(from Essay February 2019)
Restoring damaged relationships
My disease destroyed the relationship between my father and me. He was a dominant alcoholic, disapproving of everything I did. Phone calls with my father ended with me throwing my phone to pieces against the wall. I believed this was a reasonable reaction for someone with a father like I had. I always acted out after calling him. My resentment against my father was fuel for my sexaholism.
Just before I entered SA, I broke off all contact with him. I had pushed him more and more away, judging him bitterly. I even “fired” him and declared that he was no longer my father. I was blinded by my anger. After I joined SA, I worked through all the Steps, including Step 9. I made all my amends except this one, which neither my sponsor nor I mentioned. I found happiness, joy and freedom in my sobriety and recovery as I continued working my program.
After about 3 years, my sponsor asked me a simple question. Is there still an amend you haven’t made? I immediately knew, “Yes, my father.” Carefully and slowly I worked with my sponsor to re-establish contact with him. Things wouldn’t be the same because I was standing on new, solid ground. I had prayer and meditation, contact with my sponsor, a fellowship, a new outlook upon life, trust in my Higher Power, SOBRIETY. The first few conversations with him went fine. My only direct amend to him was: “I am sorry that I have been a bad son to you. I want to try to be a good son from now on.” My phone remained quietly in my hand, and so did the chairs in the room. After the conversation, I didn’t have to look at porn and masturbate. I called my sponsor instead.
Over time our contact increased, the conversations lasted longer. I visited him and introduced my fiancée to him. He was very courteous. Later he came to our wedding. What a gift! I continued to visit him together with my wife once a year and that felt safe. Slowly trust started to grow.
Two weeks ago I visited him alone for the first time in 10 years and stayed for three days. I was nervous but my wife said, “You only have to be there.” That was it; I only needed to be there with him.
My father talked a lot. After just the first day, I was getting uncomfortable by all the things he said. I wanted to respond. Then I remembered that I only needed to be there. That’s it. So I just listened. I surrendered the urge to argue, debate, walk away, do something. I just sat, listened, and kept my mouth shut. He talked a lot about his life, and I even learned some things about him.
I played his piano, and he asked me to play softer and more gently. I don’t know where it came from. I just did as he said. Instead of hearing his “disapproval,” I played softer and more gently. He said that it must have been the first time that I had listened to him. Connection!
I came home, and I felt I had the best and most wonderful time ever with my father. He called me the next day to tell me how much he had enjoyed my visit. How much he appreciated the effort that I took to come over, and leave my family alone. I told him how much I also had enjoyed it. I suddenly realized that we’d had our first father-son weekend. Something I had always longed for!
All of my life I had a loving and caring father, and I couldn’t see it. Yes, he is still an active alcoholic. He introduced me to drinking and prostitution when I was 14 years old, and always had loud and drunken friends around him. But he always welcomed me, bought me presents, took me on holidays, helped me through my studies and forgave me my behaviors as a bad son for decades. He wanted the best for me, and he did the best he could.
I truly feel love towards my father today, something very unusual for a love cripple like me. I am so grateful that I had the chance to restore the relationship with him while we are both still alive. I have become completely at peace with him, and for the remaining time that he lives, I hope to continue this, one day at a time.
Daan L., The Netherlands