Daddy Was a Drug Addict — So What?
The part of Tennessee that I come from is made up of small towns, narrow roads and deep suspicion. In fact, I always thought the three came together. After all, small towns don’t have many people, so it makes sense folks would probably suspect those they didn’t know. And if narrow roads are all you’ve got linking you to the rest of the world, it’s unlikely you’ll have broad opinions. But I never knew suspicion like that put upon me because my daddy was a drug addict.
It all started when I was young. Very young actually. Like elementary school. Other, older kids, would gather around me at recess chanting “Your daddy is a drug addict! Your daddy is a drug addict!” At the time I really didn’t even know what they were talking about. I just knew it was bad. Real bad. Especially when my friends started walking away from me every time it happened.
It made me feel real bad too. Worse than if the kids were throwing stones at me. You know that sticks and stones defense kids use? But names will never hurt me? That’s a joke. Try having your daddy called a drug addict. You’ll never use that defense again.
The Sins of the Father
One day I finally got up the nerve to ask Mr. Young what it was all about. Mr. Young was the gym teacher. He was also the JV coach. And since he knew most of the kids I figured he would know what was up. I also figured he’d tell me the truth.
“Mr. Young, why are the older kids calling my dad a drug addict?”
“Well, uh, it’s because your dad got in a little trouble awhile back. Had some problems with some of the medication he was taking. Hit him real bad.”
“Is my dad still having these problems?”
“I don’t believe so. Last I heard he had everything under control.”
“Then why are people still calling him a drug addict?”
“People are just mean sometimes, son. Real mean. I wouldn’t let it worry you though.”
I sat there a minute or two; lost in that worry I wasn’t supposed to have. I still had one more question. But I was afraid to ask it.
Mr. Young sensed this. But he gave me time to ask it on my own. Finally, I mustered up some courage and let it fly:
“Does this mean I’ll grow up to become a drug addict too?”
“Of course not. The sins of the father shall not be visited upon the son. Says so right in the Bible itself.”
I found out later the Bible doesn’t say that at all. In fact, it says the exact opposite. In some places it says even worse. Much worse. It says God was so mad that he’d visit iniquity among the sons until the third and fourth generations. In other words, not only would I suffer for what my father did, but my grandkids would suffer too.
It didn’t seem very fair.
My Dad the Drug Addict
It didn’t seem very true either. How could it be? I mean, I didn’t do drugs. I didn’t do anything bad because of drugs either. So why should I be punished? As for becoming a drug addict, well, that just wasn’t going to happen. I’ve known that since I was nine years old.
It didn’t happen either. Oh, I’d eventually drink a little here and there, but I never touched drugs. I didn’t even try smoking pot. That’s how determined I was to not follow in my father’s footsteps. That’s how scared I was too. There’s nothing scarier than seeing someone who looks just like a future you fall apart right before your very eyes.
That was my father alright. See, back on the playground was nothing. Not compared to what was to come. Sure, there were rumors. And I got bullied a bit. But my dad always seemed to keep it together. Far as I knew there was the one incident and that was that.
It was a doozy of an incident though. At least so far as our little town was concerned. Seems my father had run out of drugs one night. He’d also run out of money. Since he already owed everyone in town, no one would lend him a cent. The dealers apparently wouldn’t extend credit either. My dad started getting dopesick. Then he started freaking out. Before he even knew it (he says now), he’d stolen a neighbor’s car, driven it down to Memphis and traded it away for drugs.
It took the local cops all of 10 seconds to solve the crime. It took another 10 days though before they could get their hands on my father. See, he’d made a deal with the drug dealer. X amount of drugs for the car. But the dealer didn’t have all the drugs on him right then, so he paid my dad every day until the debt was settled. He even got my dad a motel room. So my dad spent 10 days laying low and getting high down in Memphis.
My dad’s reputation was cemented. He was a drug addict. And a car thief. Been thought of as nothing but ever since.
The Drug Addict Leaves Home
It took me awhile to ferret out that whole story. It took me even longer to pair the story with the dad that I saw before me each and every day. See, like I said, he knew how to keep it together. As far as I knew he hadn’t touched drugs since that notorious 10 day run.
Now I know better. Much better. My dad continued doing drugs throughout much of my adolescence. Twice he went away for hospital stays. “Minor health issues” I was told. But other than that there was no sign he was even sick. He kept his job. He kept us fed and clothed and housed. And he even seemed to keep his sense of humor. Joking and laughing and cracking us up at the dinner table nearly every night.
We never got to see my dad when he wasn’t on drugs though. If we had, we would’ve seen a monster.
That’s what my mom said the day my father disappeared. We had just sat down to dinner — me, my brother, my sister and my mother. Then I noticed my father’s place wasn’t set.
“Isn’t dad coming to dinner?,” I asked.
“No,” said my mom.
“Where is he?”
“Gone? What do you mean gone? Gone where?”
“I don’t know where,” said my mom. My siblings and I watched as tears began to slowly stream down her face. Then — bam! — the dam broke. My mother fled from the dinner table with a guttural wail. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more sad for someone in my entire life. Before or since.
My sibs and I picked at our dinner; too afraid to say anything. Fifteen minutes or so later our mother returned. Her eyes were still red, but they were steady. Her face had cleared too.
“We have to talk…”
Would I Grow Up to Be a Drug Addict Too?
That was when I learned my father was back to popping pain pills. I’d also learned that he was doing other drugs, but my mom wasn’t specific about which. Turned out she’d been shielding him for years. Running interference with friends and family, coddling him when he was sick, even covering for him at work. See she’d also taken accounting classes in college — in fact, that’s where they met — so whenever my dad couldn’t cut it, she’d step in and do the work for him. It had been like that off and on for nearly 10 years.
This morning though things had come to a head. My father had demanded she go into his office, gather all the paperwork from his desk, then bring it home and do it while he went down to Memphis to score. She said No. In fact, she said Go. Go to Memphis. But don’t come back. Not tonight… not tomorrow… not ever.
My mother also explained to us the hell she’d been living through all these years. We were speechless. We were also mad. Mad that he’d do this to her sure. Mad that he’d do this us too. More though we were mad that he’d do this period.
My dad’s actions though did do one good thing — it answered that nagging question. If this is what drug addicts do, I’d never ever become a drug addict.
But that didn’t mean I couldn’t help one.
It took five days and nights for me to finally decide to help my father. Five days of pacing and five nights of tossing and turning. On day six I awoke with the intense desire to bring my father home. I didn’t tell my mom though. I didn’t want her to stop me from going. Instead I called her from the road.
“Where are you?,” she asked.
“I’m just outside of Memphis,” I replied. “I’m going to get dad.”
My Dad Was a Drug Addict — So What?
It took three days to get convince my father to go to detox. It took 90 days for him to really get his head semi-straight. He’s been living in a sober home for the past two-and-a-half weeks. He comes home on weekends, but throughout the week he stays at the sober house. He told us it’s necessary for the time being. That he’s not really ready to come home. We think though that it’s more like he believes he doesn’t deserve to come home just yet.
Whatever the case, we feel like we’re dealing with a new man. And in many respects he is. In many respects though he’s also the man we knew before drugs took hold. The man my mom married. My mother seems different too. First off, she doesn’t seem so preoccupied with some deep, dark secret. As if there’s an itch she can’t either scratch or describe. She smiles more too. A lot more. And that’s worth everything.
I’m not fooling myself though. And neither is she. We both know my dad’s still not completely out of the woods. And neither is the rest of the family. Not really. But we can see daylight. Bright, shining daylight. And it is magnificent.
All I can say is if you’ve got a loved one who’s a drug addict, don’t fret what others say. Fret what you do. Because it’ll likely be you who gets to the drug addict before they go off the rails. So saving the day will be up to you too.
As for me, well, I don’t even drink here and there any more. I wouldn’t have time to though even if I wanted. Not with full-time college coursework and a part-time job anyway. What do I do? Why, I drive drug addicts to rehab. And they all have dads too.
(Note: Parker is the son of a Healing Properties alumnus who graduated a few years back. He wrote this when his dad was still living on property. It is with great gratitude that we share it now. If you know someone who could use some help, please give us a call.)