Addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful
I have been surrounded by addicts my entire life. My dad was an alcoholic. My ex-husband was an addict of many different vices easily summed up in one word: drugs.I escaped my childhood. I divorced my husband. I am not an addict myself, yet I had high hopes to put addiction behind me only to learn one of my sisters and one of my brothers had become an addict as well.
I wonder if an addict ever thinks of their loved ones when picking up their vice again? Addiction has a trickle down and ripple effect. While you may be the one with the actual problem, those who love you dearly are affected emotionally and mentally.
What about the children? I do not hold a lot of clear, detailed memories of my childhood with an alcoholic. However, I have seen the many emotions cross my children’s faces because of the choices their addict father makes.
My ex-husband not only did the drugs himself, he also sold them. He would promise our daughters trips to fun places the next time he saw them only to have no recollection of making that promise. When it was his parenting time, the girls would come back and tell me about how they had to sit in the car while daddy talked to his many different ‘friends’.
My daughters thought frequent trips to the gas station were normal things most people did. They never knew their daddy’s neck twitch wasn’t normal. They used to wonder how come daddy never spent time with them and instead their Mammaw looked after them during his parenting time.
They were witness to many mood swings. During potty training, my oldest daughter was smacked in the face by her drugged-up daddy because she had an accident in her pants before making it all the way to the toilet. She didn’t understand that that slap was the drugs and not her real daddy.
I knew the drugs were taking a toll on all our lives. My bleeding heart refused to give up on the person inside the shell for so long. That person took off his coat of addiction fewer and fewer times. He always promised he would do better, he would get help. This time he was for real. It never lasted.
What kind of parent misses their first child’s first birthday? What kind of parent would rather make a drug deal instead of being present for his second child’s birth? What kind of parent is okay with squandering any and all money on self-indulgent addiction, putting their family at risk?
What kind of parent sells hard drugs from his family’s front porch? I got a call from the police saying I needed to come home, right now. I had just arrived at my place of work and had to turn around and go back home. I opened my front door to see him handcuffed, sitting in a chair in our living room. Standing on each side of him were our daughters, crying. There were about 10-15 uniformed and gloved officers roaming the house and searching everything. My house was a mess, all because my ex-husband refused to cooperate with the police when they caught him months prior.
My oldest daughter can still recall the time when ‘daddy forgot her’. He had just had an extreme mood swing and snatched our youngest daughter and ran out of the house with her. She had on only a shirt and a diaper. He didn’t even buckle her in. For hours he tried to convince me that he was taking her out of state and I would never see her again. Meanwhile, my oldest daughter is crying and asking how come daddy took her sister and not her?
My son doesn’t even know his biological father. A few months after he turned one, their drug addict dad was arrested. This time he got a prison sentence. He was sentenced to six years in DOC. He begged me to allow the kids to visit him.
It took me over a year to feel okay with that decision. Imagine having to explain to young children why there father won’t be present for birthdays, sports events, or even just parenting time. Once we found out for sure what was going to happen to their dad, problems with the children began popping up. My oldest began picking at her skin until she bled. She had marks all up and down her arms and legs. My youngest daughter began wetting the bed almost every night.
Their attention and focus in school became an issue. Their attitudes became outrageous. They did not know how to express their feelings. They didn’t understand their feelings. I imagine they felt abandoned. They remember their dad as a good guy. They remember him as a funny guy who would wrestle and tickle with them.
Memory is a tricky thing. The good memories they hold onto happened very rarely. I desperately wish to tell them their dad is a horrible person who chose drugs consistently over being a good dad. It’s not my place to say that. It is their lesson to learn about who he is.
I see my kids every day. I feed them, bathe them, teach them. I love them, every day. I choose them, every day. I cannot imagine being a parent and choosing drugs instead of my children. I fear for those kids who are still in the custody of drug addicts. Most of the time, a drug addict with children, will do more damage than good to their children. Children of drug addicts only want love from their parents. They don’t want the swinging door where there parent is in and out of their lives. The children do not understand the absence.
My kids’ dad is lucky, in a way. He is in prison. He has time to change and be a better parent. He’s not six feet under having fallen victim to his addiction. I’m not sure which would be better, though. I fear that he has not changed, even in such dire circumstances. His self-will is not being built in prison. I just learned he got time added to his sentence for intent to sell tobacco in prison.
Another disappointment I will have to explain to the kids. I honestly think, sometimes, that it would be better had he died of an overdose. That way, there would be no more disappointments and heartbreak for my kids.
A lot of people believe that addiction is a disease. To me, that is like a ‘get out of jail free card’. All the addicts in my life knew what drugs would do to them. They did them anyway. And now they can claim it is a disease and toss aside responsibility for their actions. I see addicts as selfish. I see them as lacking control. I see them as stuck and stubborn.
Imagine how the children, with their limited knowledge, see the addicts in their lives.
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Picture From: http://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/family-marital-problems/