Men’s Health Matters: ‘I Never Thought I’d Be the Alcoholic Dad’

alcoholic dadI have been asked to write for several publications, with bylines in national magazines and media outlets, and have conducted multiple television, radio, and podcast interviews, but nothing prepares you for being invited to write for a moms’ blog, especially as a dad! However, as moms are well aware, there are a lot of things in life we find that we are unprepared for.

June is Men’s Health Month, a month in which awareness is raised about health issues that impact men, alongside resources for various challenges and barriers men face regarding their well-being. Among those challenges are mental health and addiction.

As I mentioned, there are many things in life we are unprepared for. As a man (and dad), I was unprepared to accept the reality that I had become an alcoholic. I was unprepared to embrace the vulnerability of admitting I had a problem. You see, health awareness is not solely about cancer screenings, cholesterol monitoring, and weight management — well-being encompasses our mental health as well, and for me, mine was quite sick.

For a lot of dads, we have a self-given obligation to be “strong” and not acknowledge our need for help. After all, we are the same men who would rather drive two hours the wrong way than admit we were lost and ask for directions before GPS and Google Maps came along. In the mid-2010s, I began to enter a state of depression, and to treat it, rather than seeking help from a professional, I began to self-medicate with alcohol. The evening whiskey soon turned into the afternoon beers and evening whiskey, which evolved into vodka shots in the garage by myself, then the beers, then the evening whiskey, and then evolved even further into the hidden vodka bottles in my car and golf bag, where I would take secret shots and then attempt to hide the liquor smell from my wife by covering it with more beer. I went into free-fall, to the point that there were several days in a row I have no memory of. Never did I imagine I would become the alcoholic dad who wasn’t able to play ball with his kids, or the alcoholic husband who was failing to be supportive or present in a marriage. You see, once again there are things in life we don’t expect and aren’t prepared for, and this was certainly one of them.

There is a happy ending to this tale. I did eventually seek help in 2019, first for my alcohol addiction, and then for the untreated depression and post-traumatic stress that had led me to those years of self-destruction. I was able to gain and experience sobriety through a 12-step program with a local group in Jacksonville, and I began therapy and counseling, in addition to being prescribed an anti-depressant that I still take to this day; which provided me the tools I needed to become successful in navigating stressors, and both the general and unique challenges of life, as a military officer, husband, and dad.

When my wife married me nearly 11 years ago, she would have never expected to find herself in a situation with an absent partner, who was lost in the abyss of addiction and depression, but she recognized the signs, and with grace, led me to help and supported me through my sobriety journey.

As moms, there are men in your life who have a direct impact and influence on your children’s lives (and yours), whether it be a spouse, partner, co-parent, father, brother, or son. As we think about men’s health during the month of June, learning how to recognize alcohol abuse and addiction in men can not only save their lives but strengthen and improve their relationships with you and the relationships they have with your children.

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

The Mayo Clinic lists, non-inclusively, some of the following symptoms to recognize:

  •  Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
  • Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
  • Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home due to repeated alcohol use
  • Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it’s causing physical, social, work, or relationship problems
  • Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies to use alcohol
  • Using alcohol in situations where it’s not safe, such as when driving or swimming
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from the same amount
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating, and shaking — when you don’t drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms

The Mayo Clinic says, “Many people with alcohol use disorder hesitate to get treatment because they don’t recognize that they have a problem. An intervention from loved ones can help some people recognize and accept that they need professional help. If you’re concerned about someone who drinks too much, ask a professional experienced in alcohol treatment for advice on how to approach that person.”

My wife, who is the absolute greatest mother in the world, likely not only saved my life by intervening, but helped to create an environment in which we could grow together as I recovered, and that I could grow closer with my children, all while improving my own mental health — making me a better husband, partner, friend, and dad.

As we honor Men’s Health Month, think about the men and dads in your life who may benefit from taking that first step as I did four years ago.

alcoholic dadAbout the Author

Travis Akers is a veteran military intelligence officer residing in Jacksonville, Florida, who has risen to national prominence as a social media personality and award-winning activist for veterans’ issues. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 immediately. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, call 1-800-662-4357.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here