New Directions for Women presents From Addiction to Recovery, Inspirational Stories of Courage.
I’m Don Wilson. My daughter is a recovering alcoholic. I would like to tell you my story because I believe it has an importance for other fathers and family members. My daughter has been using, abusing substances since she was a teenager. We found this out, as many parents do, through some hard lessons. It took a while for us to decide what to do. We went to different treatment programs. We tried different ways of coping, different ways of behavior. It all came to a head basically when she was in her mid 20s and she decided that she wanted to live on the streets for a while. For all we knew, it could’ve been forever.
Through eventually some intervention, we came to the point where it seemed like she was willing at times to make a recovery, make some recovery. As a parent, we were always going through the ups and downs, the craziness of a child who’s within the throes of addiction. Eventually, what turned it around was obviously she’s been in and out of the justice system throughout her recovery. It looked like there wasn’t going to be any hope after a period of about two years on the street in Las Vegas. Finally, at some point between my wife and I, we researched treatment centers that were specific to women and specifically to young women who had gone through a lot of this. We came upon New Directions. This was probably in probably around 2002 or ‘03. At that point, we felt that we really had somebody that we could really trust who would address her problems.
Ironically, as we got into more of the treatment program, it became abundantly clear that this truly was a family disease. I think what you find when you go through this process is that addiction is not just the disease of the addict but a disease of the whole family. The addict has a part in this, but the family has a part in this too, obviously. The focus wasn’t just on my daughter, but the focus was on us. The great thing about the treatment program we went through at New Directions was that they gave us the tools, they taught us the tools that we needed to use to go forward and work with our daughter. That happened not just because of her willingness but of the great staff that were there and of their commitment.
I think I’d be remiss in not mentioning that they are so encouraging, and the biggest encouragement was to really go through the 12 step programs that brought you here in the first place in some cases because it’s very hard initially to want to go into any 12 step room and admit that you have a problem or that someone you know has a problem. The Al-Anon program really started to change my attitude about addiction and about substance abuse. It’s New Directions that gave us the tools to learn about addiction, to learn about ways of working with others. One of the key elements was having a 12 step program of your own, which is a hard thing to do because you recognize that initially, what does this have to do with me? What role did I play in this? She’s the addict, I’m not the addict. You soon realize that there is more to it than that. You find out that you can make choices that are good for you as well, and you can have a happy outcome to things.
I must say that because of that, I believe that my daughter is in a place where I wouldn’t have thought she could’ve been. This is 10 years later. She’s been in recovery, again as I say, since she was a teenager, but this last period of recovery is the most remarkable yet. She’s probably been about three years sober. More importantly, she has a whole new outlook on life, a whole new attitude about life. She’s a mom. She went through New Directions with a child and stayed. She’s made her recovery with her daughter, and that’s been a great thing to watch. It’s been a very heartfelt endeavor on her part, I’m sure. She’s stayed with it, and she’s in a recovery program that I believe is what she really strives for.
I feel that recovery is a lifelong journey, and she knows that too now. I think most of the time parents think that once they get to a certain point, that that’s it and things will be fine. You can’t just absorb that as something that you have an outcome that you think is going to be there and it isn’t. There have been many ups and downs in her recovery, certainly for herself but for our family. I believe that those ups and downs are part of the process. You’re going to have parts of it that obviously you’re not going to understand, but the more you stay with your recovery, your own recovery, the greater I believe the chance is of success for her recovery and a renewed sense of life, I think, that you have. You come with a new attitude about not only what addiction is but I think how we all are approaching the acceptance of people in our society who have been addicted and still are.
It’s a problem that I think is certainly one that is in the news a lot today, but what isn’t given a lot of credence, I guess, is that there are many, many parents like myself who have stayed with recovery in a program of their own and they have been successful in helping their addicts. With that, I really want to thank everyone that’s been helping me along the way, my sponsor Al-Anon, and all of the people at New Directions, and certainly my family and friends.
I would say that you really have to be patient. You have to learn everything you can about addiction, learn everything you can about the disease. It is a disease, and the most important thing you have to recognize is that it’s a family disease. It’s not just one person’s disease. It becomes a family disease that you can make a difference in that person’s recovery. I think that evidence has pointed out that those family members who do willingly enter into recovery and have a program of their own, the outcome is immensely better for the addict, for the recovery of that person. That would be my message to fathers who are struggling with their own daughters of addiction.