During the month of June, families across the country celebrate Father’s Day. This June, Vertava Health celebrates dads in recovery.
The struggle against addiction isn’t only for the individual – it’s a battle for the entire family. Many fathers who have faced or still do face drug or alcohol addiction, recognize that the disease can punch holes in more than one generation. It can affect relationships, cause anger, fear, and destitution in the household. It can create chaos and divide marriages. It can leave children without their father – emotionally and physically.
But for the dads who have found strength and hope in addiction treatment, recovery can renew those relationships and reunite parent with child. Today, we celebrate one father who has found healing and brings us inspiration, Brett. Brett’s story may mirror your life, the life of your father, brother, son or husband. We want you to know that addiction can be treated and a fulfilling life can be had. Brett is proof. Read on.
What is your background? When did you start using in relation to becoming a father?
I started using well before my daughter was born. I had my first drink at age 12 and started smoking marijuana at 14 – so this was long before I was ever married or anything.
On February 11, 2008 my daughter was born. When we were at the hospital, the doctors would ask my wife if she needed pain meds, and I would ask her to ask for more. Of course, when they give you the pills, they watch you to make sure you take them. She would hold them under her tongue until the nurse left and then give them to me. It should have been the most joyful and monumental time in my life, but I was high the entire time we were in the hospital. I was there with her, but I wasn’t present and available.
I carried a lot of shame and guilt for asking her to do that. Looking back, I realize now how much worse my disease got after we were at the hospital for my daughter’s birth.
Did you think about how raising a child would impact your using – or how using would impact your relationship with your daughter?
To be honest, I don’t think I ever really thought about it. While my wife was pregnant, I thought that I had to do more before our child was born and that I would slow down once we had the baby. Of course, I didn’t stop. But if I had any thoughts about raising a child while in active addiction, they were only subconscious.
I was too entrenched in the disease to see it. I was delusional and it was difficult to think about anyone about myself. I wanted what I wanted – and I was going to get what I wanted. I was willing to go to any length, whether it was taking money from my wife’s purse or daughter’s piggy bank. I wasn’t thinking about anything but what I had to have.
What was it like to be around your daughter while you were in active addiction?
There was never a part of her life when I wasn’t there physically. I was home for her, I gave her love and attention, and I cared for her. But even though I was physically there – I wasn’t really present and available for her like a dad should be.
After my daughter was born, my disease really started progressing and things in my life started turning for the worse. I was stressed, so I would do more drugs and drink more alcohol – and that would stress me out even more. I wasn’t able to be who she needed me to be.
What was it like when you went to treatment?
I wanted to get sober – in order for me to be the dad she needed me to be, I needed to get healthy. I had to leave the state to go to treatment, and even though it was hard to leave my daughter, I knew that going to get treatment was going to be a minimal amount of time compared to the rest of her life. The path that I was on, I was either going to end up in jail or dead.
I got sober at a time to where she doesn’t remember me in active addiction. All she knows now is that her dad doesn’t drink beer or go to bars like other family members or her friends dads might do. We told her that I was sick and needed to go to Tennessee to get better.
How has your role as father changed in recovery? What is it like now?
Words can’t even begin to describe what it’s like now. It’s a blessing. It’s a gift to be the father to her that God created me to be. I feel this is who God created me to be. I’m fully invested and I’m available for her.
I see her once a month now, but I talk to her every single day, not distracted and not preoccupied. All of those years being there everyday, but being in active addiction is nothing compared to seeing her once a month and being sober. Now, instead of everything being about me – it’s all about her.
Is there anything you hope that your daughter will take away from this one day?
I will never hide who I am from her. She knows that I go to meetings. She’s still very young, but when she’s older, she will know her dad is in recovery and is a former alcoholic and addict. I can say that proudly because I wouldn’t be who I am today if I wasn’t a former addict, and I wouldn’t be this way without treatment and a 12-step program.
I’d want her to know that I get to be who God wants me to be and who I want to be as a father to her, because of recovery; because the biggest blessing recovery has given me is that I get to be a dad to my daughter.