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August 07 • Like Father...Please

Day 760

My son said this would be a good post. I was less enthusiastic about the idea, but here goes.

He and I were on the back-half of a two-day drive heading back home to Indiana from Detroit. Trying to get in 18-holes before having to turn in the rental car, we left the hotel earlier than I had anticipated, and it looked like I was not going to be able to Zoom into an SAA morning meeting that I try never to miss. I had mumbled something to that effect when I realized it the night before, but let it go easily and hadn't thought much more about it.

At 7:55, my son suggests from the driver's seat that he would turn the music down and be quiet if I wanted to try to get online and make the meeting. I had not considered doing that in front of him. I had headphones, so at least I could do it without violating the group's anonymity. Running out of excuses, I fired up the laptop, set my phone to hotspot mode, and logged in just as the chair began the welcome.

It's one thing to listen with someone in the car, but another thing to speak. My son and I have had too few conversations about my sexual addiction, although he knows about it from a family disclosure and updates from my wife. But sharing in front of him? I wasn't ready for that, and I doubted that he was. I sent a chat message to everyone thanking them for letting me just listen today, and settled in with my ear pods.

There was a long pause caused by the lack of a volunteer to read the "How it Works" script. While rationalizing that it would be harmless to do that in this situation, I instinctively clicked the mute button off and began reading. I finished, clicked back into mute mode, stared out my window, wondered what my son was thinking, and took comfort in knowing that I could sit quietly the rest of the way.

The topic that was offered for the day was about the traps and tricks of getting back into old routines in a healthy way. The fellow who offered the subject was about to trade his old flip-phone for a smartphone and was anxious about his ability to control himself with access to the wide world of shit he needs to avoid. Two or three other guys shared their experience, strength, and hope, and almost everything they said pushed me to at least acknowledge the timing and offer some encouragement. I wrote about this two days ago (Men 2 Boyz), so I will not repeat all the anxieties here, but this whole trip was all about me being back in harmless real-world situations that I used to abuse for my addiction. My fears and my perseverance had been well-survived, and there was experience there that could speak to another. So I swallowed hard, unmuted, told the group that my son could hear me but not them, and shared what I thought was appropriate. I did not sugar coat it for my in-person audience of one. I was surprised that I did not.

The next fifteen minutes were brutal as I tried to listen to the other shares. All I could easily think of was trying to remember what I said, what my son heard, were those two things the same, and what the hell will I say when the meeting is over.

The meeting was over sooner than expected when we drove through an area with no cell signal and my screen locked-up. The next thirty seconds lasted every bit of an hour before I finally confessed that I did not know what to say, and I apologized for the awkward moment.

"What awkward moment? There was nothing awkward here."

I thanked him for that and assured him that it had been plenty uncomfortable in my half of the car for both of us. He wanted to know why in the same sly way a counselor might ask a question to which they already know the answer. I told him that my image machine was in high gear and that I was distressed at how much I was worried about what he thought of his father. I also asked him not to respond because I could not properly process anything he might want to say as an encouragement, and I really couldn't handle it if he said anything that was not an encouragement. I love my son's honesty, and in that moment, he spoke it in complete silence. He did not seem to be in a negative space at all, so apparently, I was once again making everything about me.

We talked around the edges for a while, then he put in the audiobook that we started on the way up, and the highway continued to pass by under our wheels.

As uncomfortable as I had been, I was again able to release it pretty quickly. I mention that because I do not want to forget what a piece of progress that is. A few years ago, this interaction would have put me into a tizzy for a couple of days. It may not have shown, but I would have been miserable.

In this case, I settled down enough to shoot the best golf I've played in a few years on a course I'd never seen. Still, I had to hit a putt on the last hole to keep my losses to my boy at ten bucks. He seemed completely free of any need to play sympathy golf.

Or did he?? Damnit!



I'm a cowboy, an outlaw, an ace with a gun

A preacher, a teacher, a seeker of fun

The scariest thing that I've ever done

Is taking my place among fathers and sons

–High Valley, “Fathers and Sons”



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