My Father the Addict

My father has been a drug addict and part-time drug dealer and pool hustler for my entire life. The drug dealing was and is a way to get his own stash for cheap and the hustling was a way to make extra money for the household. My mother was a recovered/ing alcoholic and pill head from the time I was born until the day she died.

I grew up within the drug culture, but the only time my father has been arrested in my lifetime was for “stealing” cable television. I did other people’s drugs in high school, and I lived without water or electricity for extended periods due to lack of money. I was on Free Lunch my entire public school career. An “allowance” was not an option after the age of 10. The only time I ate fresh vegetables was at my best friend’s house.

Even though my father was educated, and is an intelligent man who works hard and taught me a great work ethic, we were always poor because my father’s employment history involved dodging drug tests and taking low-paying jobs that didn’t require them. School didn’t come easily to my mother, and though she was intelligent and widely read, that doesn’t get you a decent-paying job.

When I was in high school, I walked into a house with a friend who needed to meet with his connection there to pick up his drugs. Part of the redneck drug subculture is hanging around and doing a little with the person you’re scoring from (and whomever else is hanging around). I was sitting there, participating in the ritual, when my father walked in.

Apparently my friend’s connection and my father’s connection (at least at that point) were one and the same. We made eye contact and then promptly acted as if we didn’t know each other. My friend, who knew my father, played it cool and we left after the social obligations were satisfied without having to have an awkward conversation with my father. I got more messed up that night than ever before because I was so freaked out by the encounter.

By mutual unspoken agreement, that conversation with my father never happened. We both carried on with life without ever mentioning that experience. In a twisted dance of non-acknowledgement, we never spoke of such things to each other.

I eventually figured out that my father was a connection for some of my older friends. When I confronted my mother about it, she spoke with him and told me later that he swore he never sold to anyone under 18, that there was no way he was going to be picked up for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, as if this made selling drugs to high-schoolers more acceptable.

I grew up with an odd sense of ethics. I was using at the time myself, often in stranger’s houses, but was I was indignant that my father could even be peripherally involved in the same circles. Our worlds were separate, different, and I was pissed that I could come across him anywhere in such a context. You are not supposed to be in a drug den using across the room from your father when you’re 16. You’re just not.

My father has been diagnosed with military-service-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is literally out of his mind without drugs. The prescribed pharmaceuticals never worked well for him, and he didn’t respond to non-pharma treatment. He cleaned up briefly, but the PTSD and depression over my mother’s death had him so close to suicide that he went back to the drugs.

I can’t say that I blame him for going back to them – My recently diagnosed anxiety disorder, along with my own PTSD symptoms and a diagnosed sleep disorder, combined with my own spotty depression medication history and past issues with both alcohol and cocaine give me sympathy for him.

I don’t know if I’m an “enabler” or not. All I can say is that I’m glad he found something that actually quiets his personal brand of insanity. I haven’t yet, but the anti-anxiety medicine has improved things. I just wish that he could remember that I left that stuff, that old life behind, that I won’t participate anymore, that I’m bent on doing something more with my life than he was ever able to.

When he offers them to me as he does them (which is part of the social obligation of the drug subculture), I hide behind the “You know I’m tested for that crap,” answer because I can’t bear to have that conversation with him again, the one where he is almost begging me to approve of his use, to tell him he’s not a bad guy because of it.

I can’t bear to have that conversation with him again because I can’t condone any more than I can condemn.


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