The Connection Between Performing for Others and Alcoholism

My dad had a drinking problem my entire life. The only time I ever saw him cry was when I was fifteen, and he saw me drinking with my friends.

He pulled me aside and paused before saying anything. Then tears started flowing down his cheeks, and he pleaded, “Please don’t ever become an alcoholic, son.”

This was the only time he ever opened up to me. My father was a man who buried his feelings, always stoic in his presence and words. He never felt comfortable enough to reveal his true feelings. He thought everyone always wanted him to be this strong, type-cast character, so that’s what he portrayed.

Years after this incident, my dad visited me in Hawaii. He got off the plane, and there he was, in a suit. “Dad, this is Hawaii! Loosen up!” I told him.

Confused, he looked down at his outfit and said innocently, “But this is my summer suit!”

That’s when I realized that my father had been raised in a suit. From private school to the courtroom, he always felt like he needed to follow this stringent, professional stereotype.

His blazer was really his suit of armor, protecting him from having to reveal anything that was going on inside him. When people looked at him, they only saw a successful attorney.

And that is exactly what he wanted. He wanted to present himself in a specific, false way to the world because he thought that would gain him acceptance. If he had decided to stop performing for others, and to find out what he really wanted in the world, I believe my dad would have been a much happier person.

So, next time you’re on the street and you think you need to act a certain way because that is what is expected of you, don’t. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. Don’t fear others’ judgment of your substance abuse problems.

Hang the suit up. Those things aren’t that comfortable anyway.

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