As soon as Cleveland’s Tommy Wendland found out about the Drug Free Dad project, he offered to do an interview. I really had no idea what to expect. I am so glad he reached out. The joy and love of life that he feels- that he’s worked hard to feel- really ring through in this interview. This is one of those interviews that leaves me inspired to be a more joyful and active person.
Name: Tommy Wendland
Number and ages of children: Ianthe 5, Athena 3
Location: Cleveland, OH
Profession: R&D Manager, previously research chemist
- What are your personal drug and alcohol-free recreational outlets? What are your favorite things to do with your children?
I love playing music and going to shows. I guess that really isn’t very surprising, but these things have been my passion for a very long time. I enjoy creating and expressing myself and music is such a fantastic and moving way to do that. Outside of that I also love traveling and I love art. I enjoy going to new places and absorbing new cultures. Another big part of my life is fitness and exercise. I have been an athlete for a very long time and I continue to love lifting weights and living an active lifestyle. My kids are a constant source of wonder in my life. I love challenging them and watching how they respond to new activities. We ride bikes, we make forts and watch movies, we listen to music and dance… basically anything that I enjoy I try to share with my children.
- What pieces of art, music, literature, etc., inspire you at this stage in your life?
As a perpetual manchild I have never grown tired of hardcore and punk of all stripes. I should note that it is very hard for me to get into new music though, which I guess makes me an old man and less of a manchild. The same things that excited me at 18 still excite me today. I used to be very narrow-minded about what metal I liked, but I’ve been opening up more about that lately. I like fast aggressive music, so thrash metal was always cool to me, but for the past few years I have gotten into some other stuff. In terms of art I have always been drawn to classics and darker imagery. I enjoy the art of the ancients and the way that they expressed their worldview and their reality. In terms of literature I enjoy nonfiction. I like biographies, history, and philosophical materials.
- What does being a good father mean to you?
I honestly have no idea. For me, being a father has meant constantly second-guessing myself. I always try to do the “right” thing and make the right decisions for my children, but I have a tendency to over-analyze things and I apply that habit to parenting as well. I rarely feel confident that I’m making the unequivocally correct decision, but the kids are alive, happy, and healthy, so….. ok?
- 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? This has never been an issue because my wife is also straight edge. We have completely compatible worldviews which is one of the reasons why we go together very naturally.
- 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?
I made the decision to go straight edge at age 15 and the reasons why I made that decision stay with me today. I am concerned by how much drug dependence has invaded our culture. We have accepted the role that intoxicants play in modern society without ever asking why. Why have we decided that dulling our senses and altering our thought patterns is a normal and acceptable activity? I also associate this culture of dependence with a certain degree of personal weakness. I am here to experience life and all that that entails, the ups, the downs, the pain, and the pleasure. Furthermore, I hold my mind and my body in very high esteem. These are the two things that compose me and in order for me to get the most out of my existence both must be in the best shape possible. I challenge myself mentally and physically and I need to keep my tools in top working order. I hold myself to a high standard and I never want to feel that I need something external to alter my senses. I’m also a vegetarian and there are multiple reasons for that decision, but one of them is this drive and desire to maintain my mind and body.
- How do your experiences as a son influence your choices as a father when it comes to drugs and alcohol?
I don’t think it really has. My parents brought me to a certain distance in life and then I began to form and shape my own worldview, morality, and values.
- As a son, what is something you would you like your dad (or mom) to know? This is a tricky one, but I think the main thing is that I’m happy and absolutely love my life. I wouldn’t change anything that has happened to me or that I have experienced, good or bad, because the sum total of these experiences has brought me to where I currently am and I’m happy.
- How do/will you talk to your children about drugs and alcohol? How have/will you address drug and alcohol use among the friends of your children?
Right now because my children are so young there isn’t a lot of discussion about these things because it’s not a choice that they’re confronted with. We like to watch fail videos on YouTube and occasionally when somebody falls down in a funny way Ianthe will say “I bet alcohol was involved!” and that’s hilarious, so I guess she’s making an association there. I think this is one of those things that you take as it comes.
I do believe that we have a responsibility to share our worldview with our children and talk about morals and decisions, so my children will know how I feel about these things and the sanctity of the mind. At the same time, I know that I do not own my children and I don’t want to. They’re extremely bright and very confident, and I think that when it comes time to make these choices they’ll be well-equipped to make the right ones.
- How do religion, political ideology, or other philosophies play a part in your choices as a father?
My wife and I both lean very hard to the left, so we try to give our children those values as well. We don’t force it though, we just allow them to think through things. It can be as simple as saying “If two men love each other do you think the government should tell them that they can’t get married?” This way they can think through these things on their own. I understand that they’re children and don’t fully understand the implications of everything that we’re saying, but these types of things get them thinking. We try to impress the concept of egalitarianism and personal autonomy. We want them to understand that they are in control of themselves and that nobody has any intrinsic rights over them. My wife and I are not religious people and pretty much believe that the point of life is for enjoyment and to maximize our experiences and personal will. Because of that we have the freedom to present many options and philosophies to our children.
- If you drank/used drugs, how will you address your past with your children?
I drank minimally before I went straight edge and have never been drunk. The only times I ever did it was so that I could say “HEY LOOK, GUYS! I’M DRINKING!” It was stupid and can be used as a valuable lesson. Don’t do things to impress others and don’t bow to peer pressure.
- What pitfalls exist for drug-free fathers? How successful have you felt at overcoming them?
The biggest pitfall for me is in social settings adjacent to my career. I travel for work occasionally and people always want to get drinks or crack open some wine at dinner. Sometimes there will be happy hours and if you skip it the optics are bad. It’s not that difficult for me to say “I don’t drink” to deflect things. People usually don’t push you on it because they assume you’re an alcoholic, so, hey, think what you want, as long as you aren’t bugging me about this. Here’s a free pro-tip: Club soda with a lime in a highball glass looks like a gin and tonic.
- What are your greatest hopes for your children?
I want them to surpass me in every way. I want them to be more successful than me, smarter than me, and stronger than me in every way. When I see them and speak to them I see limitless potential. I know they have the capability to be exceptional because they already are. I just want to nurture them and watch them continue to blossom into living goddesses.
- Throughout this interview, your words radiate with joy and happiness. What is your formula? Have you always felt that way or is it something you’ve had to work toward?
Definitely not always. In my late teens through my early twenties I dealt with pretty intense depression, which is something that runs in my family. It never really goes away, it’s always kind of lurking in the background, ready to grab you at any moment, but I have leveled out really well as I’ve gotten older. It really helps me to think of things objectively. Nothing in my life is “bad” by any stretch of the imagination. I have an excellent situation, and I like who I am and I love my friends and family. I have surrounded myself with people who I feel add to my life rather than take from it and have no toxic relationships. My kids and my wife bring me joy and positivity as well. I feel like I live my life to the fullest and am very lucky to have a partner who doesn’t limit me in any way. My wife doesn’t try to control me at all and she encourages me to experience anything that I want to experience and she pushes me to pursue my interests. Life is good. Any complaints that I might have really shrink when I step back and view my life as a whole.
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