During the month of June, families across the country celebrated 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, and 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 – Keith. Keith’s story may mirror your life, or 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. Keith is proof. Read on.
What is your background? When did you start using in relation to becoming a father?
Before I was married or had children, my now wife and I used to use together. When she found out that she was pregnant, something in her clicked and she stopped everything. Something about her going to be a mother made her completely turn everything around. For her, getting pregnant was a blessing in more way than one. For me, it was the complete opposite. I was shocked and stressed and my using got even worse. Pills were my way out; my way to escape responsibility. She caught on that I wasn’t changing and that I was still using. We argued a lot – and shortly after the baby was born, we separated. Did you think about how raising children would impact your using – or how using would impact your relationship with your daughter? I didn’t want to be a parent. My priority was drugs and drinking. I sent her a present at Christmas, but otherwise I just wasn’t around. And even though I didn’t want the responsibilities of being a parent, I had a lot of guilt that I wasn’t there.
What was it like when you went to treatment?
When my daughter was about a year and a half old, I ended up getting into some trouble and went to Spring 2 Life. It was only about two or three weeks after I got to treatment, that they came out to see me. While I was at Spring 2 Life, we started working on our relationship through counseling and were able to get back together. God started doing things behind the scenes, and it got to the point I started thinking differently than I ever had before. About 30 days into treatment, I decided that I was never going to go back to my old lifestyle.
What has happened since then?
At Spring 2 Life, we were able to continue counseling and continue restoring our relationship. I realized the things that brought us together – drugs and alcohol – were tearing us apart. But without the drugs and alcohol, we were even better together. And now, we’ve been married for a year! Working on my relationship with my daughter was difficult though. I missed out on a lot of things when she was a baby. She was already a year and a half, but I felt like she was brand new to me. It was tough to figure out who she was – I had to learn to change diapers, to feed her and comfort her. It was tough to communicate and learn the patience that comes with being a parent. I missed out on a lot with her in that first year and a half and I had a lot of learning and making-up to do.
How has your role as father changed in recovery? What is it like now?
My daughter is three years old now and we’ve both grown so much in our relationship as father-daughter. Now, I want to be there for her through the tough times and through everything. Working for Spring 2 Life now, she looks up to me in everything I do and I really strive to show her the best. I can see the heart of generosity growing in her – even though she’s only 3, she sees how I give, and she gives back. I’m so thankful I can be there for her – it really softens my heart now.
Is there anything you hope that your kids will take away from this one day?
Growing up, I had feelings that I wasn’t accepted and I wasn’t valued. I want her to feel loved and respected and valued, so she doesn’t seek out other things to fill a void or try to fit in. I will teach her to watch who she hangs out and the importance of loving herself. She’ll know what I’ve been through and why I do what I do – and why it’s so important to give back.
What would you tell other dads who are struggling with addiction?
Let your child be a reason to do better and better yourself. Even if you’re oblivious to it right now, your addiction is affecting your child. Looking at life on this side of addiction – in recovery – I can see what a blessing my child is. Parents don’t always see that when they’re in active addiction.
Anything else you’d like to add?
My wife and I are now expecting another baby – and this time, it’s a completely different story for me. I’m looking at life through a different perspective, and it’s such a blessing. I don’t have to use or take pills or drink to escape reality, because now – I enjoy reality.