Read one woman's heartfelt letter to her father, an addict, on Father's Day.

I never thought I’d get a wedding dance with my alcoholic father. But after more than 20 years, I’m letting myself dream.

Dear Dad,

Lately, I’ve felt like Katherine Heigl in "27 Dresses" — closets overflowing with bridesmaids dresses, and weddings every month.

But as I stand next to my best friends at their weddings, I’m rarely watching the bride. Instead, I love to watch the father of the bride walk his little girl down the aisle to give her away.


Honestly, Dad, for so many years I wasn’t sure we would ever have that moment together.

Growing up as the daughter of an addict, I felt too afraid to invite you to big events because I thought you’d show up three sheets to the wind and forget the alphabet.

Me and my dad. All photos here from me, used with permission.

In that moment when everyone stands on their tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the bride and her father, I used to hold my breath and sometimes turn away.

Like turning my head when a nurse draws blood, I couldn’t stomach watching their pure joy. I guess it’s pretty textbook “Alcoholic Father,” but I pictured you divorced and passed out on a couch in some crappy apartment with an address I would refuse to write on an invitation. In my imagination, I would resort to walking myself down the aisle. Alone.

Now that you’re sober, I like to watch those dads walk their daughters down the aisle because I know we will have our moment.

I know you’ll be there. I cry when I watch my friends dance with their “Daddy” in the father-daughter dance, but mostly I smile with the excited kind of butterflies. I can’t wait for our dance.

For so long, I never let myself dream of you sober on my wedding day, but now I can give myself permission.

You’ll hold me close and whisper something in my ear like, “You’ll always be my little girl” before we swallow those lumps and embrace the ugly cry.

You’ll lift my lacy white veil from my face and kiss me goodbye. We will dance to our song, "Butterfly Kisses," and I’ll get to remind you of how proud I am — how proud I am that all of you will be there to give me away on my big day.

I know it’s usually the father saying to his daughter, “I’m so proud of who you’ve become.”

But, on Father’s Day this year, and at my wedding someday, I’ll say it to you: Dad, I’m so proud of the man you’ve become. You’ve devoted your entire life to recovery. You fought to keep your family. You showed us the strength and determination we knew you had buried inside of you.

Please forgive me for taking a while to learn how to trust you again.

I’ve never known this kind of love that drives out fear. For a lot of years, I couldn’t come to you for advice or help, and it might take some time to accept this joy that steals my heart away.

Every night, I pray that your sobriety will stick around. I know it’s an ongoing journey that we’ll both keep stumbling down. There are a lot of people out there who are going through the same struggle.

Let’s show the people still stuck in the darkest pits of addiction that there’s actually hope for a beautiful future. We know it isn’t easy, but it’s possible.

There’s something else I want to say, before the day is done: I’m sorry, Dad.

I’m sorry for all the years that I wished Mom would just sign those divorce papers. I even wrote a book called “Closing the Door.” But I just didn’t see any way out.

It felt like life played some kind of sick "Groundhog Day" joke where we kept waking up to the same dark day over and over again. I forgot how to breathe.

Somehow, we all stuck together as a family and learned, eventually, how to set a dinner table for four.

So when the time comes for you to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, I’m thankful you’ll get to sit with Mom in the front row.

You’ve taught me what true love looks like, fighting through all the fumbling and touchdown moments of marriage.

You’ve shown me exactly what it means to uphold your wedding vows: “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

I vow to keep learning to love you through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful moments of being your daughter. And I can’t wait for that DJ to announce: “Please turn your attention to the center of the dance floor. The bride and her father will now have their special dance.”

Love always,

Ashley

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Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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