Before I came to CoDA, I had nowhere to go with my panic and despair. When I found out that my daughter was cutting herself and becoming obsessed with suicide, I was blown away. It was just a couple of days after she’d found out that the boy she liked didn’t like her. She was heartbroken. That was when the depression and the cutting began. It’s been a long road since those early days of my then 17-year-old daughter’s suicidal ideation (she’s 20 now). We got her in therapy, and she has a psychiatrist prescribing her meds. Schizophrenia runs in my family, so it’s been a profoundly terrifying experience seeing our daughter in despair. I have spent most of my life walling my feelings off so I won’t get hurt again. My father’s descent into alcoholism, drug addiction, and brutality had nearly destroyed my ability to trust anyone. But with my marriage and our beautiful daughters, my heart has split wide open. I love them with an open heart, a vulnerable soul.
Since coming to CoDA, I’ve been learning lots of tools, based on the steps and patterns for coping with my daughter’s mental illness and basic life struggles. First of all, I know I have an almost overpowering tendency to want to fix her when she’s descending into misery. So, I ply her with unsolicited advice. When she rejects it, I get angry. That just makes her cry more and I spiral into worse despair. CoDA and my loving sponsor are teaching me to let her think and feel what she wants. I don’t need to control her moods, even if I am afraid. I can now listen and let her voice her problems if she’s willing. Otherwise, I can bring her tea and make her smoothies and take her to her favorite restaurant. I am learning how to “be there for her” and love her no matter what. I don’t have to panic when the emotional flashbacks hit me in reaction to signs of her depression. I don’t have to lose myself in misery to be the best Dad I can be, even when she’s suffering.
Jim H. 1/8/22