OnlyDads gets frequent emails and telephone calls from dads who have messed up big time and want to turn the corner.
The truth is – it’s an area where we have a big heart but totally limited resources to offer tangible help and support. I’ll spell out a real-life case that is on our desk now. What follows is true. To protect identity, I’ll call him Everyman.
Everyman approached OnlyDads about a year ago. He hadn’t seen his son for over two years. His son, he told me, was now three years old.
“Bob, the truth is I WAS a dreadful partner and a dreadful father. Too many drugs and too much booze…Mum took my son away. I really can’t blame her…”
Mum did indeed take herself and her son to live over 200 miles away. From what Dad has told us, he is right not to blame her!
Six months or so later, and during another brief conversation with this Dad, he uttered the words “I’m sorting my shit out”
Here’s the thing. Everyman asked me for another meeting before Christmas. He was a totally, I mean TOTALLY changed man. His request was for OnlyDads to provide him with a roadmap to get from where he was now, to the point that he can start enjoying meaningful contact with his son again.
If I set out just a few of the facts, you will understand the enormous complexity of Everyman’s predicament.
- His ex does not trust him one inch! He fully appreciates and accepts that years of consistent behaviour will be the only thing he can do, to shift her view of him.
- Dad his homeless. Sometimes he sleeps in a defunct car, sometimes at mates’ houses.
- He is vulnerable (as are all recovering addicts). He has his (only) support network where he lives, but also all the old contacts that bring with them, temptation.
- A few years of caning your body and mind with drugs/alcohol leaves you in a position where you are most unlikely to jump straight into a job!
- He receives benefits of £67 per week. (if anyone from the Daily Mail is reading, HELLO).
- He knows that even if he was able to get limited and supervised contact, it would need to be near Mum. How could he afford to get there and back is a genuine question (and one that many dads ask us).
It is impossible to offer Everyman, and the many in similar positions, the support we want to. Moral support and “you can do it – your son deserves to have dad in his life” type conversations have their place. But being able to do more would sit well with us.
The reason for me writing this post is complex: But I bumped into Everyman (completely out of the blue) yesterday. He gave me an enormous hug! (upper working-class Welsh geezers aren’t very good at man hugs, but I did my best to return one!) It was when he said “you are helping me move away from a dark place” which took me back – you know that feeling when you think to yourself, I haven’t really done anything…
…but after all the hugging had stopped, I promised him I would see if we could find him some proper signposting to help him continue his good progress.
Suggestions, names of other organisations, good ideas…all are welcome. Thank you for reading. Bob