If I had to choose one word for today, it would be bewildered.

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Confused and indecisive. Puzzled.

And that’s how I felt leaving my first one-on-one session with my psychotherapist (who I love). It started off simply enough then took the most wicked u-turn and we were suddenly standing on my father’s grave with all my regrets and disappointments spilling out of me.

My memory of the session is choppy at best, feeling eerily familiar to every day before rehab, when I was too hung-over or freshly drunk to remember what I had said or done the night before. Absolutely bewildered, puzzled how I got there and completely confused as to what the hell was happening.

Now 6 days sober (but the valium isn’t helping) – the fog can only be attributed to my heart and my mind re-learning the new language of sobriety. Emotions are falling out of me like candy from a well-beaten piñata.

My Dad. In a nutshell, the simple question she asked was how I felt about my Dad and what regrets I have.

The words “I disappointed him” fell from my lips and that’s when I pretty much lost it.

Scratch the “pretty much” part.

I totally lost it.

This, I know, is going to be a very big part of my healing here. Grieving. Forgiving. Accepting. And, I am not very good at any of those things.

I’ll never forget the night my Mom called to say it was time to come home as he’d taken a turn for the worse. Of course I was in no shape to drive, it was 10pm and I had at least 3 Litres of wine in me by that time.

Two of my best friends had just arrived from my hometown, where he was – after driving several hours and walked through the door the moment the phone rang. Without a second thought they had me in their car and we were flying through the thickest fog (of course) at speed limits that were dangerous but necessary.

The weeks and months leading up to this I had promised myself I was going to clear the air with him, and whether he was coherent enough to understand it, I would forgive him and ask for his forgiveness of me, in return.

About 30 minutes from the hospital, in the backseat of the car, I felt something physically lift from me. The closest I can describe it is as though I became unstitched. Everything became looser, like a corset being undone that had been strung up too tight for too long.

I asked my friend to slow down, because he was gone.

I knew it.

With every ounce of my being I knew, and felt, the exact moment my Dad passed away.

And with him in that moment went the last chance I had to give him those words that were waiting in line behind my pride for so many months. Like anxious children they nagged me every day – are we there yet?

And we never were, and in that moment I knew, they never would be.

So they crawled back inside me, finding a way to multiply, fertilized with addiction and watered with wine. Both existed before then, but this new crater inside me had made room for more. And more. And more.

The thing is, you think you have time.

I had spent several years not speaking with my Dad growing up – moving out early because of his infidelity and shaming him for things I wish I had known more about at the time. But we didn’t talk.

We’d just trip over the issues every time we walked across the room, as it all piled up beneath the carpet every problem was swept under. Years of unspoken everythings and both our egos too proud to throw out the carpet and sweep it all out the door.

Years wasted. Things unsaid. The belligerence of time in that it insists on going in only one direction, filling it’s bags with what-if’s along the way.

So I have a project.

A letter to my father. And I’m to write a little on it every day, as I go through the next 3 weeks here in rehab. Every happy memory, every wish, every disappointment, every question I never asked. A chance to ask why he did what he did, and to be angry at him and myself for having repeated his sins 20-some-odd years later. To tell him I’m proud and upset, that I miss him and every little thing in between.

And there’s so many in betweens.

To finally let those nagging little words that sat so patiently in my throat for so long know that yes – we have, at last, arrived. 

On the final day of rehab, before I climb back on the plane to begin the hardest part of this journey – learning to live day to day – we are placing that likely to be 20 page letter in a bottle, and like the fisherman my father was – sending it out to sea.



Written by SJ VanDee

Recovery Blogger. Sober AF. Photographer. Storyteller. Writer.


  1. Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment-Rumi
    I’ll have yet to fully grieve my father’s passing 1991 I didn’t really know him but I know I disappointed him.
    I think he was okay with me though cause his opportunity to have an influence on me was taken from him
    Thanks, Shawn-Wishing you strength and courage

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much xo I don’t think, even after grieving, you are ever done grieving. That’s the thing with grief. It just moved in. How much room you let it take though, I guess that’s up to us and how much room we allow it in our lives. I’m hoping to make that grief share a room with gratitude one day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The letter is a great idea, I believe it will help. I had issues with my Dad too. For many years after he passed away I had crazy dreams. He was always drunk and we fought. He was rarely drunk in reality. I was the drunk. When I stopped drinking, those dreams faded away.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So happy to hear those dreams left you. I dream of my Dad a LOT – and again what happens in them is so warped. Hoping to start writing it tonight. I feel I want 10 more hours in a day to do what I need / want to do while I’m here. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself, but it’s there LOL

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Good for you. I hope it helped bring you some relief. I’m hoping for the same – and admittedly I haven’t started the letter yet. But, I’ve written much of it in my head already (which I’m certain will come out quite differently when I put pen to paper). Hopefully a little bit tonight, and every night while I’m here. I think letting it sink in for a couple days that I’m going to do this has helped me sort through a few things before I start (that’s what I’m telling myself anyhow…or perhaps I’m just procrastinating LOL)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If Valium isn’t working, that should should be another “wow, am I a mess” signal (not that you need another).

    I was required to take one Valium before I got snipped and I can tell you, when you’re finally off ALL of that crap, Valium is some fairly powerful stuff. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree (and sorry about the snipping). I’ve asked for them to give me the valium at night earlier now – they’ve been giving it to me at 9:30 for lights out at 10 – but it’s not doing anything. I’ve had a sleep disorder for as long as I can go (even before I was drinking VERY heavily – like 25 years ago)…so I’m trying to retrain a lot of things right now.


  4. Regrets. I’ve had a few.

    And they suck. The one regret I don’t have is that both my Dad and Adam knew how much I loved them. I held them both as they died. I am lucky in that regard. I now make it a point to constantly tell the ones I love how much they mean to me. No more “I wish I had done this, I wish I had done that.”

    I think you are further along than Adam was at this stage of rehab. He was not yet willing to throw it all out there. That’s what he needed, and what you are doing. It will help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 And good for you for putting it out there when you love someone. I did the photo “Regret” shortly before my father passed away – the one where I have the white face and and the white feathers falling down – https://drscdn.500px.org/photo/16602187/q%3D80_m%3D1500/ac8bc4afe645c78290d3af4942302c03 – and the quote that goes with it is “Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I did not say so.” – David Grayson
      There’s obviously (as you know too well) so many things worse than regret – but it’s definitely up there with the most persistent and uncomfortable.


  5. Write your letter.
    Expect to write many more. To other people and to yourself.
    It is a good exercise. It helps us accept the past is done and that nothing will change it, so the only choice is to let go and live today.

    One day at a time.

    Are you doing 12 step meetings in your treatment centre?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have several letters to write, now. Also working through my 12 step workbook as I go through the big book with 1 of my counsellors (he’s wonderful). We go to an English speaking AA meeting in downtown Cabarete every Friday (so another one in a couple days…my first one – ever – was last Friday). I had a bit of a Step 2/Step 3 spiritual epiphany this morning I hope to write about this evening if I can. Definitely a life changing moment and I have no other way to explain it. It’s a bit bizarre but totally wonderful 🙂 My other two counsellors – one deals with trauma (where the letter writing is coming from right now) and my cognitive behaviour therapist (I’ve only met him once so far as he’s only here Thursdays and Fridays)…also wonderful. They have a great support team here 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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