A far away father figure, I was failing at being her dad..
I have had trouble with this post more so than any other one I have ever written. For the last week I thought it was not being able to find the words but it wasn’t. I have struggled mightily with my role as a dad to a daughter, I hardly know, and who is also an addict desperately trying to find serenity in recovery. The battle has not been with the words but with opening my soul to the vulnerability of the world-wide web. As a parent I have won many battles since my recovery from alcoholism began but there are others I have not yet engaged in the fight. To my oldest child I have been nothing more than a far away father figure.
She has struggled with addiction to drugs for the better part of the last decade. With both of us battling addiction any relationship that we did have became stagnant and void of growth. She sought the missing piece to her soul as I wrestled with guilt and shame for the train wreck my life had become. Since recovery I feel we have connected, but it is with what we have in common, addiction. It is easy for me to be “a sponsor” to her but I am failing at being her “dad”. I guess what is tough for me is that I know the addict like the back of my hand but I do not know my daughter.
Our dad/daughter relationship has been unconventional to say the least. I was not a part of her life until she was 10 years old. From that point I have struggled to connect with her. I had issues in life that I let pull me away and I just never felt the same as I did with the younger three. I let that keep me from pursuing a truth with her that could have been our own. The more I felt her pushing for what her siblings had the more I pushed back against her. I could not give her what I gave the others but I should not have let that stop me from giving her a dad that could have been great in it’s on way.
Instead I became a far away father figure. Her frustration and drugs, my guilt and alcohol only made for a mess of chaotic pain for us both. The memories we would make after her graduation from high school would be partying together. Those nights would end in tears, our true emotions coming through our chemically altered hearts. Only to wake with a hangover and the emotions gone. There was no substance for us to share in our relationship except the commonality of the substances we would put into our bodies. Both wanting a past that we could not have and failing to see all that we could.
Recovery became a stumbling block for our relationship.
We both entered rehab in 2014. I have been graced with over 3 years of sobriety but my daughter has struggled through relapse after relapse. There has been boundaries set to ensure my sobriety, help her recovery, and to provide a proper environment for her younger sister. The trust I would hope to have in her has been broken from time to time. I have let that become another stumbling block for our relationship instead of using it to help elevate it. Realistically what was I thinking, yes she was my daughter but she was a struggling addict/alcoholic, honesty is not always our strong suit. I now believe my arrogance with recovery was my excuse to stay the far away father figure.
That was why this has been so difficult to put to paper. I am admitting that my pride and ignorance has only perpetuated the past with Haley and I, instead of ushering in a new beginning. There is one truth I have learned in my recovery, which is that we no longer have to be what we once were. Our past does not have to define us. I read this in 1 Corinthians yesterday, “..it is easy to tell you what you have done wrong, but there are not many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up”. There it was, as plain as day, right in front of me on the pages of His word. His answer to the questions I have had about Haley and being the dad she needs.
It goes on later in chapter 4 to spell out more for a plan going forward. That I will continue to show her with my actions and fewer words how it is to gain traction in recovery. One thing I have done right, is that I only ask her to do what I am already doing myself. The life we seek it not one of mere words but one of empowered action. It will be my job as her dad to be willing to show her the ropes. Being tough and making her accountable while also being good counsel and sharing with her my heart. Offering her both and letting her actions dictate what she requires at the time.
I am almost 50 and my daughter is 27. There has been a good many days that has passed us by. However, we cannot continue to cry over what we didn’t do or we didn’t have in the past. We cannot compare it to the relationships of my other children as that is something that we cannot recreate. But who is to say we cannot find something that is unique and all our own. It won’t be what her siblings have but it will be “ours”. Our recovery can be our strength and not our weakness. A tie that cannot be broken, a foundation to build upon. The boundaries will be strict, her recovery demands that, but I am willing to be available. I am tired of being a distant dad, a far away father figure. I want her happy and healthy, to live a life of her dreams, it is up to me to model that for her and hope that she decides to follow.