Happy Sunday, everyone!
Last week, I talked in I Found What I Had Been Missing about finally discovering a peace of mind and body in the beginning stages of using drugs and alcohol. I also found relief in a sense of belonging. I had a new outlook on life, like maybe there was something to live for.
It wasn't long before the excitement wore off and my decision making began to be influenced by the drugs and alcohol. I went from a straight A student that was ahead of the curve all through elementary school to nearly being held back in the eighth grade due to poor performance. One quarter, I failed every class except gym. Those of you who know me will understand why I couldn't ever fail that class! Back to the year, though, my performance and attitude toward my education and teachers were both dreadful. I'm sure you don't have to go far in the NRHEG middle school to find agreement in that. Many of my teachers made every effort to intervene and influence the path I was on, without much success.
Back on the home front, my mom decided it was time to do something, also. My older brother had also begun getting into trouble, so she sent us to Massachusetts to spend time with our dad. I can only assume the overwhelming intention was to give us a preview of how our lives would turn out if we kept down the path we were both on. So, we flew out to Massachusetts and stayed with aunts and uncles. There was one problem, though. No one knew where our dad was. They did what they knew to do when that was the case and began calling all the detox and treatment centers in his area. "When we can't find him, we just start calling. He's in one of them in the state of Massachusetts."
Sure enough, they tracked him down in a detox. I'll never forget sitting in the waiting room wondering which of the sick, rough looking men walking through the doors was our dad (we never had pictures or any recollection of him). The staff brought him to us. He was very sick and hardly conscious. He had flakes and drool throughout his hair and on his face. I'm not sure he knew who we were. Mom's intention was being realized. I remember wondering how someone could get that sick so many times. I would eventually find out myself, and would also come to realize that progressing to that state of being had little to no effect on doing it all over again.
We went back to my aunt's place. My aunts were two of most loving and welcoming people I'd ever known. But, a lot of that experience was missed, as there was so much intrigue in this man who brought life to me. He stayed with us some days and had to go home to "feel better" other days. At the end of our two weeks there, my mom surprised everyone and presented a unique offer. My dad could come live with us in Minnesota, essentially without responsibility. My mom offered to shelter and feed him. There was one simple stipulation, he needed to stay sober.
About the same time, the doctors had informed him of an unwelcoming diagnosis. He had developed cirrhosis of the liver, due to his chronic drinking. He was in the early stages, though, and still had a chance to avoid most complications. He had two options: refrain from drinking and live a fairly normal and lengthy life like the rest of us, or continue to drink, and die, and sooner than later. I can't imagine the fear that must have taken over his mind. There he was, at 36 years old, staring in the face of a deadly disease. In my ignorant mind, it was a simple choice. Stay sober, stay alive, and enjoy time with the children he had been apart from for so long, or continue the life of drinking and drugging, and miss the opportunity to reconcile with his children, and eventually die.
Watch closely in the coming weeks for the first video I'll post here, as I want to talk more deeply and powerfully about choice as its own topic.
It was finally enough. My dad decided to move to Minnesota. Though awkward and uncomfortable at times, it was nice getting to know him. We were a lot alike; physically, intellectually, emotionally. My friends thought the world of him. I finally felt a bit of completion in an area that was so mysterious and untouched for so long. And then came the day I had feared, only months later. We came home from school and my mom informed us she purchased him a bus ticket back to Massachusetts and gave him some cash for water along the way. He couldn't stay sober. I carried that weight for many years, even into my recovery. He chose drugs and alcohol over his kids, over me, or so I thought. I never saw my dad again. The doctor's prediction was spot on. I woke up three years later to a text message from my brother that our dad took his last breath. He was 39 years old when cirrhosis of the liver ended his life.
As I shed a few tears thinking about the life he lived and the life he missed, it's so clear to me why I share what I share with people. It doesn't have to end that way. There's no turning that back. No replay button. When it's over, it's over. I hope that elicits for you the same that it does for me - a quiet stillness that deadens all else, and a presence to life and its basic meaning. To remember why I'm here, that's what I want and need in this world. To live. To love. To experience life, happiness and freedom.
Stay tuned, and subscribe below to receive email notifications of new posts and videos, both of which will be coming soon. Until then, share this with your people, as everyone should have the opportunity to experience peace in and around addiction recovery.