I should probably stop being surprised that I get choked up when I interview other dads. Charles’ words about his childhood really got to me.
Name: Charles (Chaz) Murphy
Number and ages of children: 2 boys, Jonas, 5 and Brayden, 2
Location: Bryn Mawr, Pa
Profession: Full Time Stay At Home Father, Part Time WaWa employee
1. What are your personal drug and alcohol-free recreational outlets? What are your favorite things to do with your children? I play some video games, read, watch movies and collect records. I am a pretty boring person. I’ve always been pretty low key when it comes to living life. I’m not very outgoing. I try to avoid as much human contact as possible but having kids kind of ruined that for me. As far as doing things with my kids, whatever I can do to spend time with them. We like going to the zoo/aquarium. I love watching movies and sports with my older kid. He seems to love it as well. We love going to the movies and playing catch.
The things my five year old and my two year old like to do with me are just different. As long as I am a human pillow for my two year old, he is all good and he loves being the victim of the tickle monster. My favorite thing to do right now is to play catch with my 5 year old. He loves it and so do I. It’s relaxing and we talk while we are doing it. I hope its something that we can keep up with through our lives.
2. What pieces of art, music, literature, etc., inspire you at this stage in your life?
Inspiration is not what it really used to be. As a teenager, it came oozing out of everything and I soaked it up. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found more inspiration from every day people and how they live their life than I did in a book or in lyrics to a song. All those things matter and will forever be part of who I am and why but not many bands sing about how to deal with a screaming toddler without losing your mind. I will say that the TV show Derek did a ton for me over the last year or so in trying to deal with major life decisions and events. As far as motivation, being a father and husband is basically all I need.
3. What does being a good father mean to you?
Being there for my kids. Not just in person and physically in their lives but emotionally as well. I want my kids to know that I am there for anything. My father was absent in my life and my mom, even though she loved me and would do anything for me, was emotionally absent. It was impossible to go to her with problems, concerns and even complaints. Even today, it’s almost impossible to go to her about things. I never want my kids to feel like they are alone in life. I want them to know that their concerns matter and that my advice and love is there for them, no matter what. I also realize that both my kids are going to live very different lives and paths. It’s going to become important to support them both equally no matter what they choose to do.
4. How does your partner feel about your drug-free choices? If single, how do your closest friends and family members feel about your drug-free choices?
My wife is drug free as well. We both respect our decisions to abstain from drugs and alcohol. In my prior relationship to my wife, my girlfriend had issues with drugs, drinking and smoking. I spent the last two years of our relationship trying to help her stop doing those things and it didn’t help or work. My wife was a breath of fresh air.
5. Why did you decide to be drug and alcohol-free as a father (or beforehand)? Are there other major life choices that complement your decision?
My father was a severe alcoholic and lived the majority of his 65 years at the bottom of a bottle. My mother was an addict but one for religion. Neither of those addictions and life styles ever suited me.
I was introduced to straight edge when I was 15 and was straight edge until I was about 22 or so. It was something that helped me more than I can express during those years in dealing with a lot of anger about my father as well as just being a frustrated teenager. I was never into drinking (although I did it a few time after I turned 22) or anything. I spent a lot of that time out of the hardcore scene while I was working and moving around a lot. I went to a party when I was 25. I was the only sober person there but somehow I got led into going to some gang bangers’ house and almost got seriously injured because I wouldn’t take the alcohol and drugs that were being offered to me. Thankfully, the friends I came with stepped in and defused the situation and got me out of there. From that point on, I decided, again, to abstain from all of it again. I also got involved again in the hardcore scene. It’s been 9 years now and my decision to be free now have more to be the best role model for my kids and partner for my wife than anything to do with that party, my father or the lyrics I sang in my younger days.
6. How do your experiences as a son influence your choices as a father when it comes to drugs and alcohol?
Seeing your father choose his addictions over you is one of the most depressing and soul crushing things you could experience. The absence was bad enough but knowing the reason, made it worse. Think about telling your kids that their love doesn’t matter. It’s something that I can’t fathom. My mother had her own addiction and after her marriage to my father, it became religion. She would even sacrifice relationships with others, including her children, to her beliefs. That’s hard to explain, too. She spent months not talking to me, years not talking to one of my sisters because she didn’t approve of how we were living our lives. She told me once that she would disown me if I was gay and it was the absolute truth. How fucked up is that?
My step father was a dick head. He was a bible thumper too and along with that he had his issues with anger and abuse to me. So I grew up in the church and was forced to live in a bubble, and by the time I hit 11 or 12, I was dying to get out anyway I could.
Music was the biggest relief. I fell in love with punk and then hardcore. I found the straight edge message to be the most positive thing in my life and it grabbed me. Being a father now, I will never let an outside substance or ideology control the love I have for my kids. I will not be apart of that cycle. I will break it and start my own filled with positivity and love. One thing that I learned from my step father and mother was how being judgemental about everything can be addictive and destructive. We went on a family trip to Washington DC when I was about 8. I saw a man digging through the trash and he was wrapped in a dirty blanket. I asked my step father what he was doing and he told me that he was trying to find drugs or find something to sell for drugs or alcohol. I asked him if I could give him my blanket and he told me that he would just sell it to get high. Regardless of truth or who this man was, my step father tore him apart without even knowing him or his story. Although I don’t drink or do drugs, I am not self righteous about it or judge others who do it. I hope to pass that onto my kids.
7. As a son, what is something you would you like your dad or mom to know?
My father died a few months ago. The last three years of his life, he was sober and finally a part of my life and I allowed him to be apart of his grandchildren’s life. I was with him when he died. It was the hardest thing I ever had to deal with. Right before he died, I told him the only thing that ever needed to be said and I told him that I love him and that I forgave him. It’s been a weird few months. I didn’t have this man in my life for almost 30 years and when he finally was in my life, I was very guarded with him. I fucking regret that. My father didn’t regret anything and for a man who was basically a walking fuck up, he had a firm belief of not regretting anything but over the last few months, I have spent in regret. I wish I would have done more with him in those three years. I wish I would have called him more or taken him out or whatever. I think about him every day and more than I probably should. I don’t really let anyone know about it but it’s always there. Maybe it’s normal for people in the grieving process but it’s my own experience. I guess the only thing I can say about it all right now is to call your father. Get to know him.
8. How will you talk to your children about drugs and alcohol? How will you address drug and alcohol use among the friends of your children?
The only true way you can is with complete honesty. I will answer any questions they have. We will have that talk just like we will have the sex talk. They will be shown and told the consequences of drug and alcohol use and abuse. I will also tell them what different drugs do to them and that I am not stupid. I know that they will most likely drink and maybe dabble in drugs at some point but peer pressure is never an excuse. If their friends offer them something, it’s totally cool to say no and if your friends don’t respect that, they aren’t really friends. That if they do drink or do drugs that moderation is the key with just about anything. I will also explain to them the legal and real life issues that can arise with both and that if they chose to do either that I will not tolerate putting anyone else’s life in danger by doing things like driving under the influence.
9. How do religion, political ideology, or other philosophies play a part in your choices as a father?
Being raised in the church and had so many bad experiences, I’m pretty jaded. My wife is not religious at all so we don’t really have it in our house. That being said, I would answer any questions about it honestly and without bias. If they chose to go to religion, I would support them.
I am a pretty liberal guy and my political views do reflect that. I would like my actions to reflect that as well. I am sure questions will arise about certain topics and again, I will try to be as honest as possible and explain without bias. With both religion and politics, I will tell them both what I believe and that is all part of being honest.
10. If you drank/used drugs, how will you address your past with your children?
It was a brief time in my life and I could count on my hand how many times I got drunk/high. It was something I didn’t really enjoy (especially the next day) but something I did want to try at one point. It’s perfectly okay and human to want to try new things. I would tell them what I did and that it just wasn’t for me. I won’t think less of them if they do those things. I guess the only thing I could hopefully pass onto them is to not buckle to peer pressure. If you want to drink, make sure its that YOU want to do it and not that your “friends” are pushing you into it.
11. What pitfalls exist for drug-free fathers? How successful have you felt at overcoming them?
At times, I do realize why people drink, especially parents. It’s an escape. Being a parent isn’t easy and can be overwhelming. I’ve never felt the urge to do those things, except right after my father died. I just wanted to disappear for a while but I didn’t. It does suck that I don’t have very much in common with men my age that are dads because I don’t socialize the same as they do. I fucking HATE small talk. It’s like pulling teeth to me. I would rather engage someone in a meaningful conversation about SOMETHING, even if I don’t care about the subject then talk about the weather or whatever you feel the need to blab on about. I don’t go to the bar or drink on Sunday to watch the game, although I am a sports fanatic. I would say that with being a stay at home dad and that I don’t go out with the guys and what not that one of the pitfalls is that I spend too much time at home, which isn’t always as healthy as it sounds. I don’t know if that makes sense but every parent needs a break and sometimes that break is just going to work. I try to combat that with a book, playing with my kids, watching tv/movies with my family/wife, going to the gym or listening to my records.
12. What are your greatest hopes for your children?
That my kids know that I love them. That they find something they love in life and pursue to do something in their life with that and my wife and I can do all we can so they can achieve their dreams. I also hope that I have been a role model for them on how to be a good father if they ever chose to have kids.
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Growing up with an absent alcoholic father and a judgmental “Holy roller” mother will teach you how to be a great parent because you want to be everything they were not.
Our dad was the biggest drunk asshole at times, but he had a huge heart.
Charles you carry that huge heart filled with love, so don’t focus on dad’s alcohol so much, he taught you how to love with no regrets. You are an awesome dad.