From the outside, it might have looked like a depressing scene. Me and my teenage daughter walking into a group recovery meeting together in the pouring rain. In reality, it was one of the best days of my life.
My drinking had been a problem since before my daughter was born. I accepted it as a given, like going to work or watching TV. It was just part of who I was. My wife accepted it too, but not as happily as I would have liked to think. When our daughter was born, she became less and less tolerant, which in retrospect was perfectly reasonable. It was as though she was responsible for two children all by herself.
Unfortunately, she began to cope with it by drinking on her own. She would usually be slurring her words by the time I got home, at which point I would take the dismal baton from her and start cracking open beers myself. It was like we were trying to make sure that someone in our home was always hammered. It went on like this for years and years. What our daughter thought or felt about this throughout was a complete mystery to me.
And then one day, my wife left. Whatever bond that had kept her tethered to us just snapped. I was left facing a very grim situation, and something had to change. I had to change. I owed my daughter so much, and the prospect of her being left alone with an alcoholic father became unacceptable to me. Of course, all of it should have been unacceptable well before this, but I’m still grateful that the realization came at all.
I started going for counselling at Chabad Lifeline soon after. Part of my treatment plan included attending Lifeline’s weekly open speaker meetings, where people affected by addiction share their stories. Not long after, my counsellor asked me if I’d consider bringing my daughter to one of the meetings. I was a little hesitant, but when I asked her (making it clear she was under no obligation), she said yes immediately.
The woman who spoke that day shared her experience as the mother of a cocaine addict. She talked about making excuses for him, about warping her life to accommodate his behavior. I noticed my daughter was hanging on her every word. Afterwards, when it came time for the rest of the group to speak, my daughter raised her hand.
I had never heard her speak so openly and unsparingly about her own experience before. Her focus made it obvious she was venting something that had been building inside her for years. I found it painful at first, but ultimately the pain seemed inconsequential compared to how proud I was of her. It was one of the first times I had ever felt I was doing the right thing as a parent, and it ended up opening a dialogue between us that has continued ever since. What’s more, my daughter has started talking to a Youth Counsellor at Lifeline. Making sure she has the support she needs has become my number one priority.
It’s not like I all of a sudden have all the answers as a father, but that experience reforged a connection that had been ignored for far too long. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
*Names and details have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved. Additionally, we would note that the reason we were able to attend to Jared immediately is because we are regularly expanding our staff in order to meet the growing demand for our services. As Chabad Lifeline is sustained through private donations, this entails significant fundraising efforts. Making a donation can help ensure that we can continue to provide timely care that can ultimately save a life or set a family on a better course, creating a positive ripple effect on future generations.