I’ve been told my father always wanted a boy and I was the closest he got. I was his beloved daughter, and a tomboy through and through. Growing up, I spent countless hours in the garage with my dad and my grandfather working on derby cars and going to the fairs each year. I even learned to weld in fourth grade. From the time I was born until I was was six years old, this is what became normal for me—and I loved it. Up until six, I had an extraordinary childhood.
When I was six, my parents split up, and my father remarried. I moved with my father away from the only place I had ever known as home. In some ways, it was an exciting new start, at first.
But as time went on I noticed my father started drinking more and more. I blamed myself for his behavior. Sometimes I wondered whether I wasn’t the girly girl he actually wanted in a daughter. And I struggled with the fact he was not with my mom, that he had remarried, and that I had to leave the only home I’d known previously.
These changes, alongside the typical angst of teenage years, quickly sent our relationship on a downward spiral. I felt alone, out of place, and unwanted. Sometime I felt as if all I really did was go to school, come home, clean, and then start it all over again. For a child that isn’t the ideal life. I was unsure of what family time meant at that point.
My father and I didn’t talk as much, and if we did it was an argument. We often fought about weekends I wanted to spend with my mom although it was his weekend. And I was often saddened that he rarely showed up to my school events.
Losing the closeness of that relationship was incredibly painful for both of us. Because my relationship with my dad was so tumultuous, I missed some life lessons that I needed to grow up. The pain of losing that close relationship—and the death of my mother—pushed me toward some unhealthy behaviors—including drugs.
During my recovery from heroin addiction, I learned that my using was in part an unhealthy coping habit I adopted to deal with the losses and hardships I’d suffered in my life. In recovery, I learned healthy coping skills as well as many other life lessons I had missed out on. I grew up a lot in recovery, as did my dad when he got sober. That helped us to start improving our relationship.
We don’t grab drinks like we used to, because he no longer drinks. But we are able to actually talk without a fight. I can ask for his advice, again. And we’ve both stopped letting things like the past and our selfish ways come between us. A lot of times I think we just didn’t understand each other. My recovery process and my dad’s newfound sobriety have really made this possible. I think that my faith and growing in relationship with God and forgiveness have mattered, too.
But whether you’re religious or not, relationships—and the need for forgiveness that inevitably comes with them—are complex. My story is proof that, with time and personal healing, what seems like a hopelessly broken relationship can be healed.
Although my relationship with my dad is different than before, it’s become one of the most meaningful relationships of my life, again. I am so glad to have my good ol’ dad back.