I drank for a long time. I drank to cope with my wife’s battle with bipolar disorder. I drank to cope with her suicide. I drank for years afterwards so I didn’t have to grieve her death. And I drank so I didn’t have to try to be the man my heart knew I could be.
Quitting drinking was one of the greatest choices I have made in my life so far. It’s changed everything for me in ways that still amaze me every day. The interesting thing is, I don’t regret drinking. It would be pointless to waste time mired in regret. The benefit of freeing myself and knowing what I am capable of far outweighs the costs I incurred.
The lessons I have learned have made me a much better father than I would have been otherwise. There is so much wisdom to be gained from picking ourselves up off the floor and moving forward. When our character is tested and we overcome, we are changed forever.
I created a persona that I projected to the world for a long time. I was living someone else’s life because I thought I was supposed to. That person is long gone and will never return. I did it out of fear that the real me wasn’t good enough. Far too many of us still live our lives this way.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the power of vulnerability. I define vulnerability as loving yourself enough to have the courage to share your story. It means loving yourself as you are and not as how you think people want you to be. When you put yourself out there you create a place of safety that will draw people to you. You’ll build connections with people that are deep and meaningful. And real.
You’re wondering at this point what this has to do with parenting. My oldest daughter is twelve years old. She is an athlete to her core. She is always moving her body and expresses herself through her athletics. She always, always brings her A game whether its to practice or competition. She inspires me to push harder and be better.
She does not like reading. In fact we’ve realized that she is a bit behind in her reading ability and it is starting to affect her at school. It’s not a crisis by any means but something we need to work together to improve. She was very upset about it so I needed to handle it with care.
We sat down and talked. The first thing I told her was that we’re both responsible for right now and for what we do about it. We’re a team. I explained that I felt like I let her down by not paying more attention to how her reading was progressing. I assumed everything was fine and that was a mistake on my part. It was a chance to talk about how we can learn from mistakes and make course corrections.
I asked why she didn’t ask for help when she fell behind. Her response was, “The other kids didn’t need help and I wanted to be like them. I wanted to do it on my own.” I understand that feeling completely.
“I drank too much for a long time. I needed help but I was too afraid to ask for it. I was worried about what people would think about me if I asked. I was worried about asking for help and still failing, So I pretended everything was OK and I kept struggling for a lot longer than I needed to. Mommy was right there wanting to help me and I wouldn’t let her.
“You know what I learned from that? I learned that when you try your best and then ask for help, people will help you. They will want you to succeed. I ask for help all the time now. I’m not afraid to say when I don’t know something. People respect me more because of it. I learned that lesson at forty-one. I’m so happy we have a chance to talk about it when you’re twelve. You’re almost thirty years ahead of me!”
I could tell by her facial expression and body language that my words resonated with her. They made me human and helped her realize that we’re not so different. I created a safe harbor for her to take refuge in when seas are stormy. Will she use it? Time will tell, but I am optimistic. She’s a great kid.
The fact that I own my story is what allowed me to tell it to her. I’m not afraid of her thinking less of me. I know she’ll think more of me because I am willing to take what I have learned and use it to help her. Regardless of how I’ve learned it. Loving yourself enough to be vulnerable is a game changer folks.
She came to me later and said, “Daddy, I have some solutions on how I can get better at reading.” A girl after my own heart 🙂