Being a father of addicted children can be a lonely journey sometimes. Most of the support groups out there are grossly under-represented by men and being vulnerable does not come easy for this 58-year-old man.
When I’m faced with a difficult challenge I do everything I can to solve it and if I can’t, my m.o. is to retreat to my emotional man-cave until I’ve securely buried something painful deep inside me.
Yesterday was my wife’s birthday and I decided that my present to her was going to be my presence. Of course, it was far from perfect, but it was much more than I usually give her. It turned out to be one of the best days I’ve had in a long, long time and ended with her saying she feels like the luckiest girl on the planet. My day ended with being completely filled up with love and gratitude and I had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in years.
This morning I woke up feeling like a 10,000 lb. elephant was lying on my chest and whispering in my ear, “Greg…time to get up and return to your real life. You know, the one that sucks because you have two addict kids who might die at any moment and you’ll blame yourself because you suck as a father.”
That’s when I thought about going to one of my support groups and bitching about how messed up my kids are. I usually get some temporary satisfaction from everyone’s supportive comments and, sometimes even hear a story that would give me hope that someday my kids will figure it out and we’ll all live happily ever after.
Except…WHAT IF THEY DON’T?
What if my story ends up being one of the tragic ones I hear about all the time where their kids don’t make it out alive?
Or what if my kids do get better and later on something else comes up in the outside world that I could have prevented if only I’d done a better job as a man?
That’s when I thought about the name of the group; PARENTS of Drug Addicted Children and it occurred to me that this is not about my drug addicted children but about ME. With that in mind, I thought I’d break through some fear, get vulnerable and try to work on the only thing I have control over…ME.
I got in the group and just started letting it fly.
I love my kids as much as the next father and I wake up afraid every single day, knowing that today may be their last.
I’m afraid because maybe if I’d been a better dad when they were younger, maybe they wouldn’t have needed drugs to self-medicate.
I’m afraid because despite everything I see, read, and hear I still feel responsible for my children’s pain.
I’m afraid because, as a father, I’m supposed to protect and provide and I can’t do either because they won’t let me.
I’m afraid because those beautiful babies I brought into this world who used to smile and laugh as I held them, are gone and I don’t want to let go.
I’m afraid because I’m a man, dammit, and I don’t like to admit I’m afraid.
This is the real source of my pain, not my children. This is the work I must do regardless of whether or not they ever choose to do theirs. On the surface, it may sound selfish to focus on me while they suffer, but the reality is that it’s the only thing I can change.
My kids are falling fast down a dark abyss and I f**king hate the fact that I can’t save them…
The only choice left is whether or not to save myself. And if I do, who knows, maybe they’ll like what they see and follow along.
As Byron Katie says, “There are 3 kinds of work being done; my work, other people’s work, and God’s work. The only time I get stuck is when I try to do the other 2.
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