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My son messaged me earlier on Facebook and was commenting on one of my articles that I had written for a magazine publication recently. The conversation started by him asking “dad, did that story really happen? Or was this just kind of a thing that you made up, to submit for this magazine you wanted to get published in?”

He went on to tell me how proud he was of me, and that he loves the insight that my articles give him into my past life in active addiction. I had not given it much thought recently, or maybe it was really too painful of a subject for me to have given much thought to at all….ever.

The way he said it almost made me feel like he was learning about a complete stranger. That although I am his Father, and we are close now, and love each other deeply, he was for the first time getting to know that part of his dad. He is almost twenty-one now.

So I began to ponder the thought, and my instincts were right. That is exactly what he was doing. For the first almost twenty years of his life, with the exception of a few months here and there every year, I was a stranger.

Although a Father, definitely not a dad!

Ouch. And it still hurts to this very day when I have to admit that, but no sense being shy now!

I am so blessed to have him in my life. I am so blessed, that the love a son has for his dad, can be as strong and nonjudgmental. As the love my heavenly Father has for me, and vice versa.

So I went on to try and explain to him about what compels me to write, and the thought processes, and ideas that drive me to do it.

A good portion of what is to come next I have taken out of that actual Facebook conversation and included it in this essay. I ended our conversation letting him know I was going to do this, wished him all my love, and told him he had just inspired his dad’s next article.

Our talk went much like this.

“It is definitely real talk buddy, things I am finding out that so many wish they could say but can’t either find the words for, or don’t have the courage to put out there, for fear of being judged or discarded.”

“What they fail to realize, is that what they have to say could be the very thing that motivates the still suffering addict to get help, possibly saving their life. If only one person ever gets a shot at this new life because of what I write, then that in itself, is a huge blessing.”

“If none get help, yet gain insight like you described, into what it’s really like for an addict to go through this, then it is a huge blessing and helps to reduce the enormous stigma that surrounds those addicted to drugs.”

“People do not realize, nor understand, that the majority of those abusing substances want to quit and cannot. Not all give it the effort needed mind you, but people need to know that it is possible for someone to do everything in their power to beat this disease and try to stop using, but it kills them anyways.”

“No non-addicted person can begin to understand the helpless, worthless, I can’t win even when I try, feeling, that some addicts experience who truly want to quit. Even words hardly can do justice in trying to explain that.”

“That is why so many including myself, out of sheer frustration, and for knowing you gave it your best shot over and over again, resort to suicide to escape the disease.”

“It is tragic, but having been in that dark place and trying suicide two times and failing, then succeeding at beating this, I am here to tell them to hold the fuck on a minute and breathe because maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel that we all missed.”

“So I share about being in their darkness, and how I got here to the light. In hopes, I can lead at least one to the light with me. I have taken it all and waged a personal war against the disease of addiction.”

“Seeing it as my physical, tangible enemy on the battlefield, I am trying to recruit addicts to join this hypothetical army, to see the disease in this way, and help me to rescue those it is holding as prisoners of this war, the addict who is still suffering.”

“That way instead of this all illusive, all mighty, omnipresent disease that we are taught in treatment centers that we can never put a face or a name too, or that only one out of a hundred of us are ever going to be able to beat, I try and offer a much more helpful, although very abstract approach, all can relate too. Then they have something to fight against, a tangible enemy, somewhere to direct their anger and resentments. It gives addicts the opportunity to stand tall, suit up for battle every morning so we can go after the disease, instead of it always coming after us!”

“So we can train together to be an elite fighting squad, that makes the disease of addiction cringe, every time it hears our boots marching towards it to do battle!”

“That is what drives and motivates me son, and it is still a work in progress, but it’s helped some I know already. It has helped them finally feel like for the first time they could actually take the upper hand on their addiction and have a reason to fight. I think it could be a new way to approach this epidemic.”




  1. I love how open and honest you were with your son. The truth of your addiction is indeed a gift to him, highlighting your internal struggle while giving him perpspective as to who you truly are. I’m stand right behind you soldiering on daily in the fight to battle Addiction!

    • Erika R Unberhagen Reply

      Precisely the reason I do what I do. It is a battle in which many lose their lives. It is the survivors that are willing to share their stories that garner more soldiers into the battlefield in hopes that others may live.

  2. I have taken a similar approach with my 2 young sons. They are 9 and 10 now. Almost all of their life they have seen only their father in active addiction. When I first came out of the first facility I was admitted into I took a walk with them around the neighborhood where we are living with family.

    I told them why I went into the hospital. No lies, no more bullshit. “your father is addicted to drugs, i am an addict”. I share that I go to meetings, that is what has changed my life for the better and that I have hope for the future now.

    I have a lot of work to do rebuilding their trust and respect but today, with honesty I can look them in the eyes and tell them who I am. I may not be proud of my past but I accept it and make each 24 hours count as best I can.

    I am a work in progress, but today I am making progress.

    Thank your for your article and the message you bring forth into the light.

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