From: Phoenix, AZ
October 9th 2011.
I was young, so I can’t tell you exactly when or how it started, but by the time I was 10 my father was a prisoner to each and every one of his addictions. My father struggled not only with gambling addictions, but also substance abuse in almost every form. My father had a pretty severe surgery at some point, and I believe that’s where the addiction to pain pills began. From there, it was a downward spiral that had no end in sight.
Around age 11, my parents had temporarily separated, and he left to go live with his parents while me, my two older siblings, and my mother stayed in South Dakota. On October 9th, my father called me from his hometown in Illinois. I was young, so I wasn’t aware of all the pain and hurt in his voice. Looking back now, I can hear his voice cracking while he held back tears and I struggle with not recognizing that over a decade ago. The call was short, but it would be the last time I would speak to my father. I can’t tell you the exact events that transpired after I hung up the phone but what I do know is that my father packed a duffle bag, headed out the door, and went missing for four days. When they found him in the motel, he was lying between the two queen beds with the phone in his hands. The room was riddled with meth, heroin, cocaine, and a mountain dew bottle filled with antifreeze. Each found in his system when they autopsy was completed.
The night my mom told us about his death there was only one word I remember hearing. Suicide. Suicide? Perplexed, I sat on my mother’s bed with my two siblings replaying that word over and over again in my head. Suicide was just something that happened in movies, I had never known it to take form in the actual world. Yet there I was, 11 years old and questioning everything I ever knew about my father. I was angry and confused. The night of his funeral, I remember writing, in all caps, I HATE YOU across each line of the paper. I burned this in the firepit that night and, of all the things in my life, that’s the single most true regret I have.
I no longer hold such a hatred against what happened. I love my father. I have always loved him. Before the addiction, during the addiction, and now. That’s the thing about addiction, when it happens in such close quarters you begin to see it in an entirely different light. It’s easy to be judgmental and make assumptions when you see just a small piece of who someone truly is. Addiction is a family disease, it has this domino effect, except the dominos are on fire and it’s not a domino, it’s a brick. Addiction can change your life before you’ve even realized it’s there. I write this in advocacy for addicts across the nation and for families who are affected by addiction without ever being an addict themselves.
In loving memory of Richard. R. Statler