Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Becky's Story

Becky is the contributing editor for Family Perspective on Addiction. She has recorded part of her story at A Walk in Our Shoes and A Daughter's Journey.

"When the pain of cutting someone you love out of your life pales in comparison to the daily pain that they inflict upon your soul, you can rest assured that you have made one of the most courageous, brave, loving, and selfless decisions of your entire life."

This is my story: an on-going journey of an adult daughter coping with the struggles related to having a cocaine-addicted father. These are the resulting emotions: Heartbreak. Pain. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Rage. Grief. Sorrow.

The nightmare for my family began in April of 2005, although many of us suspected that things just weren't right with my dad long before that. Upon confirmation of my dad's drug use, my family was so lost and continue to be at times. We had little forewarning as to how our lives would forever be turned upside down and inside out and how my dad's addiction would impact us on a daily basis for years to come.

I am a 29 year old mom of three gorgeous boys ages 15, 7, and 4. My husband and I have been married for nearly nine years. My biological father died a few months before I was born. A year and a half later, my mom had my first brother. By the time I was three, my mom was remarried to the man that is now my crack-addicted step-father. Over the next four years, my mom and step-dad had two more children, my youngest brothers. I also have a half-brother from my biological father's marriage before he met my mother. My younger brother's ages are 21, 25, and 28.

My brothers and I all grew up in the same house with our mom and dad. My dad had always worked as an engineer and at 40, he even went back to school to get his Bachelor's degree in Engineering. Since we lived in a small town, my parents decided it was best for my dad to seek employment in a big city (about 3 hours south of where we lived). So, my dad got a job with one of the Big-3 automakers, had an apartment in the city, and commuted home to be with our family on the weekends. It wasn't an ideal situation, but it afforded my mom the opportunity to be a stay-at-home-mom to the four of us, and allowed for career growth for my dad.

My dad commuted home on weekends for nearly 15 years. Once I got older, I realized that it hadn't always been easy on my parents, being so far apart for so long. In hindsight, this arrangement was probably a catalyst for my father's addiction, although nobody could have predicted it at the time.

My siblings and I haven't always had the best of relationships with our father because he was never there for us, or rarely seemed to make us a priority, although we did have a fairly happy home life. My dad never made it to Little League games, school plays, or field trips, and we were always told that we should try to be understanding because he was working hard for us so that we could have a house and nice things. While we understood the basic concept, it didn't fill the void we felt within our hearts when our dad wasn't in the stands cheering us on.

In April of 2005, my dad had asked to move into a spare room that my aunt and uncle (my mom's sister) had, and offered to pay them rent. For some reason, his apartment situation wasn't working out any longer (this should have been one of our first red flags!). My father insisted that he wanted to move in with them because the rent was less expensive and their house was closer to his work.

In May, we started to notice that something just wasn't right with my mom and on the rare occasion that we would see our dad, he would sleep all the time, be withdrawn, and looked plain horrific. My siblings and I had known for quite some time that things weren't going well in our parent's marriage (more so than usual, as my dad was never really respectful to my mom and never treated her very well). We just assumed that my dad was over-worked and over-tired for some time. We knew that he had a short stint with depression requiring medication not long before, so we also assumed this had something to do with his recent, odd behavior.

A couple weeks after our observations (which we kept to ourselves), my aunt had mentioned something to me about my dad "not being right". It was just a few days later that my mom called me crying to tell me that my dad had a crack/cocaine addiction. I remember sitting in my downstairs bathroom so that I could have privacy while speaking with her. The news didn't trigger a response from me other than, "I figured something was up." I imagine that I had probably unconsciously prepared myself for what I had heard based on my dad's peculiar behavior; however, at the time, I was more concerned with how my mom was doing. I learned that she knew of his addiction for longer than we had suspected; a burden that was weighing heavily on her heart. My mom sobbed and repeatedly told me how sorry she was for having to tell me this news but that she thought we should know in the event that our dad ended up dead in some crack-house. What a terrible burden for her to have to carry all by herself for so long.

By September of 2005, our family had been through so many terrifying and horrific events. My dad had drained my parent's joint-bank account more times than I can count, my siblings and I have had to pay my mom's bills and buy food just so that she and my brother can survive, my dad has "loaned out" his vehicles (and rental vehicles) in exchange for drugs (at least 5 times just by this point), he has maxed out all sorts of credit cards, written bad checks knowingly, had my aunt/uncle's house raided because the police thought it was a drug house because my dad lived there, nearly losing his job numerous times, being investigated for insurance fraud because of the missing cars and rental vehicles, and associating with prostitutes.

Things finally got so bad that in September, he went into a rehabilitation center for the first time.

When all of this was occurring, I had written some thoughts in my journal because I couldn't keep them bottled any longer. The following is an excerpt...

"I've read everything and heard all about detaching with love, not riding the "roller-coaster" with your loved ones, letting go, coping for yourself, blah, blah, blah. NONE of it is as easy as everyone pretends. I believe that my dad is only asking for help because he (maybe) is now realizing that the forms of help he once had (rehab, the ½-way house, my mom helping make arrangements for my dad to keep his job) are all exhausted now. He's without a car once again, his money is gone (including most of his retirement money), he has no place to live now, and as soon as he reports to work again (he's been gone for two days), they are going to make him submit to a drug test, he will fail it, and he will get fired. The only reality left for my dad is jail and/or death at this point. Just when my family thinks it's impossible to hurt any more deeply, something worse happens. There are so many questions that we need/want answers to that probably don't have any answers at all. How many times are we supposed to try to help our dad? Are we supposed to walk away from him? How can I rest at night knowing that my dad is living on the streets? How long can my husband and I (and my siblings when they can) keep taking care of my mom and youngest brother financially (because we refuse to let them starve or not have a place to live)? How do we get through the holiday season without my dad there? How do we deal with telling him that he's not welcome? How are we supposed to handle the fact that not once, not twice, but THREE times has my dad chosen drugs over our family? Would God want us to turn our backs on my dad, knowing that maybe that is my dad's only chance for turning his life around (i.e. hitting rock-bottom)? What are we supposed to do now? We're sick of being used, hurt, tired, stressed, sick, horrified, and disgusted. How do we deal with the reality that is going to befall my dad very soon if he continues down this road (death)? What do I tell my children as a reason why they don't see their grandpa? I am just so lost."

This is how it began, yet the struggles continue daily. I have explored answers to the questions posed above on multiple occasions and I suppose that today I am closer to the answers that I seek. I believe that the only way my family (minus my dad) had lived through this nightmare is the fact that we have an enormous amount of faith and we have each other, and with that, truly, anything is possible.

1 comment:

SeaStar said...

Thank you Becky for sharing a terrible and important story. Addiction is such a threat to families - and I don't think many of us get how much of a threat. I have not read of crack addiction starting after forty (little did I know). The particulars of your story are chilling and the fortitude you are showing admirable. I'll be checking your blogs regularly. Another bridge laid down.