‘I love you, sweetie. I’ll call you Friday.’ Those words will forever haunt me. I received a call from my mom when school ended. ‘This is the hardest thing I’ll ever tell you.’ I fell to the floor.’

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“What’s a drug addict?

A drug addict is a mother, a father, a child, a grandparent, a sibling. Drugs don’t discriminate. They don’t care if you’re 13 or 80, what race you are, or what poverty level you live in.

Drugs turn people you’ve once known as caring and loving to selfish and careless. They ruin lives, take lives, and leave families grieving.

If you have been lucky enough to go through life, to skate through it, without dealing with an addict, consider yourself winning.

I have become the person I am today because of what I have seen and endured and I know some people may think I tend to be heartless when it comes to this topic, but if you have been through what I have you probably would be hard to read too.

No one asks to become an addict. It’s not something you aspire to be. I don’t think any child thinks, ‘Hey, when I grow up, I want to be a drug addict!’

Let’s rewind 21 years.  I was 10. It’s when I remember actually knowing my father had a problem with drugs. I didn’t fully understand but what I did know was that drugs were bad, illegal, and beginning to destroy my family.

My father was one of the funniest guys around, always goofy, always happy, always making someone laugh. But one day (and I’m sure it was a gradual thing) that all changed. Then came the mood swings, the disappearing acts on my mother and I, the stealing and lying.

My father, almost instantaneously, became someone I didn’t know or like. My mom and him eventually separated and we moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut. I learned that my father’s active addiction was way more important to him than myself or anyone else would ever be, including himself and his well-being.

It hurt, but I knew deep down it was not him…it was the drugs. I was once his world and then suddenly had become an afterthought.

I worried. All the time. I was a child…

I should not have had the weight of the world on my shoulders.

He came in and out of my life for several years, went to prison, sent me numerous letters promising me he would get better and he was going to change… for me. Now, I understand the only person an addict can change for is themselves, but at that time I believed him. I remember him not wanting to see me, hiding from me, literally. And you don’t know what that does to a child unless you have lived it. My father was not a bad man. I don’t want anyone to think that. He was kind, funny, and loving like anyone, but drugs changed him.

Let’s fast forward through the years of the same old bs. The first weekend of October 2003, I went to Massachusetts to spend the weekend with my dad. I remember thinking to myself, ‘He seems better. He seems more like himself.’ My dad was back. He had finally defeated his addiction and was going to finally change. I’ll have a normal relationship with him again! Boy, was I wrong. I don’t think I could have ever been prepared for what was next.

The calls continued throughout the week. ‘I love you, sweetie. I’ll call you Friday.’ Those words will forever haunt me. They were the last words I heard from my father.

I was 16 years old. Friday came. When school ended, I received a call. But it wasn’t from my father. It was from my mother, insisting I get home. I could tell by her voice I had to get there.

I still hear the words as she fought back breaking down.

‘This is the hardest thing I’ll ever have to tell you…’

My heart sank. I felt sick. My grandfather was battling lung cancer for some time and not well. I instantly thought it was him. NOPE. Wrong again!

‘Your father. He died today. We have to go. We have to get there.’

I screamed; I fell to the floor.

Those words kept replaying in my head.

I was 16! ‘No, this can’t be true,’ I told myself. I tried convincing myself it was a nightmare.

October 10, 2003, Ronald David Miller was pronounced dead. My whole life changed from that moment on. I knew my Dad would miss all the important things in my life. My prom, my graduation, the births of my children, my wedding… EVERYTHING important to me!

We buried him on a Tuesday. The day was grey and gloomy. I’ll never forget how I felt in that moment. I remember every little detail. And maybe I should also tell you that before this, I had never even been to a funeral. My last goodbye, with tears running down, was me placing a rose on top of his casket at the cemetery. I remember how it felt that day to see him like that, to have to walk away knowing that was it.

Again, I was a child and I had never experienced death. I didn’t know what it was like to grieve. But as the days passed, I sure learned what it was like.

I could have used his death and my experiences to turn into a troubled youth, but I didn’t. It actually changed me for the better.

Now, I realize how I watched my father kill himself slowly. How he changed into a man I didn’t know. How I would have done anything to save him, as would my family.

I see so much of him in my son. I make sure his grandchildren know him, the good man, but they also know what killed him. I won’t hide that or sugar coat it. I want them to know the consequences. That addiction leaves you with two choices: get better or die. That it leaves a path of destruction and everyone who loves you are the ones left to pick up all the pieces and the mess you’ve left behind.

Nothing in life prepares you to deal with an addict, unless you deal with it first-hand.

It is emotionally draining. In my eyes when I was little, he was my hero. I loved him so much. I still love him. And even after almost 15 years, I still mourn him. I still cry.

He then turned into a villain, all caused by one thing: his need to get high.

Sometimes I feel hardened by my experiences. Part of me lacks empathy big time. I’m just tired of seeing people make wrong choices and choose drugs over their own children and families. We don’t ask to become fatherless or without a mother, but we will constantly wonder why the one person who is supposed to love more than anything isn’t enough to force you to get better. Little minds shouldn’t have to think like that.

I know that in order to successfully overcome an addiction, you have to want it. And want it bad.

You should want it. You have so much to live for. So much to do, so much to see. There are people that love and care about you and will mourn you… every day. Stop being selfish. Help yourself. Love yourself. Prove people wrong and be the small percent that can say, ‘I used to be an addict.’ It is possible.”

Courtesy Alycia Bickford

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alycia Bickford. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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