‘Dad, I need help.’ I broke down in a fast food parking lot at 8 a.m., drunk from the change I scrounged together. I was taking 40 pills a day.’: Dad in tears walking sober daughter down the aisle

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Disclaimer: This story contains of self harm and suicidal ideation that may be triggering to some.

“From what I can remember growing up, I had a fairly normal childhood. One memory that has always stuck with me was the morning I was getting ready to leave for school and my dad was still home, not getting ready for work like he normally would be. I remember my parents telling me he wasn’t feeling well—but I had a weird feeling in my gut. When I came home from school, I discovered he left. I was 7 years old trying to wrap my head around the fact that my parents were getting a divorce.

Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard

Going back and forth between two homes was never easy. I always made sure I packed up the things I needed to take with me to my other home or I’d be without it until I returned. It was always a fairly quick exchange from what I can remember because my parents couldn’t stand the sight of one another.

I’m not sure what it is about my dad, but I’ve always felt this closeness to him that nobody could match. So, I guess you could call me a ‘daddy’s girl?’ Except I would never call my dad ‘daddy,’ so we will say a ‘dad’s girl.’ But back to the point, my dad and I share a bond unlike any other.

Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard

My dad has been by my side since day one, through it all. From teaching me how to swim, how to ride a bike, how to catch a fish, to driving me to my swim competitions an hour away, to our Disneyland trips, to sitting at a desk next to me in my 4th-grade class.

Through my younger years, my mom struggled with alcohol. I don’t remember it much, but I recall periods of time when she wasn’t around. She went to treatment a couple of times, and it felt like she was never going to come back. There were times I would call and call and get no answer. I felt as though I was never going to see her again. I can remember crying as I was writing about it in my diary. I think that’s when my separation anxiety started to kick in.

By the time I was in 4th grade, I found it impossible to let my dad out of my sight. I would cry any time he had to use the restroom when we were out because I was terrified he would go in there and I would never see him again. Eventually, I couldn’t go to school because I would not let him out of my sight. He tried going to Mrs. Anderson’s class with me early in the morning, in hopes it would ease my anxieties. He sat at a little school desk right next to me, and after about 15 minutes he would say his goodbyes hoping I was comfortable. The second I saw him disappear from the window outside of my class, I jumped out of my desk running and crying after him. 9-year-old me breaks my heart when I think back on it, and my heart breaks for my poor dad who had to see his little girl like that. Never once did I see him show an ounce of sadness, though. He always seemed so strong.

Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard

Next was home school and therapy, which seemed to be the only option at that point. He took me to see Dr. Fox, a sweet little old man, in hopes he could help me. My dad sat through my therapies until I was comfortable enough to let him wait in the lobby for me. My mom joined my therapy as well, and slowly but surely my separation anxiety started to ease. I was finally able to function without them in my presence.

Once my separation anxiety was gone, anger started to kick in. The anger of my parents divorcing, moving on, and now dating new people. I had been so worried before about my parents magically disappearing forever and now I was worried about some person taking them away from me, especially about someone taking my dad’s love and attention away from me. I put my parents’ significant others through hell. I looked at them as though they were trying to steal my mom and dad from me. Because of that, I went through some rough patches with both of my parents.

I felt like they betrayed me by giving away their love and attention to some stranger. My outbursts were the worst when I was with my mom. I would scream and cry, trying to rip my hair from my head, clawing as hard as I could at my face and arms. It took a toll on her, so she decided to drop me off at my dad’s while keeping my sister. That’s when I felt like my mom loved my sister and not me. I didn’t realize that it was only because it wasn’t fair to my sister to drop her off when she wasn’t acting out like I was. Through my 12-year-old eyes, my dad came to my rescue, making me feel safe and loved.

Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard

By 13, I took my first drink of alcohol with some of my older friends who had someone to buy it. After that first drink in the parking lot behind the bowling alley, I couldn’t put it down. It was so nice not having to ‘feel.’ I couldn’t wait to be able to do it again.

During my outbursts when alcohol wasn’t an option, I began carving things into my hand and my arm because it felt good inflicting pain on myself and it took my mind off everything else. When my dad discovered what I was doing, he was dumbfounded. That’s when I started to really see the worry on his face.

Over my high school years, I managed to get my hands on alcohol and different drugs many times. My dad was always on me about getting good grades, so I stayed on top of them as best I could in order to continue to hide my ‘partying’ from him. There were a few times I slipped up and my parents caught me, but that didn’t stop me.

Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard

After high school, the partying picked up even more and the abusive relationships started. I kept those from my dad too, afraid of what he may do if he found out because he just loved me so much and always wanted to protect me.

Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard

Over the next 8 years, I managed to have a baby in one of my abusive relationships, and my so-called ‘partying’ turned into an addiction. I became addicted to pain pills, taking up to 40 a day if I could manage to come up with the money—whether it was stealing from my family or taking my mom’s pain pills behind her back. My dad caught on and began to show serious concern. He took my daughter from me and surprised me with drug tests. I still managed to find ways around it and continue with my addiction.

Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard
Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard

By the time I was 26, I was fed up with the secret life I was living. Trying to quit pain meds on my own and using alcohol to numb the withdrawals, while trying to raise a 4 year old, I finally hit rock bottom. I had quit my job, got kicked out of cosmetology school for always skipping class, I had no more money to buy any alcohol, and I absolutely hated myself and wanted someone or something to just kill me because I was too afraid to do it myself.

Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard

I finally broke in in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant at 8 in the morning, drunk from the change I scrounged together. I called my dad crying and told him the truth. Not once did he scold me or judge me. He came to my rescue and got me into treatment within the next couple of days.

After the first few hours of being checked into the treatment center, I called him begging me to pick me up. I promised I would never pick up another drink or drug again. From the other end of the phone, he finally broke down crying for the first time in my 26 years of life. He begged me to stay. I felt a pain in my heart that I had never felt before. I couldn’t let him hurt like that anymore, so I forced myself to suck it up and stay in treatment for 42 more days.

Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard

I felt like a new person after those next few months thanks to my dad, my counselors, and all of the work I did. But, then I had a slip up with alcohol after welcoming another past toxic relationship back into my life. My dad intervened and promised to send me back to treatment if I didn’t stop. I got back into my meetings, cut out the toxic people from my past, and made friends with members of AA and NA. My life began to turn around.

Courtesy of Ashley Hubbard

I finally finished cosmetology school, I met some of my best friends at the meetings, and I met my soulmate. Someone my dad finally accepted and began to love. My heart couldn’t have felt happier. The day my dad walked me down the aisle to give me away to my husband, I looked up at him and saw him begin to cry—the second time in my 28 years of my life, but this time it was happy tears. Knowing how proud of me he was and how happy he was for me is something that will forever keep going down the right path. That moment will remain in my heart for the rest of my life. Thank you, dad. Love, Goose.”

Sara Solomon/@sarasolphoto

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley Hubbard. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Ashley here:

‘My dad begged, ‘PLEASE ASHLEY, do this for me.’ It broke me. I had to put an end to this.’: Young mom celebrates 2 years clean, meets husband in recovery, ‘I would’ve NEVER imagined this’

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