This One’s for All the Readers with Dads Who Didn’t Survive Addiction


Dear Author,

Thanks for sharing your story. But, honestly, it pissed me off. You forgot one key thing: not everyone gets a happy ending. 

My dad didn’t survive. But I’m glad yours did.


Dear Broken,

Do you know what it feels like to cross the finish line of a marathon and breathe the biggest sigh of relief because YOU MADE IT OUT ALIVE, YOU ACTUALLY MADE IT OUT ALIVE? Well, I don’t know this feeling at all. I tried to run a 5K once and then my biggest mistake in life was trying to run a 5K again. Your grandma would probably run/(let’s be honest)walk a 5K faster than I did.

All the cool kids these days are training and then actually running marathons, so chances are high that you know this feeling of the rush and the accomplishment. So if you at all think my life is like this rush of crossing the finish line with the mission-accomplished attitude, think again.

My dad is alive. Yours is not. And nothing I can say will bring your dad back.

But the race is far from over, Broken.


You wrote me a note with four words that made me feel like a punching bag that you just annihilated: “My dad didn’t survive.”

Broken, I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve to have those four words so handy in your pocket to use at your convenience as a weapon of mass destruction. Of course you feel like my story puked sunshine. You never got to meet the other side of addiction: Recovery.

I know you feel robbed of your happy ending. And you have every right to feel robbed, cheated, and abused. Every tear is justified.

Let’s do ourselves both a favor and cut through the BS: This side of heaven, I will never understand why my dad made it out alive and yours didn’t. Some people think they’ve figured it out and they’ll present you with dissertations on their theories, but I’m not buying it.

If you’re still there listening, I hope we can see what we have in common and help each other move our pawns to the next space. This isn’t a trap; I’m not here to capture you.

I’m here to say, We’re in this game together.


There are things in this life that just don’t make sense. Like how one dad can drink a cold beer and that one is enough and he’s charged up to teach his boy how to start up that old mower or build that new deck his wife’s been dreaming of since they inherited the old place. And then there’s another dad who can’t even remember his son’s birthday and he’s off living with his new family because his old one just wasn’t cutting it.

And then there’s your dad who’s gone.

Maybe it’s not our job to figure out who makes it out and who doesn’t. Maybe it’s our job to just build our very best lives while we’re still here. I’m starting to see, Broken, that no one will build that life for you.


I started watching this senior citizen swim class this year. While I worked out on the elliptical, I had a clear view to the pool. I was mesmerized. They amazed me, the way they came at the same time every week. Same place. Same time. Same people.

They swam with a slow and steady pace, never in a hurry. They went back and forth, back and forth. Left, right, left, breathe. They weren’t perfect and would never pass as Michael Phelps. But they showed up. Every week, at the same time, they showed up and they just swam the same steady strokes, back and forth. Left, right, left, breathe. And they came every week for the steady strokes, just as much as they came for the community of steady strokers. They swim, you see, but they don’t swim alone.

I think this is what we need to learn, Broken: how to swim this steady stroke. How to show up every week at the same time. How to build community with the same people who need to learn this same steady stroke.

I know you think I got the happy ending, but most days I go by the name Broken, too. I still have to learn how to show up, how to jump in, how to swim the steady strokes. Left, right, left, breathe.


And, before I go, just one more thing. Pay attention to the movies you watch, Broken. I’ve noticed recently how they all end with a resolution. In fact, we’re wired for story and we crave this resolution.

But the resolutions look a little different for everyone.

This week, I watched the movie Creed. Of course, there are several obstacles along the way. But the main heart breaker comes when we find out that Rocky has cancer. And then there’s always a choice to make. Rocky’s mentee, preparing for the biggest fight of his life, challenges the legend: “You fight, I fight.”

And this, Broken, is exactly where I want to leave you. Your dad didn’t make it out, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get a resolution. The choice is yours, but I hope you’ll accept my challenge to make it to our own resolutions.

You fight, I fight.

xo. Ashley

9 responses to “This One’s for All the Readers with Dads Who Didn’t Survive Addiction”

  1. Alison Church Avatar
    Alison Church

    Your words speak such truth🙏🏻🙏🏻

    1. Thank you! 🙂 And when they don’t speak truth, you better let me know.

  2. Ashley, Just a few hours ago I got in a verbal disagreement with my mom about my alcoholic father. He couldn’t break on through either. He died face first in a pile of his poison, alone in a trailer. He was 42. Like broken, I’m grieving. But I’m determined to spread hope through helping others. You are not alone.

    1. Dan, I am so sorry to hear about your father. Thank you for reaching out. And thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone on this journey.

  3. Ashley,
    I don’t have any experience with addiction in my family…but this essay broke my heart and filled me with joy and hope at the same time. You are an inspiration to me…as are all those who share in this journey with you.

    1. It certainly is not an experience or a journey that I wish on anyone, but it must be an important part of my story for a reason. Thank you for loving me so well, my sweet friend.

  4. We are not responsible for others feelings. You wrote a great story. My dad didn’t make it either, but I want to thank you for making me think about things I have to do in order to heal more. Paul

    1. Paul, thank you for your kind words. I am so sorry to hear about your dad. Praying for your healing process. I have a feeling we’ll be working at this each and every day.

  5. […] Broken, I used to sit around and contemplate learning to knit while I never actually knit, but instead waited for the next sniper to attack. I see your anxious wheels spinning in the thick, sloppy mud. […]

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