At 24 I'm part of the generation that went to school in the heyday of the "War of Drugs" propaganda machine. Compulsory participation in the D.A.R.E program, school wide events (tying ribbons to fences anyone?), quarterly assemblies, monthly class visits from local police outreach, and posters plastered all over the school grounds telling us "Hugs not Drugs!".
Now, as a liberal, college educated individual I'm strongly against the War on Drugs (and that damn 3 strikes law). I think it fails to address to true issues behind drug abuse, distracts the public from real social problems that should be addressed, fills up the prison system and robs the government of a potentially lucrative taxable item (at least in the case of the "soft" drugs).
Crazy liberal that I am, I have never in my life done a single drug. I've never even needed a pain killer stronger than an Advil. I don't smoke cigarettes and I rarely drink- and then very little.
Experimenting with drugs never appealed to me. Going so far with them to become addicted, to become a junkie has always struck me as a sign of great personal weakness. I am above that (thankyouverymuch).
About a year ago, I married the love of my life. He's a wonderful man and despite the challenges of settling into marriage I love him as much as ever. We met 4 years ago. I was just out of college and was renting a room in a house and one of my (many) roommates introduced me to him. He was living in a transitional living center (a halfway house). He'd been living there for a year after getting out of rehab for a severe meth addiction.
He’d started drugs at 13. At 18 he got into heavy into meth. At 25, half dead, his sister dragged him to rehab. Against the odds, he’s been clean since. When we met, he was upfront about his past abuse. It didn’t really bother me as I figured it wasn’t going to impact me any. HA! Recovery, as I’ve learned (am learning), is a never ending process.
One thing that really surprised me while we were dating was how easily my parents accepted his history. After all who dreams of their daughter dating a waiter, who is a former junkie, 6 years her senior to boot?
This past week, we spent a long weekend visiting my family. My dad and I were talking about life, and specifically some trouble my husband is having finishing up some schooling/finding a better job. I’ve been frustrated trying to understand the self esteem issues that come with recovery (why did I waste all that time! etc. etc.). In the course of this conversation my dad confesses to me that he used to have a drug problem himself. Having encountered whiffs of this from family before I had always assumed he’d screwed around a bit in his twenties, cleaned up after I was born and moved on. Turns out I was mistaken.
For 20 years my dad was a meth addict. From the ages of 24 to 44 (he’s only 52 now) he did meth everyday Monday through Friday. He couldn’t get a fix, he called in sick for work. Started a new job, he cleaned up just long enough to pass the drug test.
For the first 16 years of my life my dad was an addict. He coached my little league teams, chaperoned school trips, proof read my homework, came to my (awful) band concerts and was just generally a wonderful father. He had his quirks. Don’t we all? But I was (am?) a daddy’s girl to the core and overall I feel I had a solid and safe childhood. But he was high. He was HIGH on METH the entire time.
Considering its Wednesday and I learned this on Monday I’m still not sure how exactly I feel about my dad’s confession. Mostly I’m confused. The moral superiority I thought I’d dropped when I met my husband wasn’t as gone as I hopped. I’m angry. I feel betrayed. And the irony of it all is beating me around the head (have you heard the saying “girls marry their father”?)
I suppose this is more a tangent to the Open Call then a direct response. But the two most important men in my life are recovering addicts. They both are kind, gentle, loving men. What would my life have been if they’d been absorbed into the prison system like so many users are? Neither ever stole, robbed or broke any laws other then the possession and use of an illegal substance.
If the War on Drugs had ever caught up to them, where would I be?
I’m glad I don’t know.