Dear T,

The leaves have turned their edges in the garden here, reminiscent of the park we used to take our son to in Boksburg – do you recall? Those days feel like a separate life altogether because today, within the walls of this reputed rehab in Benoni, I grapple with a heartache that seems resistant to the passage of time.

My dear, our son is now a man of twenty, and he reminds me so much of you. Yet, I write this letter with a heavy burden: he refuses to speak to me. The disappointment I’ve sown throughout the years seems to have culminated in his staunch silence. He’s built his wall, brick by painful brick, and I can’t help but feel that I supplied the mortar with my neglect.

Here, nestled in the healing embrace of Gauteng’s outskirts, I am learning the hard way that rehabilitation isn’t solely about detoxing from the grip of alcoholism. It also involves confronting the wreckage left in the wake of my addiction.

Dr. Moyo suggested a family therapy session, an idea I initially embraced with the hope that only the desperate can muster. But our son did not want to partake in what he labeled just another charade. It cuts deeper than any knife, T. He has witnessed far too many broken promises, too many birthdays dimmed by my drunken stupors, and countless apologies that dissipated like mist over Johannesburg’s early morning skyline.

It is one thing to understand the theoretical underpinnings of the resentment he must harbor but to face its full, visceral force is something entirely different. I’ve learned of other fathers here from the East Rand, places like Kempton Park and beyond, grappling with similar rifts, chasms created by addiction—which only serve to underscore the gravity of my own situation.

But there is solace in the strangest of places. The very fact that he remains resistant is a testament to his strength, and oh, how I wish I could tell him I see that strength as a legacy of you, not me. I want to say how proud I am of the man he’s becoming despite the turbulence I’ve brought upon his life.

I seek solace in writing these words to you because it’s the only avenue I have left to express my paternal affection – and my remorse. In these sessions, amongst peers wrestling their own specters, I am learning to face uncomfortable truths about myself and the nature of the scars we inflict on those closest to us.

My hope has to lie in the belief that through continued sober living and perseverance, I can someday rebuild at least a semblance of trust with our son. The professionals here speak of patience and persistence, of allowing time to heal wounds. So I will wait, and I will live each day as a testament to the change I hope he will eventually see.

My dear T, I cling to the memory of your ever-present belief in redemption. I trust that there is a lesson in this heartache, a lesson that I will grasp fully in time and sobriety. Tonight, I will rest with thoughts of you both, praying for the strength to mend what I have broken.

Forever yours, Tony