My Dad Cheated on My Mom & He Drinks Too Much...

My dad cheated on my mom, and because of this my mom and dad got divorced.  Also, my dad drinks a lot.  How do I forgive him?  I just want my dad to be happy…and I want to be happy, too…

 

It’s awesome that you want to be able to forgive your dad and that you want to be happy.  Both of those things are good.  Very good, in fact.  And I believe with all of my heart that both of those things are things that God wants for you and so they are definitely worth pursuing.

Before I get into any of that, though, I just want you to know how sad I am for you.  The things that you’ve experienced are simply awful and the betrayal that you have experienced is devastating. I need to be honest with you that the pain may never go away completely.  However, you can make some choices - with God’s help - to respond to the pain in a loving way.  Here’s my best advice, based upon my experiences and the experiences of some of my very good friends.

On thing I would highly encourage you to do is to make a commitment to chastity. There are many reasons (most of which you heard on your retreat) why chastity is a great decision, but I also encourage you to make this decision to ensure that you will never ever ever ever do to your own future husband and children what your dad has done to you and your mom. You see, it’s quite common that in families where there is dysfunction (like unchaste behavior and chemical dependency) those behaviors just keep getting repeated from generation to generation.  However, if good people like you (and me) decide that we want to break the patterns of dysfunctional behavior and stop the cycle of pain, the impact can be incredibly positive on future generations!  If you can make – and maintain – a heartfelt commitment to chastity in your own life, that might be one of the best responses you could ever make to the tragedy you’ve experienced - because it’s a way you can break the cycle of pain and spare your future husband and future children from the kind of heartache you’ve experienced.

Similarly, I would encourage you to make a commitment/recommitment to either not drink, or if you choose to drink when you are 21, to always be moderate and avoid getting drunk – for the same reasons I shared above. If alcoholism is in your family, making a decision to avoid alcohol could also help you to break the family cycle of pain and dysfunction for the sake of your future and your future family.

As far as how to respond to respond to your dad, that’s a great question. I think you will find the best advice on how to deal with an alcoholic parent from Alanon/Alateen  - I’d encourage you to spend significant amounts of time on their website and look into all of the great resources they offer.  Two articles, in particular, that you might find helpful to read are Alcholic Parents & Children of Alcoholics.

Actually, a friend of mine grew up in home with two alcoholic parents, and I remember that she used to say to herself over and over again several of the quotes from the end of the second article, which lists “The 7 C’s”.  I remember her saying to herself, sometimes even out loud,  “It’s not my problem.  I didn’t cause it. I can’t fix it.”  Those truths helped her keep a healthy perspective.  I’m convinced that the resources of Alanon/Alateen will help you tremendously and I strongly recommend that you check them out.

To be honest, I don’t think you can change your dad. His decision to change (or not to change) is his decision. And even though you might want to pour your heart out to him, tell him how you feel, and change him – you can’t.  I’m not saying that you should never tell him how you feel… but I am saying that there are no guarantees that he will listen to you.  I know that’s sad, but I want to be honest. 

But that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless, at all. What you can work on is yourself. You asked about how to forgive your dad.  It is awesome that you want to forgive him.  Not too long ago, a teen wrote asking a similar question, though in her case she was asking about how to forgive a crime that was committed against her.  Even though your situation is not exactly the same, I think you’ll find our response to her helpful - "...How Can I Forgive?"  Finally, I would encourage you to listen to our many podcasts on forgiveness, which I believe will encourage you in your journey to forgive your dad.  You can start browsing our podcasts here and we have many podcasts specifically focused on the topic of forgiveness. The ones I list below, in particular, I think are especially powerful and could be relevant to what you are going through:

The Jesus Club 

A Better Version of Myself 

Honestly, I'm Not Fine 

Catherine Forgives 

A Teenage Girl Forgives

I hope that this helps.  Know that you are in my prayers!  And feel free to write back any time.

Peace,

 

Paul Masek

Coordinator of the REAP Team