"I thought it was my job to protect you and to fix you"
Jonah Holm, who prefers to use the gender-neutral pronoun they and their, was isolated and addicted to drugs as a teenager. Jonah’s father, John, was a pastor who thought he’d done everything possible to fix his child.
In this week’s StoryCorps we hear from Jonah and John Holm as they talk about getting to know and love each other.
“It was clear that you had checked out,” John tells Jonah. Jonah spent a lot of time isolated from their family.
“I thought it was my job to protect you and to fix you,” John says. He gave Jonah lots of advice. And when it didn’t stick, John gave more, and louder, advice.
“It was the only thing I knew to do,” he says. “And that just pushed you away more.”
“You were my dad, and you were a good dad, but I didn’t think you liked me,” Jonah says. Jonah believed the more John tried, the bigger the wedge between them.
It wasn’t until father and child went to family counseling that John realized he couldn’t fix Jonah.
“I can only change myself,” he says. “Indeed, I needed to change, regardless of what you were going to do.”
That understanding broke open their relationship.
“For you to step out and stop trying to fix me,” Jonah says, “and then address your stuff, then I could just be a member of the family, instead of be the thing that was wrong with us.”
Jonah told their family they were addicted to heroin and needed to drop out of college to go to rehab.
Their family was immediately supportive, and Jonah says, “At that moment it stopped being important that you liked me, because loving me meant something else.”