Hitting bottom would surely end his chance to adopt. Who on earth would let him raise their child now?
Never underestimate the miracles of sobriety. Prior to getting sober, my wife and I initiated the process of private adoption in hopes of adding a child to our family. We had a 3-year-old daughter and we wanted her to have a sibling.
After meeting with an adoption attorney, we created a resume along with a glossy picture of our family for prospective birth mothers to review. We hoped someone would choose us to adopt their unborn baby. But our picture-perfect family was soon shattered by the realization that I had a problem with alcohol.
Fortunately, around that same time I found AA and began what would be a bumpy but lifesaving road to recovery. I was 32. Around 90 days sober, I realized I would have to add something to that resume—my alcoholism.
I contacted the attorney’s office and told him that we would need to put our adoption plans on hold. I needed to get my feet back on the ground and get a solid hold on sobriety. When I got off the phone, I figured our chances for adopting a child were zero now. I mean, come on, who picks an alcoholic to father their child?
Fast-forward two years and nine months. I was on my way out of my office to join my coworkers at the office Christmas lunch. Just then, the phone rang and caught me before I could get out the door. “This is Dave,” I said into the phone.
“Dave, this is Brenda at the adoption attorney’s office,” the woman said. “You’re in our inactive file but I just had to call. A birth mother has a request and you’re the only person who fits what she’s looking for in an adoptive parent.” Brenda continued, “She wants to place her child in a home where at least one of the adoptive parents is in recovery. Based on the genetics of alcoholism, she feels it’s important that this child have the benefit of having a parent with some understanding of alcoholism and addiction.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Wow, that’s amazing,” I replied. I knew in that moment, deep in my heart, that this was right. God had a plan for us. Our conversation concluded with scheduling a phone call with Elizabeth, the birth mother, for that evening.
Elizabeth called right on time and as we talked, the common bond of AA clicked right in. We spoke the same language. My wife and I talked to her for almost an hour and we agreed to fly to Portland to meet in person. We met for dinner at a downtown café. It was a magical evening—Elizabeth was pretty, funny and full of life. Our conversation didn’t skip a beat, as one topic led to another, including sobriety and AA. Then we noticed that the singer who was performing in the restaurant was singing the song “From a Distance,” one that Bette Midler had recently made popular. The lyrics, “God is watching us; God is watching us; God is watching us from a distance” were perfect in that moment. This night is forever etched in my mind. Oh, and that singer? She turned out to be Elizabeth’s AA sponsor.
Emilee was born in 1991, a healthy, beautiful baby girl. We flew 1,000 miles that day to be there for the birth of our second daughter. We saw Elizabeth surrounded by her AA friends and family and we were welcomed with open arms and some natural ambivalence. Within a few days, we said goodbye to Elizabeth through many tears to return home with our newborn daughter.
The Fellowship of AA made this all possible. My friends at our 6:00 a.m. Attitude Adjustment meeting supported me every inch of the way. I became known as Emilee’s dad; I was no longer just Dave. That’s the gift of sobriety in AA. We can become something more than we ever believed we could be.
Over the years Elizabeth’s instincts would be proven right, and Emilee would suffer the pain of this disease. After Emilee’s first ever AA meeting at six weeks old to meet my friends, her next meeting would be when she was 16 to start her own journey in sobriety.
It’s tough to admit you’re an alcoholic at any age, much less that your life is unmanageable. On one hand, I had the experience of sobriety in AA. On the other, I had to realize that my daughter would have to find her own path to sobriety. At times my pain overshadowed hers and that was not good. When I finally acknowledged her suffering and found acceptance, I was able to get out of the way and she found the help she needed.
Emilee recently celebrated one year of sobriety. She has a home group and a sponsor, works the Steps, attends meetings regularly, loves the Fellowship and has found a new life. AA saved her life as it had saved mine 30 years earlier. My gratitude to God, AA and the Fellowship can only be expressed in continued service in hopes of enlarging the gift of AA to others. And it doesn’t hurt to remind myself that “God is watching us.”