I’ve been wanting to write this for a while, but couldn’t ever find the right time, or the right words… so buckle-up buttercup – I have a story to tell. It’s my story, and mine alone. My siblings have their own stories and views when it comes to dad – and I respect that it isn’t the same.
My dad. His health has been a struggle for a while now. He has been dealing with mental issues for a very long time (since at least the 1990’s). He has suffered seizures off and on for at least 13 years. It’s been a lot. And it has been a long and windy road.
So I am going to start… this might turn into a few posts, because I could honestly write a book about it.
Just to be clear. I love my dad, unconditionally. And I am not, nor will I ever be, a victim.
There are two different versions of my dad in my mind… who he used to be, and who he is now. I got from him a love of baseball, camping, being outdoors, dogs…. And he helped teach me to love my people with all of my being.
He used to be the life of the party. He is a charmer. He was never perfect. He is an alcoholic (sober now for about 14 years). We have gone round and round about all the ways he feels I wronged him in his life – you read that right… He blames me for a lot of things. So it is only fitting at this stage in life that I get to be the bad guy still.
He is angry that I didn’t support him in his recovery the first time he got sober. We are talking 1993/1994 – I was 15/16 years old, and was home with my little brother, while my older sister went to the family counseling sessions. I abandoned him, and in his mind it is unforgiveable even 30 years later. Because every teenage daughter should be shouldered with that kind of responsibility.
After this first “recovery”, he stayed clean for a while. He and my mom had been divorced for a few years. He dated (some real interesting women now and then)… and eventually married a dentist in 1996. She turned out to be a real nightmare. She often made it so that he had to choose her over his kids. That’s not all on her (the evil witch she turned out to be), that was 100% his choice. But he was happy, or at least pretended to be on the surface.
During this sober period, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Let’s face it – long term abuse of your body can have very real and long lasting effects. He was being treated with meds. He was working a job he loved (a job that paid for his first recovery stint). He appeared to be living his dream.
Then he hurt his back – he has had back problems for years. Surgery and pain took him out of work. He became addicted to pain killers, and using them much more frequently than prescribed. Lost his job. He stopped taking his meds for his bipolar disorder. He started down a path that led to a very dark place. How bad did it get? Let me tell you…
If you don’t know, people who have addictions tend to have an addictive personality. Meaning, whatever they are choosing as their vice – it will be obsessive and unrelenting.
Remember me mentioning that my step-monster (just kidding, I never called her anything other than her wretched first name) was a dentist? Well… she used her handy little prescription pad to make sure that the two of them were never out of their precious vicoprofen.
If you are not familiar, vicoprofen is a potent pain killer (hydrocodone + ibuprofen), that is a Class II controlled substance (NSAID/opioid combo). Typically it is prescribed for a short period of time (less than 10 days) for acute pain. Usually, your doctor would prescribe in a way that says to take one pill every 4-6 hours as necessary – but do not exceed 5 in a day.
Well… this happy couple was taking 15-20 pills DAILY.
I mean.. authorities would catch on if she was writing all the prescriptions for her husband, right?!? Of course! So she wrote them in my name, my siblings names, his siblings names…. whoever they could think of. The real kicker – he had distanced himself from us so we didn’t really know. I found out with the DEA called me at work and asked me to come down for some questioning. Good times.
It was a shit show. I was terrified. I confronted him. He blew me off even more. They both got into legal trouble – she was no longer able to write prescriptions, but was allowed to remain in practice. She kicked him to the curb. He was broke. He was broken. He was addicted. He was in pain. He was unbalanced. He was once again at rock bottom. No more access to pills – so back to drinking it is! And I was fucking angry.
The next few years were kind of a blur. He lived in his little pick up truck off and on. He stayed in hotels. He stayed in my mom’s garage for a while. He stayed with me for a very short time – but his drinking and continued anger towards me was a little much for us to handle. I bought him a dog – because he has always loved animals and his ex-wife took all of theirs. He somehow went back to his ex-wife (tattooed her face on his arm)… and then was out on his ass again (the dog came to live with me at that point).
There were a lot of lost years here. Occasional calls. He wasn’t part of my wedding – my brother walked me down the aisle. Most calls were catastrophic. We were living in a different town, but several “welfare checks” were called in. I can distinctly remember being VERY pregnant with my boys & picking up a call from him while I was shopping with my sister at Target.
He told me that life isn’t worth it anymore. He told me to tell my brother to come and get his stuff the next day. I lost it. In the middle of Target, pregnant, sobbing. My sister was PISSED! She grabbed the phone and told him to “just fucking do it already and stop calling to make us all feel like crap”. Now, don’t get all judgmental about that. My sis would have shanked anyone who made me feel any bit uncomfortable while I was pregnant (I truly love her for it). We were done.
Of course we got through that. Stayed in touch, but not close. My nephew was 5, and had never met my dad. I had my boys and knew that I didn’t want them around my dad, if he couldn’t get his shit together. So I told him – get sober, or you do not get to see your grandkids. Finally something he felt that was worth fighting for.
He did get sober. He ended up working at the recovery center and living there for years. We were so thankful, because it kept him “clean” and helped him work his steps every single day. We would take the kids to see him. Movies, grab a meal… nothing major. He dated someone for a bit, and it was nice to have a version of him back in our life.
But of course….. now that he was sober, all those years seemed to catch up with him.