Fatherhood and Sobriety

The Presence of Children

What it was Like

When I was actively drinking, the last thing I wanted was to be present for my children. That’s one of the worst things to come from my inventory; the fact that I couldn’t wait for my kids to go home or go to bed when they stayed with me, so I could keep drinking. Sometimes I’d be drunk when driving them home. Or when cooking them dinner. Or I’d be having a fit because my daughter was refusing to stay asleep and she was killing my buzz.

Needless to say, I wasn’t a very present father.

When I was still with the mother of my youngest, I remember leaving the baby swaddled in a bed, tucked between pillows so he wouldn’t roll around, and I’d be in the den playing video games and getting trashed. I remember leaving my oldest alone in the house at night so I could drive to the store and buy more beer. Or stalk his mom at work, to confirm my suspicions of having an affair.

Looking back on this, I should have been arrested for my neglect. I realize now that I was in the throes of an illness I didn’t understand at the time, and would take another ten years to figure out when I finally returned to AA.


Because most of my time as a father has been as a single parent, isolation was a big part of my story. The children always came back clean, and fed, and cared for, so nobody had any reason to suspect that I wasn’t present, at least not emotionally. I spent so much time going through the motions of care, while being so self absorbed, that I couldn’t muster the energy to provide emotional support.

Not even to myself.

How could I manage to give my kids what I couldn’t give myself?

I didn’t.

In isolation, tucked away in a small apartment, I fed the kids, bathed them, changed the diapers, and then stuck them in front of the TV or on a tablet while I hid in the kitchen nursing beer after beer. Staying coherent enough to ensure relative safety, but never truly being there. It’s a monumental regret of mine. One that I struggle with overcoming.

But I know if I work it, I can get there. Through amends to my children, the past behavior is changing and I’m slowly becoming the father I want to be.

What it’s Like Today

I took my children to a birthday party for a friend from daycare yesterday. I didn’t know these people and was scared to death of putting myself out there, but I went anyway. Hiccup was super excited to see his friend and I was present enough to enjoy myself and allow my two year old to engage.

Afterward, I helped Starbuck put her make up on so she could look like Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony, to go on a Trick or Treat Tromp in town.

I never used to appreciate these little things. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have cared that my oldest had a super cool plague doctor costume. I wouldn’t have bothered with the birthday party, and the make up would have been a no go. Just because it was too much work for me.

I’m happy I can say that these short examples are not the first occurrences of a renewed presence, but an accumulation of a year and a half of renewed self care and a love of myself. These kids deserve a father, not a drunk. Day by day I’m becoming more of that father and less of the alcoholic.

That’s a great feeling to have.


Joshua admitted his life had become unmanageable on April 24, 2016. He regularly attends A.A. meetings and by the grace of God, is allowed to pour his heart and soul into co-parenting his three children.