June 19, 2015
With Father’s Day around the corner, I brought in Thank You cards last Friday and gave the patients an opportunity to write their fathers a note. We honored patients’ fathers who had passed on by dimming the lights and lighting candles. The patients said their fathers’ names aloud and it was quite lovely. I also asked all patients who were fathers to stand so that we could honor them for being sober dads this Father’s Day.
In the large group I asked, “When you think of a good father, what are some of the qualities and ‘spiritual gifts’ that they give?” They answered: Wisdom, guidance, protection, strength, prosperity, forgiveness, encouragement, laughter and joy.
Without using the Bible or getting too “preachy,” I told the patients the story of the Prodigal Son. I can’t tell you how many patients totally related this story to their own lives. They saw how wasteful and selfish they had been in their addictions and how they just wanted to feel loved again. I shared the idea that their Higher Power could love them like the father in this story – unconditionally. They seemed to like this idea.
When they wrote their letters, I gave them a wide open list of people to thank; I told them to just thank someone. For those patients who had less than a “fatherly” father or no father at all, we offered the idea that they could thank a sponsor, a therapist, an uncle, a friend – anyone who had shared with them the qualities of a father. I suggested that if there wasn’t anything they were grateful for, they could thank their fathers for treatment, for the gift of life – twice.
It was a visibly tough and uncomfortable day for some, but a much needed one for many.
I gave the patients 15-20 minutes to write and played a beautiful song written by Sarah McLachlan called “Song for My Father”. It sounds as if she wrote it for her father who had passed away, but it also lends itself to the idea of G-d our father, our healer, our strength:
“Oh I hope that you can hear me
Through the ravages of time
You have carried me through more than you could know
I still feel your hand in mine.”
In small groups, our spiritual leaders posed some really profound questions. Linda asked, “How is your relationship with G-d like your relationship with your own father?”
Yudy, in a short meditation, asked the patients to close their eyes and imagine their parents seeing them through their own eyes and having their parents understand them in this way.
Ken, another spiritual leader, told a very touching personal story about always seeking his father’s approval and wanting to hear, “I love you son and I’m proud of you.”He realized this day that although he didn’t hear those words, his father loved the only way he knew how and G-d loved him the rest.
To the male patients: “Clean and sober – you can be the fathers that you always wanted.”
We ended with a favorite prayer:
Oh Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the wind,
whose breath gives life to the world,
I come to you as one of your many children;
I am small and weak,
I need your strength and your wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and
make my eyes ever behold the red and
make my hands respect the things that you
have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.
Make me wise so that I may know the
things you have taught your children,
the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
Make me strong, not to be superior to my
Brothers, but to be able to fight my greatest enemy:
Make me ever ready to come to you with straight eyes so
that when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit will
come to you without shame.
-Chief Dan George
Reverend Laurie Durgan