Reflections At Thirteen Years Sober

On April 8th I celebrated my abstinence-based, thirteen years in long term recovery from alcohol, cocaine, and bulimia (Yes, males develop eating disorders).

I reflect with mixed feelings as it also falls on what would be the ninety-fourth birthday of my late father whose passing eighteen months ago is still fairly raw and painful.

Of course, my recovery anniversary will always fall on his birthday and there will always be tears for that, but his passing seems to hit especially hard as I sit at homes with millions of others in the heart of the trauma, uncertainly and anxiety wrapped around the COVID-19 pandemic.

I think that some of my angst also correlates to suddenly being hyper-ware of my mortality churning towards sixty-years old and on the cusp of the COVID ‘high risk” age demographic. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was eighteen years old? Where the hell did the years ago? The irony is that I can’t remember many of them in the haze of drugs and alcohol

I do remember my father’s role in my recovery. The memory of walking over to his place fresh off my second trip to a local psychiatric hospital after a drug and alcohol-induced blackout is one that remains vivid and sometimes rebroadcast in high definition in my dreams.

That morning, early April 2007, I stood at his door, ashamed, guilty and broken. He had no idea that I struggled with drugs and alcohol. I justified my silence so as not to be a burden him in his golden years.

I lurked outside his apartment door for five minutes, crying and almost going home. I finally knocked. He answered the door, and as usual, was ecstatic to see his middle son. As usual, he offered me something to eat. As usual, he asked if I needed any money. It didn’t matter what my financial status was. He asked.

That morning, I only wanted his love, which I received every moment of every day from the time I was born.

We sat on his couch. He knew something was wrong.  I began crying again. Over the course of an hour, I unload decades of pain. Things I kept from him because I loved him. Because I did not want to burden him.  Because I did not want to see his disappointment in me.  I did not want to see his pain over my failures in life.  That’s what I told myself.

He held me. He cried with me.  Then he said the one thing that defined everything he had taught his sons growing up.

Brian, I love you. Move-in with me and we will get through this together.

I lived with him for a week while I attended my 12-step meetings and shuttled between his place and mine to take care of my pets.

My father, Norton, of the greatest generation. My father gave me the greatest gift.  The gift of a father talking to his son and letting him know he is loved.   My father without knowing it, allowed me to take another step in recovery, beginning the process of self-love and allowing myself to accept it.

I hope he is smiling down at my milestone and as soon as the stay -at -home order is lifted, I will head on over to his resting place,  and tell him about it.