Editor’s Note: In honor of Father's Day, we'll be posting three messages about fatherhood, family, and recovery. This first post comes from Jackson Wiese, who is in recovery and is interning at the National Youth Recovery Foundation. Check back Sunday for a post from Bob, Amy, and Kristy Curry.
I gagged as I threw up again and again. The alcohol was killing me. I was lying on the bathroom floor in my own vomit, unable to move, completely paralyzed. I heard my dogs run to the front door. The door opened and I heard my Dad’s voice. “Move, Boo! Bad dog!” he screamed. I sighed with relief that someone was there to help me.
This is what my relationship with my father was like: avoidance, punctuated by moments of trauma. He is no stranger to addiction, but the two decades he spent beating his own disease could not prepare him for a tremendous guilt he felt—the guilt of watching me die from the same disease he was convinced his father had given him. He never said it to me, but I knew. He blamed himself for my descent to rock bottom.
My dad didn’t say a word as he picked me up and carried me to the couch. He was cracking; my sickness was making him sick, too. The pain in his eyes, the dark circles underneath them, and the drained look on his face told me something that I could not see before. He, like me, was getting dragged into the darkness—this time not by his addiction, but by mine.
The next day after another violent binge, I awoke to my dad crying beside me. “I’m watching you drown in the ocean. And I can’t swim,” is all he said. I was rotting away physically, but I was killing my dad emotionally.
That was then. Now, I’m just shy of four months clean, and I think about how things used to be. I smile a bit, knowing I have made it out of the depths of hell. I smile because I’m beginning to repair a bridge with my father— one which I thought had been burned to ashes.
I am overwhelmed as I try to write a few paragraphs that explain the change in my dad since I entered recovery. As I sat down to write this, I received a text message from him. It was a picture of him on the summit of a mountain with the words “Mt. Quandary. 14,000 ft.”
At my desk, I took a moment to study the picture, and I was struck by its beauty. Four months ago, my dad wasn’t able to go to work because he was staying at home to watch me, preparing for that moment when he found me dead from an overdose. Now he is climbing mountains—refreshing his soul.
In the photo, his arms are in the air, celebrating the ascent of Mount Quandary. He looks like a new person, bright-eyed and unworried. He is smiling for the first time in a long time. It’s the picture of a father freed from the fear of losing a son. It’s the picture of a father able to live his own life again.
I made it back to the shore, Dad. We can now walk on the beach together. Happy Father’s Day.