Preslee, 16, sat in front of the computer at her home in Farmington, near Salt Lake City, and poured out her thoughts about something she’d never told anyone.
“For as long as I can remember, my dad has been an alcoholic,” she wrote. “I remember going to parties with my dad driving there, but my mom would always be the one to drive us home. I knew how my dad would be one person when we showed up to the party, and a completely different person when we left.”
She continued for three pages, detailing the pain she felt after her parents’ divorce — mostly because of her dad’s addiction — and how her father finally sought rehab after he slammed into another car one day while driving drunk. There were injuries, but none serious. It was a wake-up call.
“My dad never would have gotten sober without [the accident],” she wrote. “He had to hit rock bottom before he could get the help he needed.”
Preslee’s teacher gave her an A on the paper, and the teacher mentioned to her father that she’d written something powerful but didn’t reveal the topic. Preslee also told her dad that her teacher was impressed by the essay.
Her father, Casey Scott, 47, a former television news reporter who now has a weekly podcast about addiction, “Project Recovery,” asked Preslee if he could read what she’d written.
“He asked to read it, but I wondered how he’d react,” said Preslee. “So I stalled as long as I could.”
In February, when she finally gave her dad a copy of the essay, he wept as he read it, he said.
“It was so raw and so real — I had to walk away to collect my thoughts,” Scott said. “And then I thought: ‘This is something that everyone needs to hear.’ ”
So on Feb. 19, he read his daughter’s essay on his podcast, and he posted the emotional video on several sites, including Facebook. It resonated widely.
As of mid-April, the video has been viewed more than 4 million times, he said.
“I was not prepared to read that letter, but I knew that I had to,” Scott said. “In addiction, a lot of energy and love is spent on the addict. But you don’t realize the wake of damage that is caused to friends and family throughout your addiction. Many times, their story isn’t heard.”
“I knew that I needed to change that with Preslee’s essay,” he added.
Casey Scott’s love-hate relationship with alcohol began when he was a middle-schooler in Ogden, Utah, he said.
“I was 14, and like most teenagers, I had a curiosity,” Scott said. “I’d sneak away at a parents’ party to drink or experiment with alcohol with some older kids. Pretty soon, it was a regular part of my life.”
“I was riding shotgun and alcohol was driving much of the time,” he said, explaining that he wasn’t in control of his drinking.
About three years ago, he said, “it all came unhinged.”
On Sept. 3, 2018, Scott hit another car after playing golf and drinking all day. He was on his way to pick up Preslee and her two younger siblings at their mother’s house, he said.
“Someone pulled in front of me and I turned sharply and hit a family in another car,” he said. “Luckily, they weren’t seriously injured. I didn’t have malicious intent, but it was the most malicious thing I could have done. I think about that family now every day.”
Scott was arrested and booked into the Davis County jail on misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence, drinking alcohol inside a vehicle and improper use of a traffic lane. Two months later, he pleaded guilty to the DUI charge and was sentenced to a year of probation, he said.
The repercussions from the crash didn’t stop there.
He was fired from his television job after the story made local headlines, and he felt deeply ashamed of what he’d put his family through, he said.
Preslee recalled that her dad initially lied to her and said he’d been hit by a golf club when he tried to explain the cut on his nose.
“But I knew the truth,” she said. “The day it happened, I had this sick feeling in my stomach all day. I knew something was wrong, and finally, my mom told me about it. He’d called her to come pick him up at jail.”
Scott immediately decided to check himself into an alcohol rehabilitation program for six weeks.
“I’d made deals with the devil and promises to God for years, and they all fell short,” he said.
“In recovery, I sat in a room with 200 people who were just like me,” Scott said. “For the first time, I saw the faces of addiction: College kids, moms, first responders, mail carriers, the guy who helps you at the grocery store. It was anyone and everyone you could imagine.”
It was during his time in rehab that he came up with the idea for his podcast, he said.
His daughter was enthusiastically on board.
“Seeing him in rehab, he was so different from before,” Preslee said. “He used to sleep a lot and we didn’t have a good connection when he was drinking. I was really proud of him for getting help.”
Still, there were difficult days ahead, she said. In her essay, she wrote openly about the highs and lows of spending time with her dad after he left the recovery center. As a child of an alcoholic, she was forced to grow up quickly.
“One day, we were all sitting in the living room for a family meeting,” wrote Preslee. “My dad said, ‘I’ve been through a lot and gone through it, kids, and we will be okay.’ This made me angry and I responded with, ‘Really, Dad? You think you’re the only one who had a hard time throughout this?’ ”
Her father took her words to heart, she said, and they ultimately had several honest conversations about what he’d put everyone through.
It wasn’t until Scott read Preslee’s essay, though, that he truly understood, he said.
“Her essay has given a voice to a generation of kids who have grown up with addict parents,” he said. “Her words have helped these kids realize they’re not so alone. This is truly a family disease, and we need to attack recovery the same way.”
Continued positive response over the past two months on social media has brought that message home, Scott said.
“I am a grown adult now, but I too relate to what your daughter said in her letter to you. I grew up with a Dad that was an alcoholic,” one woman wrote on Facebook.
“I’m impressed with your daughter and her forgiving you and loving you in spite of what she’s been through,” wrote another.
“My family went through the same and my husband has been sober for over 9 years, and it’s so much better now,” wrote a third.
Scott said he has received countless personal messages, as well.
“Lots of people have written me, saying, ‘I’m the daughter in your daughter’s letter,’ or ‘I was you in that essay,’ ” Scott said.
Preslee said that while she’s surprised and grateful for the response, she’s more thankful for something else: Her dad has been sober for more than two years.
“My dad is like my best friend now and I can talk to him about anything,” she said. “I’m so much happier now and I’m excited to make new memories.”
Scott said that since he and Preslee made the choice to be truthful and vulnerable with each other, he awakens each morning with hope.
“I tell everyone that I wish my kids had never had to go through this ugliness, but they’re going to be more empathetic and loving because of it,” he said.
“Without alcohol, my life is 100 times harder,” Scott said. “But it’s also now 1,000 times better.”