A Reach of Love

Hand reaching into the depths to help another

It is one of those nights when I went to bed a little before 10:30 pm. I didn’t sleep well the night before due to storms in our area and storms in my mind. Thoughts of family, work and concerns in our world had me tossing and turning not resting or sleeping. My plan was to catch up on the sleep I lost the night before. I slid into bed and managed to drift off to satisfying and sound sleep for a few minutes. A phone ringing at 10:45 pm awakened me causing me to toss and turn for an hour or so unable to sleep. So, I got up and opened my laptop to type my thoughts since I couldn’t chase any dreams.

At almost 58 years old I have seen several major challenges in my life and I consider myself very fortunate to have overcome and find ways to live with my challenges. I have learned and truly believe that happiness is a choice. It can be very difficult to see even a glimmer of happiness when you are in the midst of a difficult challenge but if you reach to find happiness hard enough it is always there.

An event from my past often recurs in my mind. This event happened at a beach several years ago. We met my adult daughter at Grayton Beach in the Florida panhandle. It had been a while since we had been able to get together.

On this warm day in December, we found the beach sunny and crowded. We enjoyed the sun’s rays and the cool salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico. That day there was a small lake emptying into the surf at the Gulf. The lake water created a small river as it escaped the lake. Children were playing in the shallows of the lake when suddenly the water level rose. A very young girl was swept into the rapids and out into the Gulf.

“On my first two attempts extending my arm, I could not grab her hand. I watched as her head went under the surf.”

It took a moment for my brain to understand what I was seeing. Very quickly it felt as if a force pushed me into the rapids. I dove headfirst into the water to see if I could reach her. She was tossed in the water ahead of me like a cork. I swam as hard as I could to get to her. As I got close to her I could see the terror in her eyes but I still could not reach her. On my first two attempts extending my arm, I could not grab her hand. I watched as her head went under the surf. Each time I eagerly waited to see where she would resurface. In my mind I only pictured myself reaching her. I never allowed the thought of any other outcome.

I finally reached her and pull her to me. She wrapped her little arms around my neck clinging to me with all her might. We struggled together in the current. I remembered that I should swim parallel to the beach to escape the undertow. We made it out.

She held my hand as we walked back to the area where her frantic mother was standing. Her mother in her wet blue jeans and t-shirt was soaked and crying. She had also jumped into the torrent in her attempt to get to her daughter but was swept away from us in the other direction. Placing the child into the safety of her mother’s arms was a feeling that I will never forget.

I remember and relate the events of that day to a struggle that our adult daughter is now facing. I have always reminded our daughter that she is loved. She has had the freedom to live her adult life in the manner that she chooses.

Like many parents, I was not fully aware of all of her challenges and had no idea the depth to which they had plunged her. She has always been “the attractive girl” with a lot of personality and friends. She always seemed to “fit in” without much effort. I understand now and from her perspective, that has not always been her experience.

“Like the young girl tossed in the rapids at Grayton Beach, our daughter has been tossed by the waves and rapids of life.”

Like the young girl tossed in the rapids at Grayton Beach, our daughter has been tossed by the waves and rapids of life. The “undertow” almost took her from us a couple of times recently. The “undertow” in our case is her struggle with drugs and alcohol.

I have known families that have faced this issue and I thought I understood how difficult it can be. I clearly did not. I am now reading and talking to others as much as I can to try to understand how best to help her.

In the past few months, I “dove” in and thought I was helping. I “swam” out to her but couldn’t reach her. I watched as she “went under.” Gratefully there are signs that she is “resurfacing.” Like with the little girl drowning in the surf, I struggle to reach my daughter. I long to have my daughter wrap her arms around my neck and emerge “rescued.” She has been tossed in the waves of her struggle and I cannot get to her. I’m learning that this struggle is one that she must fight and that this fight may very well last for her lifetime.

She is getting help now via rehab and learning new ways to cope. It is hard to be on the beach and just watch. I want to be strong for her but I know that I can only be a very small part of the solution. I can only be the person standing on the shoreline from a distance… loving her and yelling for her to swim parallel to the shore.

In the midst of all of this challenge, I find myself still living my life trying to enjoy the happiness I can find. At times I admit that I feel guilty being happy knowing that she is involved in a struggle for her life. I am also learning that maybe my overcoming my challenges and finding happiness can be a help and example for her.

Adult daughter and her father

Continuously… I have hope that she learns how to strongly “swim” against the tide of her struggle. She is loved. Always has been.

My longing is for her to feel “A Reach of Love” from those of us who love her unconditionally and understand that while we cannot be there in the surf with her, we are always on the beach waiting for her… loving her and looking forward to the day when she emerges strong and able to reach her full happiness potential.

—A loving parent



Aaron has been writing drug education articles and documenting the success of the Narconon program for over two years.