What I Learned From My Father’s Addiction Help Group

This is an excellent video of me talking with 12 men who are actively seeking change in their lives and their communities. From addiction to violence, I learned about their experiences, why I’m doing this work, and a lot about myself. But most importantly, I learned a great deal about my role as a man and father.

When my dad was first in meth addiction, it scared me. He was losing the things he loved the most; his family, his job, his car… everything. And he was doing it in front of me, in front of everyone else. It scared the shit out of me. In fact, it terrified me so much that I thought about leaving home. I had never seen my father do drugs, so I assumed that he knew what happened to all the bad guys, too. But I didn’t know. He never did drugs. So I knew I couldn’t leave him.

He got clean. He got into recovery. But to answer your question: my dad is an example to all of us. In the same way that we’re not in a position to leave our loved ones behind and live like they’re dead, we are also incapable of leaving ourselves behind and doing drugs. So I know that when I’m in life, and I get down to what matters most — being loved, doing the right thing, and making good decisions, I’m doing it all the time. I haven’t been a drug user since I was eighteen.

I know what’s behind it. I know what’s on the other side of the line. I know about addiction. And I believe that I’m there to help all of you.

To help my father with that, here’s a link to a video interview I did with the “My Father’s Addiction” Help Group. I spoke to 12 men, all of whom were seeking to change their lives and communities. I asked them what I learned. They took turns describing why they wanted to be a better parent, the importance of relationships, their relationship with their kids’ other parents, and their own personal stories of addiction and recovery. And while I’ve only read a few of them, they all were quite open in sharing things that they weren’t feeling comfortable talking about with others when I wasn’t around to protect them. So please, listen to what they tell me, and try your best not to make assumptions about what they’re going through.

My dad used to get high, too, when he was in prison, and he would tell his story. If it would make my day better, he could tell me about his addiction. One of my favorite sentences from this interview was this:

“I never thought that I would be able to have a better dad than my father. I don’t even know what I thought was going to happen with my father when he was in prison, what I thought I was going to learn. And I’m happy that I’m never going to get that chance, but I still think my dad is an example to me. And that’s what I’d want for everybody.”

I’m excited about all of this. It’s important to recognize the role that our culture plays in making people like my dad the way they are . Even if you think I’m trying to “make all fathers look like him,” please consider that my father’s story isn’t unique. And if we don’t do something about these people who are using our youth — our own sons and daughters — then a whole generation of kids growing up without an dad — who have no one who can talk to them about any of this — it might be just what’s required for them to feel hopeless and alone.

I hope that you’ve been able to find a way to listen and absorb what my father shared. The video of him answering questions from the “my father’s addiction” Help Group below contains some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.

To end, I want to share a very important word that my brother taught me, which is an important lesson to have. It was on my father’s deathbed and it changed my life. My brother told me that he had tried to get me to leave him, and I told him, “No, you cannot get me to leave.” That’s what I’ve always wanted to believe in. And I will continue to work for that to continue to be true in my own life. I don’t have to know everything I can about my father’s addiction so that I can convince him for a few minutes to go to AA meetings. There’s much more important work to be done, and so long as I want to be a better man, I’m prepared to do the work.

I’d like to dedicate this post to my husband, Josh, who has been by my side since I left for school two years ago.