One question I get a lot is: “Why did you become a peer parent?” Initially, it was a bit of a tough decision, but as I’ve thought retrospectively about why I became a peer parent, that’s come into more focus.

My journey – or my family’s journey – through addiction is going on 6+ years, but really only in the last two years has it come into focus. Two years ago, I had no idea what Alanon was. I had no idea what a support group was and I felt completely alone and isolated. 

But once I started in Alanon, and once I actually finished the 12 steps, and once I realized that I sort of was in the position where I could pay it forward and give back, and this opportunity to become a peer parent came across my desk, so to speak, I jumped at it because I just felt that the timing was right. I’ve said to myself before, you know, “Oh, I’ll just wait until situation X, Y, Z is perfect. Or I just need to wait until 123 sort of lines up.” And I realized that I was kidding myself. That nothing’s ever going to be the perfect timing. I realized that I needed to jump in and pay it forward and give back, so that’s why I decided to become a peer parent 

In terms of my journey getting here, it’s been long. My son has been dealing with addiction since 2016, but really only in 2020, did it start to come into focus.

It started slowly, but when he was in college  –  after multiple emergency room visits and multiple trips to psychiatric wards and suicidal ideation – it just started to rip our family apart. It started to impact my life, my health, my thoughts. I couldn’t sleep. It was terrible. 

At first, I felt alone. And so once I realized that there were other people out there that had walked a mile or more in my shoes, I realized that my journey was sort of at the tip of the iceberg. People and some families have been dealing with this generationally for two and three and four generations with alcoholism or addiction, or some sort of mental health disorder is genetically passed through generations upon generations.

So my journey was relatively young, if you want to use that word, but it was no less traumatic. It was no less impactful. Thank God that we were able to find support. We were able to be vulnerable. We were able to start sharing because once we started sharing and we realized that other people had been there, they’ve felt the pain, they understood the message, and they understood the kind of message to deliver to us. It was incredibly helpful and cathartic and supportive. 

Some people say, “Has there been anything that surprised you along the way?” And I would say absolutely. I mean, when I first started joining family support groups – and support groups in general – first of all, I was a little bit upset.

I was kind of mad. I was like, “Well, why do I need to invest my time reading books and thinking about myself and validating feelings?” I mean, all of this was not about me. It was about my son. “I needed to get my son well. I needed to fix my son.” The groups shining a light on me was something that I just didn’t appreciate.

And it didn’t register. But I reluctantly, on some levels, joined Alanon before I found Other Parents Like Me. And before I found this new aspect of a family support group – that’s been so important in my life – what I started to realize was that I did need support. I needed help.

I learned to ask the question, “What’s my part in it?” right? It always takes two to tango. It’s a two way street for everything in life. And even though my son had ADHD, had depression, had anxiety, had substance use disorder over the course of 2, 3, 4, 6 years, that started to impact me. As I learned more and more and more about myself, I realized that some of the ways that I would interact and engage with my own wife, with my own children, including my son, my qualifier, that it wasn’t always the healthiest best way to interact.

The other big thing that surprised me is that when you start to go down some of these pathways towards reflection and towards healing and towards introspection, I learned that for me – my higher power I call God – I have always had God in my life. But the truth of the matter is that for the last 53 out of my 55 years on this Earth, I was kind of “mailing it in.” I was going to church and I was talking with God, you know, only when I needed to, only when I wanted to.

And so the spiritual rebirth part of this journey – that continuity and that being in touch with the God of your choice, the God of your calling. When people talk about spiritual rebirth, I didn’t necessarily believe in it 12 or 24 months ago, but for me it’s absolutely and remarkably true. 

So those two things are probably the most surprising things along the way – that I do and have played a role in all of this, and so the light needs to be shown and focused on me. And in terms of a sincere spiritual rebirth for me, that couldn’t be any more true.