A Special Day Only Made Possible by Change

Family at home birthday party

April 25th was a special day for me. It was my dad’s birthday, and there isn’t anyone in my life that were more instrumental in me turning my life around than my parents. I sent my dad a text that morning and then called him in the afternoon. I don’t live in my hometown anymore, and with the COVID-19 situation I knew there was no chance I could travel and be with him for his birthday. That didn’t prevent it from being a very special day for the both of us. You see, for the better part of the last two decades I would wish my dad a happy birthday on this day, yet it always came with a sadness inside of me. It was hard for me to wish my dad happiness when I continued to live in a way that brought so much pain to my family.

I couldn’t help but reflect on this during our conversation. There was something about that call, something that could only be felt once myself and my family had finally been freed from addiction. There was a sincerity in our words, an overwhelming sense of gratitude that our family had truly healed in the year and months since my life turned a corner away from addiction. My dad was proud of me, and it wasn’t just words. He was genuinely proud of the work I had done to clean up my life and the work I am currently doing to help others find their own solutions to overcoming drug addiction.

For years on end I made promises I didn’t keep. I insisted, even in the worst of times, that I was doing better and that my life was okay. I laid out plans and a future for myself, repeatedly, that included me cleaning up my life. It was like my life was a broken record of empty promises, unrealized dreams, and failed potential. My dad went through this with me, always willing to get me help and looking for solutions. My parents were my rock and foundation when my own had completely shattered away and deteriorated. Perhaps this is the reason I always felt pain on times of celebration like birthdays. I wasn’t doing my part. I could say the words happy birthday, but I knew there was nothing I could do in order to make my dad happier than to give him his son back, and as long as I kept that from him and my mom and our family, there would always be an emptiness attached to things like birthdays and holidays.

It’s quite remarkable to me how something as seemingly simple as wishing my dad a happy birthday could carry so much weight now that I’ve made the changes that I always promised I would make. I have cleaned up my life, I have begun living in a way that makes my family proud. My parents refused to give up on me during a time when I had begun losing all hope. They remained patient and steadfast in their love for me even when I gave them every reason to lose faith. Without their support I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to call my dad and wish him a happy birthday from the son he always knew I could be. A son who has finally found his way, his drive and ambition again, his compassion again, his love for life again. Happy Birthday dad. I love you.

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Justin has been working in the field of addiction and recovery for over 1 year. Justin earned his Bachelors's Degree in Finance from Florida State University. Having been an addict himself, he brings real-world experience to the table when helping addicts and their families, while also offering a first-person perspective to the current drug crisis. Justin is passionate about educating the public about what’s currently going on in our society, and thankfully, offers practical solutions.