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, 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 – Rick. Rick’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. Rick is proof. Read on.
What is your background? When did you start using in relation to becoming a father?
I had neck surgery when my oldest son with three years old, and I was prescribed pain pills. About six to eight months after the surgery, the doctors started trying to wean me off of the pills. I didn’t realize that I was addicted until I tried to come off of them and realized that I needed them. I wasn’t working at the time and I really felt that I lost a sense of my manhood and my pride because I wasn’t providing for my family. I used that as an excuse to keep using. When my second child was born, I was high the entire time. He was born two months early, so we spent a lot of time in the NICU. It was a really difficult time for my family, I threw myself a sort of “pity party” – it was just another excuse to use and a way to numb everything that was going on.
Did you think about how raising children would impact your using – or how using would impact your relationship with your kids?
Physically, I was home with my kids, but mentally and emotionally I was not there because I was high. Every time I would buy pills or fill a large prescription, I would say to myself, “After this is gone, I’m done because I’m destroying my family, I’m not there for my sons and I’m not there for my wife.” My kids were always on my mind. My mind wanted to quit, but my heart didn’t. It never got to my heart until I hit the bottom.
What was it like to be around your kids while in active addiction?
When I was using, I was short-tempered and I would snap at something small. It’s hard to explain because I when I was using, I wasn’t the person I am now. I rage over small things really for two reasons: 1. I didn’t have the drugs and I was feeling bad 2. I was preoccupied, wondering how I was going to get high again.
What was it like when you went to treatment?
Leaving to go to treatment was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. Early in the program at Spring 2 Life, I knew God got me where He wanted me to be. I knew that with Him, I was going to be the man He wanted me to be. And knew that if I was the man He wanted me to be – I was going to be the father He wanted me to be. After I had that revelation, my wife and I were able to start working on our marriage. Every Sunday, we had family time at Spring 2 Life, and she would come up with the kids for two hours. It would bring me extreme joy to see them walking – but it was heartbreaking to watch them leave and know I wouldn’t see them until the following Sunday. While I was at Spring 2 Life, my youngest was only one year old, but the first time she brought him up there – he came right to me and didn’t want me to put him down. Even though he was so young and I had been absent a lot in his young life, he knew I was his daddy. That was such a good feeling.
What was it like when you first came home?
I had been gone for almost a year when I finally came home. Everything had changed completely. My oldest son had more of a sense what had gone on and what was going on. They had gotten into a routine without me, and it took a little getting used to. They were really happy I was home, but it was a change. Both of my kids were so happy their daddy was home – and that was a really good feeling.
How has your role as father changed in recovery? What is it like now?
I am now the spiritual leader of the household. I just want my children to see that I love their mother, I love God, and I want them to see that helping other people is one of the most satisfying and rewarding things. I’m a dad and a husband that guides my family in their relationship with Christ – and I believe that’s the way God intended us to be. On a daily basis, life is like a race – and the finish line is Christ’s face. Our goal is to seek his face daily, without getting distracted. When you think about 100 meter dash runners – their eyes are always focused on the finish line, looking straight ahead – that’s what we want to do. I want to teach my kids that a relationship with Christ is of utmost importance. Every week at Spring 2 Life, we go to church. Around this time last year, I took the guys to a revival on the town square. My son, eight years old at the time, accepted Christ and was saved. Had God not let me go through some of the things I went through, I don’t know if my son would’ve ever got saved at that time.
Is there anything you hope that your kids will take away from this one day?
My oldest son was aware at the time that I was sick. He knew that The Lodge at Spring 2 Life was a place where there were sick people – but they were healing and restoring their relationship with God. He didn’t know that the guys there were addicts, he just knew they were getting better and walking closer with God. As my kids get older, I will have the conversation with them. I want them to know about my battle with addiction, how strong their mother was to stand by me, and how amazing God is to reconcile our family, and that it takes a whole lot of prayer.
What would you tell other dads who are struggling with addiction?
It takes a real man to humble himself and ask for help. I know as a man, pride gets in the way – and so does procrastination. But if you know that it’s an issue, don’t wait. The longer you wait, the more destruction, the more hurt and the more distance you’ll have with your kids. Don’t put off what you can do today – because if I knew then what I know now – I would’ve have done it sooner.