Editor’s Pick
JULY 14, 2010 4:44PM

What If?

Rate: 10 Flag

  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.

 

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Good question. Good writing. No answers...but I'm thinking.
Wow. that's a powerful thought-provoking post....
Very interesting take. I have a perspective more similar to your father's than yours, but that's what made yours so interesting.

Nicely done.
I too had that feeling of superiority, but mine stemmed from the fact I knew my dad was an addict (alcohol) and I thought he was weak - couldn't he see it was the source of all that rage and inability to control same? Ha. I'm not an addict. But I have an anger problem. At 46 can't really blame daddy anymore. It's not that the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree, it's that we're all trees in the same forest, and all our acorns look pretty much alike.

Good post, thank you for sharing it.
wow powerful post
My mother was a functional alcoholic my entire childhood and well into my 20s. I realized it gradually on my own, probably when I was in my early to mid teens.

Honestly? I feel angry and betrayed too. As a parent, I cannot imagine putting my kids through what my mom made us endure. And I mourn the loss of the healthy, vibrant, involved mother I might have had if she'd made different choices or sought help.

She no longer drinks, but she's white-knuckling it (meaning she has not been through a legitimate recovery program or counseling.) I anticipate the eventual relapse - I know it will happen. It has happened so many times before.

I don't feel so much morally superior to addicts as I am disgusted by the wake of hurt, destruction and wasted opportunities that they leave in their path.

I am so glad that your dad and your husband are now sober.
Your question is a good one, and surely not too many people have your clarity of thought to even be able to pose it. I think its important though, to understand that addiction-any kind- is related to chemical imbalances in the brain. Some believe these imbalances are hereditary and predisposed, and others believe addictive behaviors (leading to addiction) have to do with environment and/ or circumstances. Addiction is a physiologic, as well as mental illness, and as such, individuals with addictions need to have the same compassion, caring and consideration paid to them as other folks who are 'not well'. You husband and dad are lucky to have you on their team.
@Mimetalker, Just Thinking- Thanks for the positive feedback.

@Charlie – in the last couple of days something I'm trying to understand is WHY my dad stayed on drugs so long. He has “everything” going for him (ok we were always rather poor- but hmm now I wonder why maybe) but good kids, loving wife (they've been married 30 years)...I just don't understand. I'd like to hear your perspective (if you want to go there).

@Sandra Stephens- I hear ya with the acorns. Doesn't make it easier though.

@Diamonds&Rust – That's one of the things that gets me, if you were to ask me in high school I'd have told you my parents were teetotalers, I'd never even seen them have a beer. They were both engaged and loving toward me, my siblings (who are still highschoolers) and all our friends too. I almost (but not really) wish there was some kind of abuse because then I'd feel that all these conflicting feeling were a bit more justified. Instead I'm angry and betrayed because my wonderful dad did things I was taught were bad. I wonder how would I feel about all this if I hadn't been “programed” that drugs are Evil. (And with all these “what-if's” I'm glad they're sober too).

@Monica McGivney- I'd say that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. And you make a good point that much of addiction can be traced (according to current research) to biological sources. But at the end of the day I think that people have the power to choose what their life will be. The details might war with your predispositions but it's for the individual to choose to fight that or give in.
I have been with many addicts in my life. I loved them. Baggage is something that everyone has and there is something to be said for giving someone a second and third chance. Low self esteem brings you to the addicts door. Love and fun and company keeps you there. Addicts are people and we all need love and the chance to do better.
R for honest recognition of the complexity of it all. I have worked as an attorney in juvenile court and recently interviewed several vets for a novel. The dilemmas of drugs (Meth is a bad one!), and of trauma that leads to alcohol/drug abuse is atough. My brother was a Vietnam vet, an alcoholic, and a loving father. His kids knew that in his odd way he was -- as best he could be -- there for them.
I hope you don't let your fathers revelation alter your relationship with him negatively. I can only imagine how hard it was for him to tell you that story, he must really like your mate or the lesson was mistakes aren't always fatal or have a bad ending.
I have no answers but wanted to tell you that you sure know how to write a great story. Wow. Just wow. A well-deserved EP.
This is a beautifully told story. I appreciate your thoughts,feelings, and perspective on this. I am a parent who has two children and I have struggled with alcoholsim during their formative years. I am glad that your father is now clean and can talk about tthis with you, and that your husband is hanging in there.

Addiction/alcoholsim is loaded with so many unknowns and contradictions and is just plain confusing to comprehend. It is also loaded with tragedy and anger and hurt lives, and yet, there are success stories too. I am around them everyday. Wishing you all nothing but the best - one day at a time.

Again, well written post.
@Cameleon- I’m sorry for the loss of your brother and brother in law. Nothing is harder than watching a loved fall down that pit. Knowing that jail time is as likely to have hurt as to have helped, at least it would have been something , right?

@tomreedtoon- Pity party table of one? The only masochism I’m into is of the SM variety.

@voodo- I hope the same. It’s kind of like I’m grieving the death of idealized image I had created of my dad while still loving him for being the great parent he has been/ continues to be. He’s just more of a “real” person then I’d ever thought him to be. That's not a bad thing, it just takes some time to adjust.

@cartouche- Thank you for the compliment, I’ve read a lot of your work here on OS and admire it, so it means a lot.
@Burgess Dillard

You are misunderstanding what a "three strikes" law does. It doesn't get people help when they need it. They just get thrown into prison for the rest of their lives over a misdemeanor.
Our lives are all molded by the experiences we've had and the people around us. I know my life would have been quite different if it weren't for the addicts in my life. If we can put aside ego and judgement while evaluating how these relationships have affected our lives, we will see a lot of "learning" going on. I have been "blessed" with addicts who have died, addicts who are in recovery, and those still in active addiction as part of my life. If I take the time to measure how I change in relationship to my life and each one of them, I am amazed.
I am in the constant learning mode. It is all related to perspective and choice. I hope that your perspective will be positive and that you will choose the way of what is comfortable for you, when this all sinks in.
There will be lots of choices to make, so choose wisely!
I've been an advocate of decriminalizing drug use for years. I do not condone, nor have I ever used, drugs, but I believe adult substance use behaviors cannot be legislated and redemption is a personal, not a moral, matter. Bravo on an insightful post!
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