I grew up in a family of origin where alcohol was rarely present and when it was, along with it came caution. Due to a history of excess alcohol use in older generations within my family of origin, caution was always important. I recall being 18 and my father asking me if I’d like a beer. I was so excited to share that experience with him, I couldn’t help but laugh when he brought one can to the table and carefully poured it equally into two separate glasses.
My son was approximately 11 years old when my beloved started asking me about my drinking. I was working full time, wildly busy with hobbies and heavily involved with being excessively busy. Sleep was not a priority, being with my family was an on and off priority but maintaining people around along with an obscene level of busyness was goal number one. In reflection, my main goal during that time was to avoid feeling at all costs. This worked and continued to work, until it didn’t.
I honestly had no idea what I was avoiding and the unresolved traumas that lurked below my surface. I was forced to halt the busyness when a deep depression surfaced, and I couldn’t understand the origins of it. I would very quietly get the feeling that something was not ok. This was affecting my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Eventually with the support of counseling I began to remember things that I wish I didn’t. These methods of avoidance were so successful for me that I had no reason, let alone any skills to change. When I first started looking at the traumas that I was holding, I recall yelling and crying to a therapist, “I wish I didn’t know what I know now, there’s no going back.”
I remember l was starting to buy beers on the way home from activities and out of embarrassment, drinking them in the garage or out of sight, as to avoid any conflicts with my beloved. I literally had no idea why I was drinking more but I do know that drinking until I passed out was becoming a habit and the one thing in my life that I was looking forward to.
I believed then that because my son was young, he didn’t mind or notice. I know now that was not true. I left a wound in him due to my inability to face the reasons behind my drinking. This is a wound that I work on every day intentionally to repair with him. Slowly over time the wound is healing.
For years I was unaware of my emotions and in fact believed myself to be emotionally literate. I have learned now to deeply feel emotions, I can be deeply present, I am deeply safe, I know myself, my triggers and how to continue with the discipline of my daily practices to keep me on the path that I want. A large learning I had during my active addiction came from a good friend who taught me that the opposite of addiction is connection. I managed to not be in an active addiction when I was wildly busy because I was in a continuous state of connection with others. What I’ve come to realize now is that connection for me is linked to connecting deeply with myself, my truths, my pains as well as connecting with something greater than me that I define as Spirit. When I am connected in these ways, I am a great father.
Daily, I practice trusting myself and intentionally make choices that have the best interest of my son and those around me as the focus. I am not the man I used to be, nor are previous behaviors an accurate description of who I am today. As a man, as a father and as a human I know that each of us are simply doing the best that we can in each moment.
Many years ago I stopped asking my son if he knew how much I loved him. I now ask if he can feel how much I love him. His response to this question provides a valuable reflection to see if the work I am doing is being felt, most importantly by those I love.