"In silence, he went rushing off the cliff. Unlike the biblical swine, however, he left behind a few of the demons to haunt his children. Life with him and the loss of him twisted us into shapes that will be familiar to other sons and daughters of alcoholics. My brother became a rebel, my sister retreated into shyness, I played the stalwart and dutiful son who would hold the family together.
If my father was unstable, I would be a rock.
If he squandered money on drink, I would pinch every penny.
If he wept when drunk--and only when drunk--I would not let myself weep at all.
If he roared at the Little League umpire for calling my pitches balls, I would throw nothing but strikes.
Watching him flounder and rage, I came to dread the loss of control.
I would go through life without making anyone mad.
I vowed never to put in my mouth or veins any chemical that would banish my everyday self.
I would never make a scene, never lash out at the ones I loved, never hurt a soul.
Through hard work, relentless work, I would achieve something dazzling--in the classroom, on the basketball court, in the science lab, in the pages of books--and my achievement would distract the world's eyes from his humiliation. I would become a worthy sacrifice, and the smoke of my burning would please God."
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