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A Young Father in Recovery

My heart beats out of my chest. My breathing becomes heavy.  My hands tremble.  I sit here a sober man trying to gather my thoughts and eventually put pen to paper.  I can feel the fear and anxiety as I attempt to look into the deep dungeons of my soul. This may be more difficult than I previously thought. If only I could hop into a Delorean with Doc Brown, and do my best to rewrite history, then perhaps I could change the timeline that has become my life. Unfortunately, I don’t see Doc Brown, and I definitely don’t see a time-traveling car… so I’m going to tell you how it is. I am going to be brutally honest with you all.  I am an estranged, young father in recovery.  

The word estranged makes me cringe. How could I let this happen? I have lived with the disappointment of reality for many years, which prolonged my alcoholism far more than it needed to go. But now, after my son has entered the world, totally oblivious to the battle I fight each and every day, I can no longer stay in silence. I must voice this constant, unrelenting uphill battle that I face every morning I wake up.

For any man, there are few more powerful experiences in life than having a child. The toughest, strongest guys on the planet become a melting sap each and every time they pick up their baby. Yeah, I might be tough. But when I pick up my son, I’m a big goofy teddy bear. 

My transition to parenthood has brought out my primitive instincts as a protector, provider, and mentor for this new little ball of life. He depends on me. I will do anything to keep him safe, even if it means playing this game called life with one hand tied behind my back. 

I have learned lessons from many fathers before me. Sure, there is no single playbook on how to be the perfect father. But I’ve learned that I don’t need to master the playbook… I simply need to read it. I need to be ready to accept the challenge and embrace the pressure of walking this young man through his own life, providing nothing but love and support. 

Well, as it turns out, my playbook had a few extra chapters in the beginning. I wouldn’t call my experience as a father ordinary by any means. Throughout my active addiction, I made mistakes. I made decisions that not only affected me, but created a lasting ripple effect that touched the lives of many around me. But like I said, the Delorean is nowhere in sight. It is now up to me to excel despite the circumstances that I have created for myself. 

I cannot overstate the fear, the crippling fear, I felt when I first heard the words, you are going to be a father. I was terrified… genuinely shaking to the core. Why? I didn’t want to fail my son. 

I didn’t want to become the deadbeat dad who provided nothing but emotional torture. I did not want him to see me as the man I had become, full of self-hatred and regret. I have seen firsthand the damage that can be caused by an estranged father. And I’d be damned if I would allow history to repeat itself. But then again, I came into the parenthood journey with little energy as I battle my inner demons. 

You are not worth it. You’re a deadbeat. You’re a terrible father. You do not deserve him. You will never amount to anything.

24/7. On a loop. An unwavering cycle of self-deprecation. And yet, I trudge forward.

I had a much different vision for what life would look like when my first child entered the world.  Contrary to everything I had imagined, I now stood as a single father with a raging drug problem. I so badly wished it weren’t so. Anyone have eyes on a Delorean??

In the beginning of my son’s life, we found ourselves geographically separated as I continued to fight against my personal struggles. How was I supposed to be a father if I can’t even see my son? As I searched so deeply for an identity, I could not even assume the proper role of a father. 

I crashed. I crashed deeper and deeper into the bottle to escape the pain. I felt nothing but pain… disgust… heartache… shame. Another pill. Another drink. It had been my solution for so long. Unfortunately, that solution stopped working years ago, but clearly I didn’t get the memo. 

I lived hours away from my son for the first few years of his life. In between weekends of spending time with my baby boy, I spent time with my bottle, waiting and hoping for the day I get to see him again.

Oh man, those weekends made my heart melt. It felt like all of my problems disappeared as soon as he entered my arms. My paternal instincts took over, and I was no longer an addict in that brief moment. I was a father. To my dismay, the moment passed. He left my arms. I was no longer a father. I was an addict.  

I couldn’t take it anymore. The shame I carried began to crush me, and I could no longer move forward.

I had put into action a plan to execute the most selfish task imaginable… to finally take the pain away once and for all. 

Call it God. Call it whatever you want. But I had one second, one second, of clarity. In that moment, with the bottles and pills spread around me, I didn’t want to be an addict anymore. I wanted to be a father. 

But I couldn’t do it alone. And I finally asked for help. 

Now, as I sit here and write to you all, I am a young father in recovery. As it goes, I am left picking up the pieces yet again, but I have found a new way of life that has given me the tools to do so.

This new blueprint for living has helped me in all areas of my life. But I am always left with one question. Will it translate to fatherhood?

To be honest with you, I have no idea. But what I do know is if I keep down this path, more will be revealed. And at least in that moment, I will have a chance. 

All I want is a relationship with my son. To be the father that I know I can be, and that he deserves. The only, and I mean only, way that will happen is if I continue on this journey I now find myself traveling. 

I may not be able to see him as often as I’d like to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be the father he needs. In fact, I have an opportunity to lead him by example, and to show him how to live as a man of principle and integrity. During this recovery journey, I have learned the importance of helping others. I have discovered my purpose in life which is to help the next guy get his shot at recovery. Now that is a man I want my son to meet. That is the man my son will know if I continue to do what I need to do. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still have fear. There are moments where I am still afraid to uncover the unpleasantries of my past, and ultimately making them right. But I can’t be the victim, a role in which I played for most of my life. It is now time to step up to the plate and show my boy that it is OK to make mistakes, but what is not OK is to run from them.

I don’t have to run anymore. I have the faith that if I focus my effort on growth- physical, spiritual, and mental growth- I have a shot. Today, I grow. Tomorrow, I grow. The best part: for the first time in my life, I don’t have to do it alone. I have surrounded myself with men that I respect and admire, many of whom are fathers themselves. Not only do I have a playbook… I have some pretty damn good coaches to break it down for me.  

And I know, one day, all will be revealed. I will be reunited with my little man, and he will be proud of the man I have become. This story has an unchangeable introduction, but the middle and end are still to be written. I am so excited that one day, he will be a main character. I cannot wait for the day that he and I are together, and no matter what day that is, I will know the playbook and be ready to hop off the sidelines and into the game.

The past is depression, and the future is anxiety. All we can do is focus on this moment right here… right now.

Early on, someone in my journey shared that breath of inspiration with me. At the time, I did not truly understand what it meant. I could hear the words, and I so desperately wanted to feel them, but I had become so disconnected that I could not understand the meaning. 

But today, I know exactly what it means. I live each day moment to moment, on a quest to become the man, and the father, I am supposed to be. 

To you, my son, there are not enough words to express my feelings and love for you. I will be here whenever the moment comes for us to be reunited. I love you infinitely, and nothing will ever come between our bond that we share. That is my promise to you. I love you, son.

As always, if you or a loved one are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out.