Who brought the kid to AA? Parents in Recovery

Sitting in my WGAT (What’s Good About Today) meeting this morning I was positioned so that I could see out the window.  About ten minutes into the meeting I saw a father alone in the parking lot straining to one side carrying a large baby car seat.  He was rushing to get from his car into the the room.  When they entered the room he made a beeline for the kitchen and a minute later made his way to an open seat with the baby in one hand and a cup of joe in the other.  He laid the baby carrier on the rug in front of his seat, sat down and let out a slow, audible exhale and then smiled.  In less than a few minutes a woman next to him was holding his adorable baby while he soaked in each speaker as it went around the room.  This five minute scene made my day.

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There is something warming that I feel in seeing children at meetings. I don’t shy away from bringing my own kids.  My seven year old Brody will sit on my lap lost in his iPad until I hear the occasional snicker when someone cusses through habit.  My older son Aidan has been to each of my anniversary meetings and has recently joined a group of us at a commitment where we spoke to a group at a local detox facility, most of whom were young opiate addicts. I don’t find this unhealthy at either age.  Aidan and I always have open discussions about what we hear each time.  There’s a stereotype of AA meetings being desperately sad, smoke filled rooms where you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.  That couldn’t be further from the truth. And the alternative is far worse…

One of the few childhood memories I have of my own father was visiting him for a weekend from my north shore hometown of Marblehead to south of Boston in Mansfield.  I remember hanging around a bar room all day; knocking balls around the pool table, drinking Roy Rogers (coke & grenadine), playing with cards, …and then being bored to death the rest of the long day. I still have a taste for vinegar on my fries that I was enticed to try by the women who paid me extra attention at the bar.  I remember the small cooler he kept on the floor of the passenger side and feeling small sitting next to him on the big front bench seat as he drove.  One weekend he had my older cousin and I in his car after spending much of a Saturday on his regular stool and decided it would be a perfect time to drive north to New Hampshire to go camping. My cousin, who had never been north of Boston, jumped out of the car at a red light next to Wonderland Race Track in Revere.  Luckily I convinced him that I needed more cloths and gear to go camping and he drove me to my house in Marblehead.  I jumped out of the car as soon as it came to a stop across from my house.  He parked and fell asleep with the car running and I remember my neighborhood friends peeking in the window at the strange man snoring.  Luckily he was gone the next time I looked.  My older brothers lived with my father longer than I did so I only have a few such memories. Even then I didn’t blame my father nor was I angry at him.  I saw him as sick even as a child and I was more right than I knew at the time.

I love the recovery fellowship I’m apart of on Twitter.  I’ve created a ‘list’ called Friends of Bill (https://twitter.com/GregMKelly/lists/4-friends-of-bill) that allows me to view updates from all my sober friends.  (if you haven’t heard the term “Friends of Bill” it’s in reference to Bill W. the founder of AA).  I was told early on to stick with the winners in AA in order to get what they have.  I gravitate to parents who have their children as part of their motivation.

One such friend, Melissa, had her children removed from her home almost a year ago because of her drinking.  She is one of the strongest fighters I’ve seen grab hold of recovery.  She is fighting not just to get her children home but to be an all around healthier person and parent.  From my outside view I see how God has worked in her life and how something changed in her so that she’s no longer suffering daily to stay sober.  She’s talked about how she’s disgusted now at the thought of drinking.  She’s given up completely on the idea that one day she’ll be ‘fixed’ enough to drink again.  She’s a recovery winner which is why I love following her progress and hearing about the healing going on in her young family’s life.

It reminds me of the promises on pages 84-85 of the AA Big Book where it says:

“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality-safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is our experience. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.”

This promise came true for me and it was nothing short of a miracle.  I have no doubt that it was the prayers…the psychic change… of asking God for help and he took it away. The only thing that changed from my earlier attempts to stop drinking was the prayers. They say that you can only do this successfully if you’re doing it for yourself and not someone else.  You often hear that you can’t get sober or stay clean because of someone else’s ultimatum or threats.  I do believe this and it wasn’t until I was dropped to my knees in desperation that I finally asked God for help….every day, on my knees, I begged God for help.I cried in fierce prayer to God so many times I couldn’t count them if I tried. I gave Him my addiction, I begged Him to take compulsion to drink, I gave Him my whole life, my self will, and He took it all from me. My children have played a huge role in keeping me from taking my life back from God.  I had a mantra I would say to myself for months throughout the day, “God’s will be done.” which was to remember that my own self will made a disaster of my life and it wasn’t until I gave it to God did my life improve.  My kid’s father today is not only sober but I’m also a really good father and role model for them.  It doesn’t take going to meeting for them to hear about recovery as they’ve lived it and seen remarkable change in their father.  And they know I credit God.

Last week at a meeting a young man living in a local recovery house for men talked about seeing his kids over the weekend before returning sadly to the house.  He agonized out loud about how much his children are suffering from being apart from him.  Clearly it was hurting him very much.  After the meeting I asked him if he remembered how old he was at the time of his earliest memory as I barely remembered anything from before the age of eight or ten.  As we talked I told him that my youngest son will never remember me drinking but he gets to see his healthy father all the time.  I suggested to him that his children won’t remember this time away from their father especially if he gets healthy this time for good.

Lastly, Aidan asked me last summer if he could have a friend sleep over. It was a friend that I hadn’t met yet so I spoke to his mother on the phone and we agreed that he could.  When Aidan introduced me to his friend he asked, “You look so familiar.  Do you play in a punk band?”  I smiled at Aidan with a ‘is this kid for real’ look but the boy continued by asked if  I knew his father who grew up in Charlestown, and several other questions before reluctantly giving up.  Thirty minutes later he came out of Aidan’s room confidently declaring that he figured it out.  “I went to a meeting with my mom and heard you speak a while back and I remember really liking what you had to say.  It made an impact on me.”  Aidan followed up by saying he goes to meetings too and asked if he could go again soon.  I told them both that they just made my day.

Children see the drinking and are impacted negatively every day by alcohol, drugs, and addiction.  Not many are untouched by it, including my brothers and I and my own children. I not only remember spending entire days at bars with my father but I used to take my own kids to the ‘social club’ across the street from my old house. The club Christmas party was a highlight we looked forward to as a family and anytime we were together with friends they witnessed all of the adults drinking.  They see the fun times parents have with drinking and have to suffer the consequences too often.  Witnessing the miracle of recovery isn’t so bad. 

Greg – RagamuffinDad

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