We cannot forget the casualties of trauma.
With all the accomplishments and celebrations in my sobriety, I can easily lose sight of the ones too often forgotten in my recovery. They are the ones that I have left in the wake of my alcoholism. They are my family, my loved ones, and my children that have suffered from the torment of my destructive disease. My oldest son was hit especially hard. He was my little miracle yet I left him, “living as if my Dad was dead”. I am grateful for my life now but I must remember and make amends by just being the Dad they deserve. The casualties of my past need to be heard.
While in the darkness of my addiction with alcohol I could scarcely think of anyone but myself. I knew my children were hurting, it was an understatement that they deserved better. The guilt and shame from knowing this deep down only fueled the fire of booze within me. Part of my recovery has been to accept the hurt and pain I inflicted upon others, especially my children. At times I am still in disbelief that I could have done these things, but I did. Alcoholism kills many alcoholics but it kills the spirit of those we hurt and robs our children of hope and replaces it with a fear of losing their parents.
This past week my oldest son Blake turned 26 and our relationship is beginning to show signs of health for the first time in a long while. The last words he spoke to me before I went into rehab were simply, “I want my Dad back”. It was foolish of me to think a 30 day stay at rehab would fix everything. And like my sobriety, his recovery would need time as well, one day after another, one day at a time. I wanted so badly to fix all the harm that I had done but I learned I had to give him time and let him come to terms with my alcoholism in his own way. I have asked him to write down some of the things he felt during the dark times and also something that now, he sees hope in. The following is what my son saw through his own eyes, things we may be blind to, things we need to pay closer attention to for all those affected by alcoholism and all other forms of trauma.
“There were things I thought were normal when I was younger. I used to think that it was normal for a dad to say, “I’ll see you in the morning” when he left in the evening because he wouldn’t be there when I went to bed. After I realized my dad had a drinking problem I knew that it wasn’t.
It turned from drinking as a social thing in the backyard, to a dark mess after certain events occurred to my Dad and my family. I spent many nights wondering when I would get the call that my dad was dead. I got to a certain point where I almost lived as if he was. I remember going to his apartment after the divorce and it was like the beginning of a downward spiral. Someone barely hanging on and trying to stay in it, just to stay in it.
Aside from the time not spent together and the constant burden of having to deal with someone I loved who was essentially already dead and wanted to be dead , I was trying to brace myself for that seemingly inevitable result. The worst part was the confusion of who he really was. It seemed like what my perception of my father was, was totally scrambled.
The bright side is getting to figure out the truth to what I already knew and wanted to believe. My dad is a great person who hit an all-time low. It is great to just have feelings again when it comes to me and fathers relationship.”
Just to read these words stirred me to tears. To think of the great pain and suffering I inflicted upon my children is really tough to stomach. I must pursue efforts to bring awareness to the innocent ones who face the same trauma my own kids did. Their stories must also be shared so that healing can find, not just the messed up adults, but those left in our wake of devastation. My next chip, or milestone, holds little meaning if the experiences of the past cannot be used to bring healing to my children and to other children who are treading the same water my kids have.
The trauma that tears us apart can be used to bring us back together.
I encounter students everyday who are feeling about their parents the way Blake used to feel about me. I cannot forget the damage I have done and I must use the stories to prevent further dismantling of families and parent-child relationships. We all have stories, as educators they become the power in our secret sauce to build up and empower young people. Addiction, death, divorce, abuse, abandonment and more are parts of our stories kids need to hear. It is up to us to lead and love them to believe and discover that they are the greatest miracle in the world. Blake and I both “feel” now and we both see beyond the scrambled past. None of us has to die, we all can live, and live is just what me and mine will do!
Through the eyes of my son I used to be dead. It is something that I wish I could change but I cannot. Through our darkest times there is always a light if we choose to see it. Blake was mine. Blake, I love you, son! You are the greatest miracle in the world to me. Your love for a drunk of a dad helped bring me back to life. I cannot take away all the pain and damage but I can promise as long as I am alive I will be here. I want your eyes to see the hope and promise for a future that you restored to me. Through my son’s eyes, I hope he see’s love. Together, I hope we help others see the same. And just maybe, there will be one less kid who is living as if my dad was dead.