High School Senior Shares Dad’s Alcoholism & Recovery Journey For Class Project

By Victoria Kim 05/18/17

The teen partnered with a local health network, which offers addiction treatment services, for his project. 

Image: 
high school teen making a presentation in front of his class.

In late April, 17-year-old Steven Gonzalez shared with his high school and his community of Rockford, Illinois, the story of his father’s alcoholism and recovery, and how it affected his family.

“My dad changed himself for our family,” said Steven. “I am really proud of him.”

The project was part of a new course at Thomas Jefferson High School. Students were asked to identify a local issue, then to present solutions in collaboration with a business or organization. The high school senior partnered with Rosecrance Health Network, which offers addiction treatment services, for his project. 

Steven chose to tackle substance use disorder, using his experience as a child of an alcoholic to illustrate some important lessons learned.

For instance, addiction doesn’t happen overnight. And it doesn’t discriminate. “He did not think it would be a big problem,” said Steven. “Nobody ever thinks they will become addicted. It doesn’t start off that way.”

“I’d promise to come home early. I broke my promises,” said his father, Juan. “I feel bad [about] the time I lost when I was not here.”

Steven’s mother, Laura Garcia, described how scared she and her kids would get when her husband would drink. They worried that he’d hurt himself or get in a car accident. “My kids had fear and did not like to see him drunk,” she told the Rockford Register Star.

Juan, now 44 years old, quit drinking at age 31. Steven was only four years old at the time, but said the change in his father was notable. He said his dad was around more, and spent more time with him and his younger brother Michael. 

Now his dad goes to AA meetings five times a week. Alcoholics Anonymous is a big part of Steven’s life, even years after his father put the bottle down. His whole family attends anniversaries and AA events every month. 

“Everything is different now, and it’s not just about not drinking—it’s about changing who you are as a person,” said Steven’s mother. “We are happy and confident we can overcome anything.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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