My son is eighteen-months old. When I hold him in my arms, we connect. A boy needs his father in his life. He just does. I love when he brings me a book to read. He puts the book in my hand, then makes his way to my lap. He has a million toys, but he wants to play with the pencil on my desk. Or he will dump out the blue recycle bin in search of an empty water bottle that may have a loose cap. When I look into his eyes, I see purity, in every form; love, happiness, joy or even anger, frustration and hurt. But it’s all pure, it’s authentic.
However, when I look into his eyes, I also see addiction. I see the twenty-old who says he’d rather kill himself than get sober. I see the guy wearing red boots, slouched in the counselor’s chair; completely hopeless after his wife and kid left him. He would rather be dead too. You don’s see heroin addicts past the age of forty in treatment. You just don’t.
It scares the shit out of me. The 20-year-old, and the guy in the red boots ,once were innocent kids. They were once pure. At one time in their life, they had a million toys, but wanted the pencil off a desk. They tried to take the top off the empty water bottle for amusement. They connected with their fathers. Or maybe they didn’t.
My wife talks about home schooling our son. I talk about never letting him grow. I am not sure at what point you stop making decisions for your son. The girls are so independent and successful. My son eats Chapstick.
I fear the day he stops listening, not that he listens now. It’s my job to raise a man and teach him to say no to drugs. To open the door for a lady or lay his jacket down over a puddle. But today is different. Today addiction is preventing many things in a boy’s life. And the most dangerous thing addiction can do is create a disconnect between father and son.
The thoughts above reflect years as a drug counselor preceded by my own personal battle with addcition. While working with men of all ages, in their own battles in addiction, I can’t help but think of which path my son will choose. Ninety percent of the men I work with did not have a father present in their life. The unofficial statistics are alarming. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a sober father, which is the by-product of maintaining a daily life of sobriety.
I felt weird when I walked out Dan’s office. It was one of those, I shouldn’t have said anything moments. As I walked down the steps, my mind went into default conspiracy theory mode.
What are they planning? What’s my next move? I better start looking for a job!
All he asked me was one simple question. By the time I got to my office I considered texting a colleague to see if any oppurtunities were available. Dan just has this way, of stating like two sentences and making a person reevaluate their entire existence. My insecurities flare up, and brain goes into spin cycle. I then become the CSI expert. What was his demeanor when he asked the question, and why was he peeling an orange while he asked it? I tell myself, everything is fine. Breathe. Literally nothing has changed since the time I walked to his office, and then back to mine. I breathe some more. The second question, “what are priorities?” was a left hook. I quickly fumbled for an answer as if on a game show with the clock expiring.
“Family, work, and that’s it,” I blurt out.
“What about recovery?”
“That’s implied,” I say.
“No it’s not,” he says.
I know it’s not. I tell my clients the same thing when they give the same generic answers for their discharge plan. However as I sit and wait for lunch, I still fill as I set the ball in motion for some kind of career change.
Getting in my head is still a dangerous place for me to be. I can make fascinating stories of being wronged or victimized, which unfolds a number of events of me once again having to walk through a challenge of my own making. I don’t know if that is ever going to go away. But I think idneitfying, and coping with it in a healthy, realistic manner is forward progress.
And after writing about this moment, I feel better.
There is a feeling that matches the action of making the wrong decision. In addiction, that feeling is masked with drugs and alcohol. In sobriety, there is no hiding from the from the emotion. I can deal with making a bad decision. That’s one of things that sobriety is all about. Not using or drinking over life’s little and big problems. However when I make a bad decision with a client or their family members, Its stings a little deeper.
My bad decision comes in the form of a “lack of empathy” for the people I am committed to helping. Compassion fatigue can play a huge role. However when it comes down to it, the lack of empathy for me, is received as not caring to a client or their family member.
Just because I am sober, and a licensed counselor, does not make me perfect. But sometime I feel like it should. It’s the overwhelming emotional wave of failure that seems to stay stagnant in my chest restricting my every breath, which signifies I need a break. Once identified the answer is simple. Breathe, talk, pray, and stay sober another day.
Jaxson has discovered pens. And crayons. In a room full of plastic-colorful building blocks he can spot a green pen buried beneath a mountain of toys. He remembers the exact spot he stashed it. He will search for paper and scribble his thoughts. He stands on his tippy-toes while reaching over his head and grabbing whatever his 18-month year-old little hand touches.
Jaxson understands the word “no.” My wife and I say “no” at least one thousand times a day it seems like. And just like how he picked up on the word “no,” I’ve picked up on when he is quietly walking away from me, it usually means he has something that he knows he is not suppose to have. Like a pen.
At eighteen-months old, despite my son understanding the word “no,” he consciously does it anyway. When I hold my son, and look into his big-brown eyes, I ask myself, how does any beautiful child born pure and innocent end up addicted to drugs?
I deal with twenty-something year-old kids everyday who are addicted to heroin, meth, alcohol or “whatever-you-got.” I see my son, born pure an innocent. However with me being an addict, I lose sleep on his future.