Becoming the Father I Always Wanted to Be

father holding his son on a lake dock

Becoming the Father I Always Wanted to Be

Addiction for me, began at a young age. Drugs and alcohol were a way fit in. I grew up in a good home with a loving mother and a step-father that came into our lives and treated me as if I was his own. My biological father was in and out of my life over the years and more often than not a source of disappointment. This, I would realize later, was a big issue I would have to deal with.  My step-dad joined the military shortly after he and my mom got married and we spent the next nine years moving from base to base. When my step-dad got out of the military we settled in Denver Colorado and I had no idea that it would be here that a 20 year battle with addiction would get its start.

All through high school I used drugs and alcohol as a way to fit in. It was right after high school that I began to see the glimpse of the damage my use was causing in my life. I failed out of my first semester of college and was forced to move back in with my parents. I had a taste of freedom at this point so it was a struggle to adjust to their rules. I did everything I could to get back on my feet and get out on my own as quick as possible. I found a job making good money and within a few months moved out with a friend of mine. The thing was I had no idea how to be responsible for myself. Not even six months later, my car had been repossessed and my roommate had kicked me out. Bottom number two!

I decided it was time for a change. I packed what little I had left to my name and with a bus ticket that my parents bought I moved to Florida with my biological father. The next twelve years were an absolute blur. From the outside looking in, it would appear that I had things under control for the most part. I held a long term job, kept my bills paid, and loved to have a good time. I met my wife during this time and two years after we met we were married. For the first three years of our marriage I was able to balance my dual life. The life of the addict, and the life of the loving husband. Bottom number three came shortly before our third anniversary when I got a DUI. It was at this point that things began to unwind.

I thought, as did my wife, that this would be the wakeup call I needed. It worked for about a month and I was right back to my old ways. Again, from the outside looking in I had it all under control again, but at this point I was falling apart inside. A year after my DUI my wife found out that she was pregnant. I was overcome with so many emotions. I felt relieved, because I just knew this new life was going to be exactly what I needed to clean up my act. I was scared, because I was struggling to take care of myself, how could I, possibly take care of a baby. I was worried that I would end up like my biological father and leave my baby. My son came into the world seven months prior to me finding recovery.

I would love to say that his entrance to the world was enough to save me, but it wasn’t. As much as I wanted it, I still hadn’t reached that point of complete surrender. As the months progressed after his birth I found myself more and more depressed. I was engrossed in the fear that I was going to turn out just like my father. I still couldn’t bring myself to ask for help. Without realizing it, I had begun leaving things around the house that I would normally have bent over backwards to ensure wouldn’t be found. My wife was at the end of her tolerance for the things I was doing and I was reaching a breaking point. My wife found some pill bottles that I had failed to hide and called me at work. Usually I would have done everything I could to try and lie, or make excuses for what she had found. Not that night, that night I knew my run was over and I needed help.

After a long discussion, my wife went to bed and I was left sitting up and wondering how I had gotten to this point and how I was going to ever get back to the husband and father that I truly wanted to be. The next morning I called Lakeview. I was greeted on the other end by a person I can only describe as my guardian angel. Tarshi, my intake specialist took the time to talk with me and work with me. She guided me through the process and checked in with me multiple times a day until I arrived at Lakeview for treatment.

When I got to treatment, as I stated earlier, my biggest fear was, am I destined to turn out just like my biological father. I worked extensively with my therapists during my stay to overcome this. I just couldn’t understand why my dad didn’t want to be a part of my life. I wanted answers that I was never going to get. I spent my first father’s day in treatment and at that time it was extremely difficult. I spent the next day talking with my therapist about how tough my father’s day visitation was and it was at this time that things really shifted. He told me that I could spend the rest of my life trying to find the answers I was looking for, or I could look inside myself and find the answer I needed. I gave this a lot of thought over the next few days and began to realize that my dad probably doesn’t even know himself, why he was unable to be there for me. I realized that in all actuality his not being there was probably the greatest gift he could have ever given me. His absence made space for my amazing step-father to come into my life and teach me how to be a man, it also showed me exactly what I don’t want to be as a father.

Rex and his son looking at one another
Rex and his son

As I left treatment, I had a much better feeling about being a father and my ability to be there for my son. Sitting here now three years later I realize that first father’s day in treatment will probably be the best gift I will ever receive. That father’s day I received the gift of a second chance! I am now able to be there for my son, had I not went to treatment I can’t say that would be true today. I now know the father that I want to be and that is the greatest gift my biological father ever gave me. I wasn’t able to get sober because of my son, I had to do that for myself, but today he is the reason that I stay sober so I can be there for him always!