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Waves of Shame

There are moments when the past is unknowingly unleashed back into the present. Parts of you that you filed away. Pieces of your past that you were hoping had gone away and did not exist. They come crashing down around you, out of nowhere, like waves of shame.

waves of shame

This past weekend for Mother’s Day was one of those moments. My mom had come over and we were sitting around the table, just her, my wife and I. Telling stories and just enjoying our time together. Then out of nowhere a wave of shame overtook me. We were talking about how sensitive and sweet my two sons were and she began to tell a story I had long suppressed and had hoped to forget.

She recalled how hurt the boys had been by me being so absent in many ways because of my alcoholism. I had been staying at her place and was a week out of rehab back in 2014. My boys called and wanted to come over to Tulsa from Oklahoma City to get a bite to eat. I was excited and so was she but the boys were not as thrilled. They were not ready to see me. The boys just wanted to see their grandma and I was not invited.

….I felt like I was drowning in waves of shame.

They had not been to see me in rehab. Neither one came to the final completion ceremony. But I hadn’t gotten it until then. All I had done, the drunk I had been, left them not wanting any part of me at that moment. They just weren’t ready and I felt like I was drowning in waves of shame. That shame returned and reminded me just how much damage I had done to my children. During my alcoholism I gave up on them and I think today it hurts even more. How could I have ever given up on my kids?

As I sat there, more memories started to flood back in. So much shame filled me you could see it in the tears that welled up in my eyes. I remembered back to the time I told the boys I was giving up on my marriage to their mother. I will never forget little Brady, clinging to my leg, as he cried, “try harder Daddy, try harder”. My heart broke, but it still was not enough to make me try. My selfish needs were more important than my own children. So stupid and shameful.

….“try harder Daddy, try harder”.

Then again at the wedding to my second wife. How Brady sat in the corner, tears in his eyes. He looked so handsome in his tux yet so profoundly sad. He didn’t have to say a thing, I could still hear, “try harder Daddy, try harder”. So I would proceed to drown that shame in as much booze as I could handle. A drunken fool, not even remembering the wedding reception.

I felt like a Scrooge being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past. Still, one more wave was to come. I remembered Christmas Eve 2013, The last one I would spend with Kamdyn for three years. I was in such a hurry for the boys to get there to babysit so I could go out and get back to my local bar. The boys arrived and in just a few minutes I was headed out the door. As I began to leave, Kamdyn latched onto me with one of those 6 year old death grips. And her little voice screamed out, “Daddy please don’t leave me, Daddy please don’t go”.

I left them on Christmas Eve.

I left anyways. The pain I inflicted on my kids. Not only did I destroy Kam that night, the boys must have been in a traumatic deja vue. How could I have done that to my kids. My heart was shattered that night, because I knew I had shattered theirs. I didn’t try harder and I could have. I could’ve stayed and I chose not to. Daddy left them there on Christmas Eve. So I could just go drink.

And then I received my friend Michelle’s guest blog piece A powerfully written blog from the mother and children’s perspective of their alcoholic father. As I read it I sat in tears, partly because of the emotional punch of the story and partly because it brought rushing back those waves of shame that I related to as being that type of father in my own past.

Those memories are ones that I wish would be wiped clean from my children’s minds. The pain erased, all of the pieces picked up and put back together, as good as new. But they are there. I sit with them, God only knows, how they still affect my kids. Their waves of pain are my waves of shame. These memories hurt and I wish I could take them all away from my kids and carry them as only my cross to bear. But I cant, however, with this tragedy there is a triumph.

….we can become better people despite of it all.

My kids and I have come together the best we can in the last 6 years. Years of healing for all of us. I am doing all I can to be the father today that they deserved all along. Maybe a little too late, but it is all I can control today. There are lessons to learn from all that pain. There is growth in processing through it, we can become better people despite of it all.

The scars remain, even though they may fade, they are proof we have been through the battles and come out on the other side. Alive, with renewed hope, and a greater sense of what real love actually is. For me, love is not about what I get from it but how much of it I give. For my kids, I hope they see that. I hope they feel it. And hopefully, as they surf waves of pain, and I ride my waves of shame we all come back safely to the shore. Together. Family!


  1. Michelle Frank Michelle Frank

    Waves of shame. The sound and feel of their crash stings in the moment then slides away pulling a piece of you with it.
    As I began reading I thought of what I had shared and then you referenced the piece. I have come to the conclusion that the “where is he”s and the “try harder”s are a part of our childrens’ stories. I have hope that mine will be just fine as I see how your boys have turned out.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • It all came at a price. But if we are willing to create something new from the ashes it is always worth it.

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