I’m hallucinating right now, that some of you are thinking I’m going to share some story about stealing money from my kids’ college funds to buy dope or something like that. I guess you would be right even though I never actually created college funds for them, I’m guessing I may have, had I not been feeding my addictions at the time.
The thing with money and material stuff is that there’s always an abundance of it so there’s always a chance for another mulligan where that’s concerned. I’m talking about something much more valuable and priceless. Something that we each have a limited amount of, no matter how successful we are.
I stole time from my children.
Early on, I did it with a whole assortment of things like substance abuse, gambling, sex, you name it. After I worked through a solid recovery program and freed myself from them, I discovered there was a new addiction that was causing just as much pain in my life…CO-DEPENDENCE.
Two of my four children were struggling with the same shit I had just overcome and my emotions were completely intertwined with their actions. Feelings like anger, frustration, and helplessness were nothing compared to the guilt I felt in knowing that I had been a major influence in their decisions that led them to their addictions. Guilt has a way of gnawing at your gut until you can’t stand it, then you react by doing something that creates more of it.
I’ve come to understand that everything from the past is a gift for the destiny I was meant to fulfill and if something from the past is eating away at me, it’s only because I’m not using it as a tool for good today. That was the case with my relationships with my two kids.
Instead of reaching down and pulling them up, I jumped back in the hole with them and became their enabler. I may not have been using the drugs any more but I was just as addicted as they were and I was still stealing time from the ones I loved most.
In the midst of all the madness, I had a beautiful young daughter who didn’t struggle with addiction. She’s always been the bright light that glowed in the house. She’s goal oriented, focused, and super generous when it comes to helping others less fortunate than her. She and my wife have been my greatest teachers in the gift of service to others. She was different from my older kids in many ways but she did share one thing in common with them; the same things all kids share regardless of their situations in life…
She needed the same amount of nurturing and support that every child needs from their parents.
Living in addiction is a fear based life which also means it’s a reactive life rather than a proactive one. I had grown accustomed to putting out fires for a living instead of tending the beautiful garden I had been entrusted with. Since my daughter wasn’t starting fires I always thought I was doing OK by her as a dad… until she called me out recently.
She hinted her feelings to me many times over the years but, this time I heard her loud and clear (when the student is ready, the teacher will teach). Of course, at first I got defensive and thought she was over reacting. Then I began to reflect on our years together. Years that I let her run on autopilot because I was so busy with shit I had no control over and no business focusing my energy on. Years that she had been sucked into that ugly funnel of chaos and forced to grow up long before any child should. Years that left her with scars from battles I was entrusted to protect her from.
I have plenty of regrets today and I don’t really give them a hierarchy but, if I did, I’m sure this one would be near the top. That’s the thing with addiction, we always hurt the ones we love the most. It also has many faces and when you mix that with denial, one of its most baffling symptoms, it’s often tough to see that we don’t have to be putting shit in our bodies to be in active addiction.
I used to think I had to learn to let go of my regrets in order to heal but I was wrong. I just had to learn to love them and appreciate them for the gifts they are. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to share this message with those who are still in the pain.
Regret and guilt are two different animals.
One is a useless emotion that keeps you stuck while it continues to grow like that thing in the old horror movie, The Blob. The other is a powerful tool we can share with the world and use as a force for change. I love my regrets today because they’re part of the message I was put on this earth to share.
I’m proud to say my beautiful daughter continues to be that bright light that guides me as she continues to align with her own core values. Two months ago I sat in tears of joy while watching her accept her masters degree and today she uses her gifts of giving with her skills and drive to help autistic children and their families have a better life.
She gets uncomfortable when I start talking about this deep stuff so I’ve never fully expressed my regrets or my deep gratitude for her. I’m not even sure if it ever needs to be shared in words as we continue to grow our relationship today. Only God knows the future so I don’t need to stress about that.
If one person reads this and takes a break from their addict child to hug their “other child”, then my regrets have served their purpose. In the meantime I’m going to call my daughter. PEACE OUT!
I love you Ashley.