As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child and a partnership of two committed parents can be beneficial in smoothing the inevitable obstacles in parenting. When one or both parent has struggled with addiction in the past, those bumps in the road can often become even more difficult to navigate if long-term recovery plans aren’t in place. Addiction affects each person differently. However, one aspect of addiction remains consistent – addiction is a family disease. With that, family involvement in recovery is vital in helping an individual maintain long-term recovery. With today being Father’s Day, it’s a perfect time to celebrate the special bond between a father and his family. Two of our Lakeview Health employees opened up to share their story of what it’s like to be a father in recovery.
My name is Ryan and I am a person in long-term recovery. I also happen to be a father of a beautiful four and a half-month-old baby boy named Hendrix. Fatherhood is an experience I wouldn’t give up for the world. There are definitely struggles and adjustments to be made. Today, I have the tools to be the father and husband that I always wanted to be. If you were to tell me a little over four years ago that I was a father, husband, and lived a fulfilling life based on spiritual principles, I wouldn’t have believed you. For about thirteen years I struggled with drugs and alcohol. In the beginning, it was more of a party lifestyle. I had a lot of good times drinking and hanging out with friends. However, there was a point where it stopped being fun and became a necessity. I spent years trying to figure out how to control my drinking. I eventually got to the point of hopelessness and didn’t care for life. I wasn’t able to hold relationships or communicate with another human in a healthy manner. I began to isolate and started to count the days until the pain would end. I never had a plan to end my life, but I sure wasn’t careful in the way I lived. I finally hit a point of desperation and checked myself into rehab. My stay lasted for about six weeks and I felt like a new person. I took the advice of my therapists and immediately got to a 12 step meeting after discharging. One day at a time, my life began to change. I started paying my bills and cleaning after myself. These may sound like normal things, but for me it was a huge deal. I began telling the truth, instead of lying. I started building healthy relationships based on trust and strived to help others. Eventually, after getting my life on track, I met the love of my life and we bought a house together and got married. My wife and I were lucky enough to have a child. She had a full natural birth, and I was by her side the entire time. It was an experience I will never forget. Hendrix was born 7 pounds 5 ounces and was perfectly healthy. Being a father in recovery is not as easy as I expected, but it is so rewarding. I am extremely grateful that I can be present in my family’s life today and raise my little boy as a clean and sober father. He will never know the hopeless, angry, and sad person that I once was. I love my family very much and I owe it all to my sobriety and the tools I’ve learned along the way.
Before getting sober and living a life in recovery, I was broken. I was a shell of the man that I wanted to be. I had tried to clean up before. I played the role of the “model rehab patient” with the best of intentions and the most deceptive smile you’d ever seen. A closed mind, half-worked steps and rarely attended meetings just weren’t working. I walked into rehab on August 30, 2007 with a ’92 Firebird that barely ran, a duffel bag, half-filled with clothes, and the broken spirit to match. I was done. I couldn’t do it anymore. I was physically sick and unable to function without opiates. I had spent the last several months working to afford enough drugs to avoid this feeling. Work lunch shift, buy drugs…work dinner shift, buy drugs…and repeat. This wasn’t quite the same as my first attempt at recovery, I wasn’t on the verge of jail or homelessness. This time I was able to hold a job, albeit barely, and remain somewhat accountable to my girlfriend (who later became my wife, god bless her). However, sometimes you hit your bottom, and sometimes your bottom hits you. This time was different; this time I was willing and I was ready to listen. The day after I walked into treatment, I lost my best friend in a motorcycle accident. That taught me two things immediately: that I was not in control, no matter how much I thought I was, and that life was way too short to keep living it the way that I was. So, I started to open up in treatment. I spoke openly with my therapist. I didn’t sugar-coat anything and I got honest with myself. I asked one of the guys that brought in the nightly 12-step meeting to be my sponsor and I called him. Together we went through the Big Book and he took me through the 12-steps. Little by little, my life began to change… it kept getting better. Within my first year of recovery, I had started school and was working towards a Bachelors in Arts. In 2012, I graduated Magna Cum Laude and a couple months later married the girl of my dreams. Today we have a beautiful, year-and-a-half-old daughter, Charlotte. Being a father to Charlotte has taught me many things, but most importantly it has afforded me an incredible amount of gratitude for the second chance I was given. I will remain forever grateful for the love and support that my family and friends have shown me over the years. I would not be here today without them.