On Christmas morning 2017, my kids came into my bedroom where I buried in blankets, drifting in and out of sleep. I had been in bed for more than three days. I looked out from under the blankets to see two wide-eyed kids. They asked me if I was okay and if I wanted to come watch a movie. The wideness of their eyes wasn’t a result of anxious excitement to open gifts because there wasn’t any, not even a tree. Their eyes showed concern, worry, fear.
I made myself get out of the bed and shower. I recall every movement being painfully heavy and my emotions numb. I was in the midst of a pretty harsh depression compounded by withdrawals from three months of heavy Meth use. Earlier, in the Fall, I had tried to become a dealer after being fired from my job, having zig-zagged around the state meeting all sorts of new characters and getting myself in precarious situations. At the time it seemed fun to meet new people, have unlimited drugs and all the while making money. It was fun until I lost my profits to a man who tricked me into wiring all of my money to California. I had no money, no drugs, and now no friends. My plan to save my condo from the eviction process, buy Christmas gifts, and be a bad-ass drug dealer had all gone to shit.
I forced myself awake so that I could spend the day on the couch with the kids. I was amazed at how happy they were without gifts; they just wanted to spend time with me. But, in all honesty I wasn’t really there. I was on my phone plotting my next move, securing my next fix; ignoring the fact that I could sense fear in the kids’ eyes, in their questions, their conversations with me. I had turned our lives upside-down once again; life for them had to feel totally unstable.
Christmas morning 2019, I was the first out of bed, wide-eyed and anxious to watch my kids open a stocking full of gifts, and cards full of money. I worked very hard for months to give them as much as I could in tangible gifts as a way of demonstrating to them in a concrete way that I had truly turned our lives around. I wanted them to hold tangible proof of that change, to feel the security and stability that I haven’t given them in six years. It has taken almost a year and a half of consistently living sober and building trust, but today I finally saw a sense of calm in their eyes again. But, I realized the gifts and money are not the reason.
I have been here. Day in and day out. Not only physically, but mentally and spiritually. I have kept coming home, kept coming back, being true to my promises and supplying their needs. I don’t see fear when I am on my way out the door. I see trust when I give them my word. No amount of money could have ever supplied the kind of stability I felt from them today.
I have single-handedly dragged them through situations and traumas that they will be processing for years to come. I cannot undo that. What I can do now is make sure that I am present. Every day in every way. Be here. To be quite honest, this is the first time in their lives that I feel equipped to be a father. I had to find my voice, write my own narrative, and steer myself into alignment with who I truly am. My own sense of I AM.
But. What I also sensed today was that through their front row seats to my own struggle, they are learning the importance of finding their sense of I AM. They are asking me some pretty serious questions and coming to me for their own life decisions. To be quite honest, this is the first time in their lives that I feel ready to be a father. I am grateful for the journey that led me, and us, to this place. Today, we are stable, today we are secure, today we are strong, and today we have wide-eyes of hope, not fear.