Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – Why didn’t my dad love me enough to stay sober?

Name: Emerald Star Bell

Why didn’t my dad love me enough to stay sober?

packed up all my worldly belongings; it wasn’t much, only enough
items to fill my car. My first stop would be in Celina, Texas to meet
up with my sister before continuing our journey to Cocoa, Florida. My
sister had made the tough decision to move from Texas back to Florida
in a last ditch effort to make a custody agreement work with her soon
to be ex husband, Joe. When she asked me to move with her, the
obvious choice was yes. This would be my first big adventure away
from my home state of Arizona, where I had spent my entire life at
this point. The first couple of weeks were nothing but blue skies and
sandcastles, but things rapidly took a dark turn.

part of the story you haven’t heard yet is that Joe is an
alcoholic. He hid it from my sister for months, going to extravagant
lengths to keep his illness in the dark. Everything crumbled when he
lost his job and finally had to admit to my sister what was going on.
She stuck by his side through multiple treatment stents. She even
moved their family to Texas, believing a fresh start may do them some
good. It wasn’t long before he went missing, draining every penny
from their checking and savings account. She stayed as long as
possible, until divorce became the only feasible option. We believed
that Joe was sober when we moved to Florida; it quickly became
apparent that he was not.

the first few weeks in our new home, there were multiple instances
where Joe put my nephew’s life in imminent danger. The justice
system made the tough decision that he was no longer fit to parent
and he was stripped of any type of visitation. This decision resulted
in me becoming a primary caregiver to my two year old nephew. As the
years have gone by, sadly Joe has never maintained sobriety long
enough to have any meaningful contact with his child. Although he is
blessed enough to have a step-father who has raised him, he is now
old enough to understand why his father is not in his life. There
were many years of anger and resentment. Questioning, why didn’t my
dad love me enough to stay sober? As he grows older I can only hope
he begins to see addiction as the illness that it is.

believe that the addiction crisis that we are dealing with in this
nation is multifactorial. I believe that some individuals have an
underlying mental health condition that leads them to addiction. In
my family’s case, Joe was suffering from undiagnosed bipolar
disorder and was self medicating with alcohol. I believe for others
they may be introduced to a drug or medication and fall prey to its
innately addictive properties. The overutilization of narcotics has
most definitely contributed in these circumstances. This nation’s
inability to view addiction as an illness has also contributed to it
running rampant. If we treated each individual with addiction in the
same manner that we do patients with cancer, I believe we would see a
decline in addiction.

consequences of addiction play out on many levels for individuals and
society. My nephew never had the father figure he deserved. Even with
therapy, it is likely that he’ll have long lasting issues with
abandonment. Joe will never reach his full potential either. He lost
his family, his home, his car, his job, and numerous other things
because of his addiction. Even if he is able to get and stay well, he
has missed almost every important stepping stones in my nephew’s
life; at that point my nephew may not be willing to build a
relationship with him. Joe has been unable to contribute to society
as he has in the past. He’s unable to hold down a job for any
length of time, unable to pay his own bills, unable to afford his own
health insurance. When placed in a situation like this one, many will
rely on the government for assistance, with many being unable to
contribute back until they are well again. If he’s unable to afford
housing this could lead to him living on the streets which makes it
even more difficult to get and stay clean.

combat addiction on both the individual and societal level, I believe
the first step is prevention. We need to be working with children
from a young age teaching them about addiction and ways to combat
falling into it. We need to be more open and honest about mental
health conditions, so that people are not afraid to speak up when
they begin having symptoms. We need to make mental health providers
more accessible and affordable, so that everyone who needs help can
be able to receive it. Insurances need to cover addiction treatment
at the same capacity that they would other treatments. As individuals
we can educate ourselves about the signs and symptoms of addiction,
learn how to help without being codependent and stick to our bottom
lines. I imagine a beautiful future where little boys like my nephew
are able to grow up with both of their loving parents, hopefully
someday that will become a reality.