We’re coming up on Father’s Day, and for some, this is a wonderful opportunity to recognize their first hero, their first confidante, or their primary example of “the good guy.” For others, it might mean having to face someone whose trust was lost because of addiction. And for others, it may mean reconciling with the repercussions of not having such an important figure their lives.
I have the pleasure of watching my son and his evolving relationships with his dad and step-dad. I am fortunate to bear witness to their triumphs and struggles, wins and losses, laughter and tears. I understand the inherent value of a healthy, positive father-son relationship, and do all I can do encourage it.
I was intrigued by this interesting article posted by the Georgia Psychological Association, where Dr. Williams writes about the varying stages of father-son relationships. He says boys often idolize their dads as children, “experience a period of discord” in their teens, begin to evolve as young adults, move into acceptance in their 30s-40s, and eventually “become a legacy of their father’s influence for better and worse” when they reach their 50s and beyond. Seeing my son step onto the path to maturation, I am keenly aware of the need to develop positive habits, some of which need to learned from his father(s). In his case, I am hopeful for a virtuous legacy.
The dynamic between dads and daughters is compelling: Some say girls grow up to marry a version of their dads, while others might carry the nomenclature of “Daddy’s Little Girl” well into their adulthood. There are those, too, who take on the mother figure when mom is absent and dad is left to raise the family on his own. Lastly, there are those whose fathers bailed out, leaving their daughters bereft of a solid, male figurehead. Clearly, things can get complicated. How we manage the complications and find ways to make them palatable is where our recovery work comes in. As a woman whose relationship with my father is tenuous at best, the tools of my recovery have become invaluable. Learning to let go, learning not to take things personally, learning to remove the ego from the pain of abandonment, and learning to accept that I am sufficient, have become essential. Without these factors, I risk drowning in emotion, a perilous position for any alcoholic/addict.
So, regardless of your relationship with your dad, be it adoring or nebulous, being in recovery gives us the opportunity to develop some kindness and compassion and teaches us how to put it all to good use. (This may actually mean setting a boundary and showing compassion to yourself in some cases!). As we work the steps, we are given the opportunity to change our unskillful behaviors through taking action. After inventories, which require inward reflections, we begin to change our viewpoint and begin taking the appropriate actions toward making positive changes in our relationships with others. It’s the beginning of a lifelong process that teaches us to lesson our expectations, which ultimately increases our ability to accept things as they are.
May this this Father’s Day bring some healing to your hearts and lives. And may you celebrate with an open heart and a compassionate mind, one breath at a time.