I am a sober Dad now in AA, not a first time Dad, so really I have the chance to do things much better this time. This is an event that I could never have imagined happening again. When I got sober I did not think I would have much of a life, but as usual my expectations of the future have been completely wrong. However it has taken time and required that I push out of my fixed thinking, change and become flexible in my thinking.
My Kids While Drinking
I first got married in my twenties to a women who had known me since we were kids, our family had holidayed together and were friends. My wife and I became close while we were teenagers; then I went for a drink when I was fifteen that lasted for nine years.
During the nine years I drunk a lot, got into a lot of trouble, and played around with drugs – I say played around as I compare myself to friends who took that side seriously, while drink was the only thing I took seriously.
I got sober in AA for a while at twenty four. My sobriety was never solid, but it was enough for me to re-enter society, get a job, and buy a house. I pretty much hated Alcoholics Anonymous and almost everyone in it. Until this point in life I had developed only two ways to deal with people and problems – fight them or run away. And now here I was in AA having no clue as to how to fit into groups or ask for help. I bottled all feeling and emotions and from time to time would get drunk on them – every six months or so. During one of these early periods of sobriety I asked my wife to be out on a date.
She said yes and a few years later we married. I think I loved her, I certainly cared, but I was an addict and mainly concerned with myself – not someone who makes a good life partner. Shortly we had a baby, and within a couple of years another, and within the next two years got divorced. I was not a good Dad, I wasn’t around much. In those years I believed my only job was to earn money and make sure everything was paid for. I did that, however with quite a bit of instability.
In AA I have found over and over that I get the same problems and chances again that I messed up in the past. The same problems are easy for me to understand as they are caused by personality and how I interact with people and the world, so it makes sense to have to learn or suffer. And in AA they say we only change when the suffering get bad enough – I am not sure I agree with that completely, however I agree with the sentiment.
However to get the same opportunities again is really something. I thought I had messed life up so badly that nothing good would ever happen again, even after being sober for a while I thought like this. But the opportunities just lined up, university again, work again, my own business again – and again I saw myself begin to make the same mistakes while sober – no drink involved but I could mess things up the same way almost. It was almost like being preprogrammed.
As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous I sought outside help at this point. Drinking was one of the solutions to my life and how I felt, taking away the drink left me still miss-shaped to the world. Starting to ask for help from professionals, asking friends, and asking members of AA all aided my fitting back into the world better.
What Can a Sober Dad do Better?
The pregnancy of my other half was not easy, there were various complications; however I managed to hang in there and be supportive. This is a fairly normal way to behave, but I am still learning normal in new situations.
The first thing I can do better this time is be here. Not run away into work or any other way of escaping. That is counter-intuitive for me, I want to support my family well – in my head being a man that is my job. However I remember thinking, as a kid, that I wished my Dad was just a normal Dad who came home at the end of the day and not this guy that was always busy with his businesses.
I can sit here on the couch typing away, fitting things in when I get a chance. I don’t have to be first, my stuff is not the most important in the house. I said the other day “now I come third in the house” – yes, she said, how are you with that – the answer is surprisingly okay.
My hope for the future I that I can be here when needed, provide what is needed, and in many ways just be a Dad, one that is fun until he is a teenager, and then the boring one that he will need to push away and rebel against.
At this time I am amazingly content sitting typing, or with him lying on my chest while I watch him or read; life right now doesn’t get any better.