'I know you don't know what to do. I don't either. But I'm here…'
Drug addiction is brutal, both for the person addicted and for their loved ones. Addiction can destroy lives, tear apart families and wreak havoc on communities. Anyone who has dealt with addiction themselves or has tried to help a friend or family member through it knows how hard it can be and how helpless it can feel.
Anger, confusion and frustration are natural responses to the behaviors of a person struggling with addiction. So are love, compassion and empathy when you understand the nature of addiction. Parents of people struggling with substance abuse often feel a constant push and pull between all of those feelings, but at the end of the day, every loving parent just wants their child to be OK.
When Sean Hannity aired a leaked 2018 voicemail message from Joe Biden to his son, Hunter, on his Fox News show, the world got a glimpse of the emotional weight of addiction and the unconditional love of a parent who doesn't know how to help their child stuck in the throes of addiction.
In the voicemail, which was obtained by the Daily Mail, we hear an emotional Biden telling his son that he loved him, that he needed to get help and that he was there for him.
"It's Dad. I called to tell you I love you. I love you more than the whole world, pal. You gotta get some help. I know you don't know what to do. I don't either. But I'm here, no matter what you need … I love you."
Hannity called the voicemail "sad," and then tried to use it to make Biden look bad. “Now that voicemail reportedly came at the exact same time Hunter lied on a gun application to buy a handgun,” he said.
However, rather than seeing it as damning, people reacted to the recording with overwhelming support. Those who have struggled with addiction, and those who have loved ones who have, simply saw a concerned father reaching out to a struggling son with compassion and love.
For instance, former NBA star Rex Chapman, who went through a very public struggle with opioid addiction, wrote on Twitter, "As a recovering drug addict I can’t tell you how mean spirited this feels … They’re exploiting a dad’s love for his son who’s troubled. Wow. I guess no one at Fox News knows any of these opioid addicts across the country."
Chapman pointed out that the Biden family has endured unfathomable tragedy, with Hunter Biden losing his mom and sister in a car accident and losing his brother to brain cancer.
"The fact of the matter is that many addicts have family members who can’t or won’t say these words to them. Who only judge. Hunter is very lucky to have a dad like this," he shared. "If only every addict were so lucky…"
\u201cThe fact of the matter is that many addicts have family members who can\u2019t or won\u2019t say these words to them. Who only judge. Hunter is very lucky to have a dad like this.\u201d— Rex Chapman\ud83c\udfc7\ud83c\udffc (@Rex Chapman\ud83c\udfc7\ud83c\udffc) 1665452524
Actor and journalist Ben Dreyfuss shared that he'd gotten calls like this from his family when he was struggling with drugs and mental health issues and that the audio made him want to cry. "Joe Biden seems like a really good dad?" he wrote.
\u201cThe actual audio of this\u2014as someone who has struggled with drugs and mental health issues and received calls like this from my family\u2014just sort of almost made me cry \u201d— Ben Dreyfuss (@Ben Dreyfuss) 1665459177
The bafflement at how this voicemail could possibly make Biden look bad came from across the political spectrum. Conservative commentator Bill Kristol simply wrote, "The fact that Fox News thinks this reflects badly on Joe Biden says it all."
\u201cThe fact that Fox News thinks this reflects badly on Joe Biden says it all.\u201d— Bill Kristol (@Bill Kristol) 1665500328
And conservative writer Megan Basham of The Daily Wire wrote, "This is nothing to sneer at. It's been quite a number of years, but I've been on the receiving end of calls like this from my parents. Praying today for Hunter's salvation."
\u201cThis is nothing to sneer at. It\u2019s been quite a number of years, but I\u2019ve been on the receiving end of calls like this from my parents. Praying today for Hunter\u2019s salvation. Who knows but such a mighty work of God might change Biden\u2019s own heart.\u201d— Megan Basham (@Megan Basham) 1665493701
Surveys have shown that about half of American families report being touched by addiction, and addiction doesn't discriminate between political parties or points of view. What reactions to this voicemail show is that a father reaching out to his drug-addicted child with a message of concern and unconditional love is heart-wrenching, but also relatable for so many people.
There are healthy and unhealthy ways to love a person through addiction, but it's important for every human being to know that they are loved and that their loved ones are going to be there for them, no matter what struggles they face.
This message from Biden to his son should have remained private. But since it's out there, let's acknowledge it for the beautiful example of parental love that it is.