My husband, Joe, will be celebrating his 35th Father’s Day.
Among all 35, one stands out as a turning point.
The night -more than a dozen years ago – that our son, who was struggling with a fierce addiction to alcohol and opioids, showed up at our front door in a thunderstorm and asked us to help him get help.
That night was an answer to many years of prayer. It marked the beginning of his decision to fully commit to a life of recovery.
“A Father’s Day Deal”
Excerpted from Unchained: Our Family’s Addiction Mess Is Our Message
I was waiting for God to answer some prayers.
Father’s Day was a few days after I got home from the hospital. The girls and I gave Joe presents and cards, and we all had breakfast and dinner together. No one spoke of JP. We just enjoyed Joe’s special day.
After dinner, a powerful thunderstorm blew in. It was almost 10 p.m. when we heard a knock at the front door. There in the glass window standing soaking wet was JP.
I knew, just as sure as I knew my own name, that his arrival was the answer to prayer.
He said he wanted to talk to us. He didn’t want to come in the house. He asked us to join him outside on the stone porch in the front of the house.
It was very dark out, and the rain was coming down in sheets. The three of us sat together on white wicker chairs, sheltered by the big porch roof held up by 100-year-old fieldstone walls and columns as thunder crashed overhead. Somehow it felt safe for all of us.
Even in the darkness, I could see JP was thin and broken.
“I need help,” he said in a soft voice. “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to go to rehab. I’ve done that already. I know what I need to do. I just want to go to detox and back to meetings.”
I don’t remember showing up at my parents’ house to ask for help. But I do remember the feelings that I had right before going to detox again. I had come to the realization that my life was falling apart.
I had not taken drugs or alcohol for a couple of days, so a window into the pain, anguish, and heartache I was running from started to open. Without the substances in my body, the reality of everything that had taken place started to set in. I had raw emotions. My nerves felt like I was having teeth drilled without novocaine.
Back then I prided myself on not crying and not showing my emotions. And I cried for a good three hours before I got on the plane. The general state that I was in was broken. It was like the foundation of a house that has been demolished. Little remained of who I had once been years before.
I was empty and drained. I knew that when I was in Florida before, I had been sober for a period of time, and although I really didn’t do shit to stay sober, there was a part of me there that was alive. I wanted to get in touch with that part of me again.
But I wanted to do things my way—even though, as evidenced by the last two years, my way obviously didn’t work. I still wanted to do things my way. I thought I knew best.
I wound up making a deal with my parents and going to Florida for detox.
It was very late, and we needed to move quickly. We called the treatment center, arranged for a bed in the detox, worked out the finances, and booked a flight for the next morning.
Like an O. Henry story, Father’s Day ended with an unexpected twist: our son showing up at the door with some willingness. Joe responded to his son’s request for help with unconditional love—the essence of Father’s Day, really, a tremendous gift.
As I lay in bed in the dark with the storm outside and my husband and all four of my children safely inside, I felt a lot of gratitude—another unexpected gift—for answered prayer.