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Hi everyone! I want to share my experiences with addiction, mental health, and being a father. My name is Nick and I was born and raised in Erie, PA. Currently, I’m a father of two adorable daughters (Addie and Mariyn). My addiction started back in high school when I wasn’t really old enough to put a label on it. My drug of choice was originally Vicodin/Opana which later evolved into heroin. Here, I will be going over the journey along with the lingering mental health issues that have carried over into fatherhood.
No one really plans to be an addict or thinks that it’ll ever happen to them until it does. I didn’t have a tragic childhood and I always made the best with what I had. I started primarily using more than marijuana after my mom passed when I was 17 years old. At that time, I never considered myself an “addict” because I didn’t feel like I was hurting anyone at the time and kept it pretty “hush hush” so I didn’t see a problem.
After a while, I noticed the more that I got stressed with college that I wanted to take more. This is exactly what I did until it became and everyday event to use. When I ran out of Vicodin and whatever else I could get my hands on I switched to heroin. Heroin took me from a pretty decent path to the absolute lowest part of my life.
Addiction to Heroin
I did whatever I could to maintain my addiction for 4-5 years. I would sell whatever I could, take advantage of who ever, and hurt a lot of people during that time. The people I spent the majority of my time with did not want more out of their lives. In retrospect, I completely understand the phrase “you are who you spend your time with” and isolated myself from the friends who I knew would hold me accountable.
I decided to get clean in December of 2016 and finally took my life back. I went to rehab and started to work the AA/NA programs. All of the people who had 2+ years of sobriety looked so happy and I knew that’s exactly what I wanted. They didn’t wake up anymore being disappointed they survived the night, or upset they had to chase drugs every morning. Recovery and the programs, while very effective, weren’t a “magic bullet” that just made my addiction disappear, however.
The mental health aspect of addiction isn’t something you really think of at the start of recovery. This is due to the fact that usually you’re focused on cleaning up the mess of your past. When I got clean, I was able to recognize that I lacked the ability to hold myself accountable and made excuses for almost everything I did for the majority of my adult life. Everyone else was the problem, but I wasn’t. It took time, and everyone struggles with it at times. However, the moment I learned how to hold myself accountable I noticed that the relationships that I was building and attempting to rebuild became stronger, and more genuine.
My addiction would also manifests itself into other aspects of my life. Even today, when I get involved into something (hobby, work, etc) I get extremely involved into it. I notice that I crave the endorphins that the activity provides. Whether it’s cleaning the house 3+ times in a day, or eventually burning myself out at work, I crave the feelings of completing tasks. While those are positive manifestations, some negative manifestations I’ve noticed is with food/energy drinks and hobbies. I can go a few weeks without something and it takes only one time where I’m having an energy drink or fast food every day for a month. I will even get involved in something new and spend more time than I should with it.
My greatest achievement in this life has been the opportunity to be a father to my two beautiful daughters and have the ability to be a healthy partner. Now, I will find that my addiction does manifest itself into areas of being a father as well. This has led me to taking extra care and precautions to keep those things in check.
Being an addict and a parent means that we have to keep an eye on our children as they get older and start to develop/interact with other children. We need to be able to catch the signs of addiction early. Additionally, we need to teach and model to our children good habits and coping mechanisms.
Some Signs That We Will Need To Watch Out For Are:
- A sign of lack of self control, including rapidly shifting moods
- Impulsive and willful behavior
- Relatively high levels of negative emotions
- Less conscientiousness and less social agreeability compared to peers
Overcoming Addiction and Prevention
One of the biggest things that helped me with addiction was having a solid relationship with counseling. During my sessions, my therapists pushed me and would hold me accountable when I needed it most. Other tips to consider with overcoming addictions can be found here.
One other thing to note is the fact is addiction being prevalent in both of our families. This is something that we want to be able to catch and manage before our children reach an age where they could potentially go down the same original path that I went down.
As a preventative measure, my partner and I both feel strongly about enrolling our kids into counseling from early age. The hope is that this will help our daughters navigate their emotions in a healthy manner. For other tips regarding counseling for children, check them out here.
Being an addict, I had absolutely nothing to live for and when I became a father everything shifted. I came from having nothing but the clothes on my back entering rehab to a few short years later having everything I could possibly want by making a few compounding good choices. I was fortunate to meet an amazing partner who pushes me to be the best version of me on a daily basis, and two daughters to remind me why I’m doing it.
In conclusion, some things to take away from this post:
- Be self-aware – know what makes you tick and what your character defects are
- Seek counseling – Develop a good relationship with counseling to help work on those defects
- Be transparent – With both your children and your partner, vocalize when you’re having cravings or not feeling well
- Network – Attend meetings and meet people who all have the same goal in mind
Mental health, addiction, and being a parent are three difficult things to juggle. However, understanding yourself, your needs, and your character defects can make that less of a juggling act and more of a balancing act.