Recovering While Grieving

By Daniel W…

The worst thing to ever happen to me was losing my father at age 60. I was 26. He had suffered a heart attack overnight while sleeping and didn’t survive it. The thought of it to this day stirs up a lot of emotion in me. What makes it even worse for me is the context of the whole situation. I was an active drug addict when he died and had been working for him up until 6 months ago before I got fired for stealing. I went 5 months after that without speaking to him, wanting to but not able to bring myself to do it. Thank god I reached out to him three days before he died, we had a very deep talk and I will be forever grateful for that more than anything else in my life. I couldn’t believe he was gone, death is so final. He died on March 17,2015 and I got sober on May 17, 2015.

The low I reached on the day of his passing is the lowest I ever want to feel. I already was isolated from my family after fleeing New Jersey and going to South Florida because of burning all my bridges getting fired from my father’s company. I went to his service back home and I really was living in a nightmare. I cried myself asleep every night for two months before my mom said she would be able to get me into treatment, it wouldn’t be my first. I went to treatment a completely hopeless, devastated and broken man who missed his father who was his rock.  I would ask myself how can I possibly survive this?

The thing about being hopeless, is that it made me less resistant to things in areas I used to be very resistant in. Things like opening up to people, taking guidance and other things we are asked to do in early recovery that I had usually ignored, I just did it this time. The only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to die, and that I had to make my dad proud no matter where he was. My grieving really occurred for those two months after he died, I felt it hard and I had to feel those emotions and let them out. Now it was time to look at the whole situation and grow from it.

An early realization I had was that ultimately I was grateful to even have had a father for 26 years. I had spoken to many who weren’t even that fortunate. Suddenly the memories and pictures I had with him became much more valuable. He always let me know how much he loved me and we spent so much time together–that would never leave me. This was my key to dealing with his death and walking towards acceptance of it. Showing gratitude for having him in my life.

While I was in treatment, I was desperate. A lot of us see that as a gift in recovery. It was surely something I’d never felt before. Looking back at it, I think that desperation grew from the very genuine desire to honor how my dad raised me and to do what would make him proud. All that mattered to him was that his sons were happy and living a good life. My brother had that taken care of, and now it was my turn. I would spend every morning praying on my bed and talking to him. I felt a tangible connection with him still, and I plugged into that every day. I still talk to him all the time–to this day.

For my first year in recovery I spent a lot of time processing, talking about, accepting and reflecting on his death. At the same time I was moving forward in life and doing better than I ever had at taking charge of my own life. It felt incredible. If I hadn’t done a lot of work on myself and put myself on the right path, I would never have gotten over my loss. By the time the first year anniversary of his death arrived, my life looked so different than that day in March one year earlier. Instead of making it a day to sulk I made it a day of celebration and gratitude.

There are still days I miss him. It almost feels like the longer I go without him the harder it gets. Not a day goes by without me thinking about him, but I still have remained on the path I committed to years ago. I still feel him with me, making him proud. His voice still echoes in my head when I think about what he would say about particular situations. As long as I am building the life he wanted me to have, I raise my head high and keep in mind the good times I had with him.


Daniel Wittler is an Outreach Specialist for Recovery Local, a local addiction/recovery based marketing company. He advocates long-term sobriety by writing for websites like JourneyPure, providing resources to recovering addicts and shedding light on drug addiction. Daniel believes that absolutely anyone can get sober provided they are ready to take action in their own life.




One thought on “Recovering While Grieving

  1. Janet November 18, 2019 at 10:07 pm #

    Fantastic!!! This lifted me UP. Yes it is possible to tackle these most difficult of situations in life. Giving into the pain may be the first step. Leaning into it. Daniel, this is a such a moving story of accepting the loss, and allowing life in. What a magnificent choice. Gratitude… thank you for writing your story.

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