Name: Joseph Johnson
From: Oswego, Illinois
A Garden Weed
At first glance, I had a pretty ordinary family. We had the suburban house, SUV in the garage, and a beautiful garden with a white picket fence. However, in our seemingly typical garden, there was just one weed, my father’s alcohol addiction. Much like the common garden weed, addiction does not often begin as a glaringly obvious problem. However, if the weed is neglected and enabled to grow, it overtakes the garden. Addiction is likewise. Addiction often starts as a minor issue and evolves into an overwhelming problem. Addiction is a crisis in modern-day America because many fail to address it in its manageable infantile stages.
Like many homes in America, addiction was something that plagued mine. In my house, my father’s addiction did not start as an uncontrolled mess, but just something that grew progressively as time went on. It started with little things, Dad would have one too many drinks and Mom would have to drive home, my response, “whatever”. Dad would fall asleep on the couch with a glass of whiskey in his hands, my response, “Haha Dad had a little too much tonight.” At the start, I failed to acknowledge that something may be wrong. It should have been a red flag that Dad could not cut himself off, but no one said a thing. “Oh, my Dad is just a whiskey guy,” was my personal favorite. Anytime I could brush these red flags under the rug, I did. Now just like a weed, the problem grew a little bit bigger. Dad started to get a little mean, but my response was, “Just leave him alone, he’s in one of his moods.” I remember one night, my brother and I had been a little too loud, so my Dad threw some chairs out of anger. He then proceeded to drunkenly threaten us with “what a real man could do.” When he left the room my brother told me flatly “Well, that’s a new one.” We may have been just as in denial as he was. It is hard to think that this man you have idolized, may be flawed. One day, this little weed had engulfed our entire garden. My father got drunk, angry, and put his hands on my mother. This was something he had preached he would never do. He swore upon his life, as a man, he would never strike his spouse, but he did. My father had failed to address the issue to the fullest extent until it was too late, and we had failed to help him. Addiction should not have to reach this extreme instance to warrant a change. When warning signs are noticed early and help is sought out quickly, tragedy is preventable.
It is my delight to tell you my father is coming up one year sober. Just like any garden weed, it grows and grows, but it is never too late to rid of it. That being said my father waited far too long to get help. However, I do not hold that against him. Nobody takes their first sip of beer and wakes up the next day with the compulsion to hit their wife. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, affecting even the most honorable men. Addiction is manageable in its infantile stages and should be handled then. America can slow addiction if every family looks for the warning signs early, does not brush them off, and takes action quickly. Countless programs exist to help alcoholics and even their families such as AA, and Al-Anon. It is never too late to have a conversation with someone you love and get them help because every member of the family is responsible for the health of the garden.