller.
This entry was posted in Alcoholism, Family Life, My Dad's Alcoholic Prison, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to My Dad – A Story of Alcoholism & Atonement

  1. celestialmike111 says:

    A brave and candid post – you may receive polarised responses but I respect your openness!


  2. Wow. You really put it all out there, Sherri. Good for you, and I certainly understand that your dad is your dad and you will always love him. He is so fortunate to have you in his life. Congratulations for having your story published in a magazine.


  3. celestialmike111 says:

    What a candid and hard hitting story – you may receive polarised responses but you are brave and refreshingly honest in your writing. Well done!!


  4. Tish says:

    Although I know some of your story, it still made me cry….. I was also somewhat taken aback by how much you look like your dad – keep up the good work girl! xx


    • sherrimatt says:

      Thanks Tish! You’re not the first person to say that about me looking like my dad! I never saw it myself but that’s how it often goes! Sorry it made you cry, but then again that is the way of it. This girl will keep on keeping on! 🙂 xx


  5. mumblypeg says:

    Your courage and strenght to write this post is an inspiration, full of honesty, hope and forgiveness. The picture of you and your dad made me weep: it could have been so different, but you have come through with flying colours. I am so proud of you. You do look like your dad too. Never give up xxx


    • sherrimatt says:

      Awww…don’t cry! It is tough but writing about it gives me a voice and empowers me to tell this story (albeit just a tiny part here in this blog and also in my article) and hopefully encourage others reading it. Thank you mumblypeg for your support as always xoxox


  6. michelle says:

    What an awesome gift and blessing to have received from your father – approval, pride, support. I am so happy for you.


  7. Sherri, you are such a beautiful person inside and out. I know the pain you’ve been through; I’ve experienced it also. Thank you for writing about your dad and your love for each other. I pray he becomes sober someday and you have an even better relationship with him. My dad was 59 when he became sober, and I had 22 wonderful years with him afterwards. He was most proud of me and my husband and how we were raising our kids. I know your dad is very proud of you. 🙂


    • Sherri says:

      Oh Patsy, I can’t believe it! I came over to this old post of mine to link in with one I’m putting out shortly and I just now found your comment! Why did I miss your comments like this? I know I’ve had some problems with WP and they’ve been bad again lately but once more, I’m so so sorry for missing this. I feel so bad because I always make a point of replying to everyone.
      Still, your words here bless me so much and actually, thinking about it, with what has been going on with my dad (he is very ill) I’ve had him very much on my heart and in my prayers so maybe this is all part of God’s timing for me to read your message now. My dad is 82 in August but how I wish he could have gone sober like your dad. I’m so grateful for the last year since we have been talking on the phone regularly and I have to be thankful for that. Prison has kept him sober and out of trouble so that’s a good way of looking at it. I’m so glad you had those precious years with your dad. Thank you so much for reminding me that my dad is proud of me, that means the world to me right now…God bless you dear friend and I’m sending you a huge hugs…love Sherri ❤


      • Thanks, Sherri for the hugs. I can use them right now. I sure wish you were close-by to chat with. I’m glad you can talk with your dad regularly. My dad was 80 or 81 when he passed away rather suddenly. So enjoy the time you have with him.
        I began doing reading this book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, not knowing that it is a “recovery” book of sorts. So going through it and doing the questions, etc., has stirred up some stuff for me. But it has been a good wake-up call for me.
        Never worry about not getting back to me; I honestly don’t always remember when and who I comment to on things. So it is totally fine! I am sure I probably miss some, too. 🙂 Hugs back to you, my friend!


        • Sherri says:

          Ahh…always plenty of hugs for you here dear Patsy…oh how I wish we could chat face to face too.
          Thank you again so much for all you’ve shared with me about your dad and what you went through. I surely will make the most of the time I have with my dad. I just shared in Friday’s post very briefly about my dad’s illness and that I’m trying to arrange a visit to see him in prison. It’s not easy because I need to find out more, when he is having surgery etc. and him being in prison just complicates things. Still, we talk on the phone but I am worried about him as he doesn’t seem his usual chipper self.
          ‘Recovery’ books can certainly stir up an awful lot. I hope it isn’t too painful for you and that you are okay…going through the process can be so hard. So I’m sending you an extra measure of hugs, blessings and prayers…. I’ll be over to your blog too and catch up. Still not getting notifications of your posts but I’ve been having all kinds of problems with WP which has only added to my recent frustration…grrrrrrr!!!
          Oh well…at least we both where we are if we need to ‘chat’.
          I hope your week is filled with abundant blessings my dear friend…
          Hugs, hugs and more hugs to you….and see you soon… ❤ 🙂


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