I received a letter in 2012 from Children’s Services. In it they said they believed I was the father of a six-year-old boy. They wanted to talk to me. I knew I was his dad, although I had never met him. I called the number on the letter. The boy had been in foster care for three years and was in the process of being adopted. His mother had relapsed into alcoholism. He’d had a rough time. They asked me if I wanted to meet him. I said, yes.
I’d been in recovery from alcohol and drugs for seven years. Recovery had been good to me. In those seven years, I’d gone from a homeless alcoholic-junkie stumbling into rehab with a bin liner that contained all my possessions, to a married, home-owning lecturer in poetry. My work was being published. People were happy to open doors for me to more opportunities. I’d arrived.
I’d also managed to keep my sex addiction on the down low. It was the one addiction I couldn’t let go of. The one I couldn’t talk about. And if I’m being really honest, it was the addiction I didn’t believe I had. I was living a double life, a triple life when I consider the denial I was in, and as far as I could tell, I was doing it well. Why wouldn’t I be able to add a six-year-old boy to the mix?
But over the next six months my mum died, my affairs became public knowledge, my marriage failed, I lost my job, and the vast majority of my friends distanced themselves. It was a dark time full of loss, grief, self-pity, anger and the budding awareness that I had brought this house of cards down all by myself. For some reason I kept on turning up for the boy. I was looking for a crumb of integrity.
I jumped through the hoops, engaged in interviews with social workers, visited him at children’s centres, applied through the courts for parental responsibility, and eventually my son came to live with me. We moved into a small council flat together in 2013.
Fast forward 10 years and I am on the verge of performing a one-man show, kid which tells the story of how that relationship changed me. It wasn’t a straightforward change. It’s a story of a traumatised man raising a traumatised son. Both of us were experiencing those feelings of loss, grief, and anger. Both of us were dealing with them like children. One of us had to grow up. It felt like a story worth telling.