“In June of 2019, I held my father’s hand as a team of doctors told him there was nothing they could do to keep him alive. His liver was failing, and his heart valves had eroded so severely that if the doctors tried to operate on his liver, he would have bled out. Years of intravenous drug use and alcoholism had caused his body to begin shutting down. My eyes instantly filled with tears as he agreed with them to put him on a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ list. He wished to be an organ donor, but they told him they could not use any of his organs.
My relationship with my father was never a steady one. Despite that, I loved him dearly and he loved me. When he was around, I felt at home. He made me laugh, and he always tried to give me advice. For years, he was in and out of prison. He chose drugs, mostly alcohol, over a clean, sober life. And that’s just the way it was. I didn’t expect much from him.
He put his hand on my head and rubbed his fingers through my hair. Then he looked at me and said, ‘Sis, why don’t you walk and get us some lottery tickets? I want to leave you something when I go.’ In that moment, I felt this immense pain in my heart. I couldn’t imagine what he possibly could be thinking. The doctors just told him within two weeks, his life would end.
So, I got up and walked through the Cleveland Clinic — a steady stream of tears running down my face — through the front doors, out onto the street, and through Cleveland to find my Dad his lottery tickets. I found them at a Walgreens, bought them, and walked back, tears still streaming from my eyes. I felt so alone and sad. We scratched them off together. But, as you would know if you know my current circumstances, my dad did not win a million dollars to leave his first-born child when he passed away on July 2nd, 2019.
A few days later, he passed away on the floor of a lady’s house who houses addicts in exchange for them selling drugs for her, and getting most of the profits. I had set up hospice care for him before I had to leave, but he checked himself out the day after.
Prior to my dad’s passing, I had already went through more than I thought I could handle at that time. I was suffering severe anxiety and depression from five years of an extremely toxic relationship. (Because that’s what you do when you don’t love yourself, you stay in and force relationships God never wanted for you.) Another bad set of events followed soon after. It was all too much, and a doctor had recently prescribed me Xanax to help ‘as needed.’
In the months after my dad passed, I could not sleep at all. I was drinking often to suppress the feelings of loss and anxiety, which is something I had learned to do many years ago when I took my first drink at the age of 14. When I wasn’t drinking, I took a Xanax to fall asleep. It was, of course, ‘as needed.’
When I was laying next to my dad in the hospital, we didn’t sleep at all. He was in so much pain because his abdomen had filled with fluid, and they weren’t draining it fast enough. They couldn’t give him pain medication because his liver couldn’t metabolize it. His body and eyes were bright yellow from the onset of jaundice. So, he was slowly dying and dying in pain. The alcohol and drug addiction had finally won. And it wasn’t ending in a peaceful pain free experience.
Fast forward a few months after my father passed. I’m doing okay, but still having a really hard time mentally dealing with everything I’ve gone through. And then something bad finally happens. One day I woke up and had no recollection of how I had gotten to sleep.
My childhood was extremely chaotic and dysfunctional. I watched my parents get drunk and beat each other, steal from people or stores to get what they needed, and get high off every drug possible. They would take downers and then pass out at the kitchen table, face down in their food. They got arrested in front of my sister, brother, and I. I was taken to foster care twice, once in the middle of the night when I was in the 7th grade. At the peak of their addiction, when I was 19 years old, I watched my parents shoot up heroin at our kitchen table multiple times a day, every day for months. I could go on and on with stories no child should have to experience, things I’ve struggled to forget.
So, on that day when I woke up and racked my brain as hard as possible to figure out how I’d gotten to sleep, I had a flashback to my father laying there in pain, and me watching the only dad I’ll ever have — who I never really had –slowly dying in front of me.
This is a picture of what I have left of my dad. These are the remnants of a life that was not cherished. Wellness is a gift from God. The ability to get up every day and be able to function is a blessing not everyone is afforded. If you don’t treat your body with respect, and you don’t take care of it properly, it will not take care of you. Drinking every day, or drinking heavily, is detrimental to your brain function. Taking medications to suppress your emotions is lethal if not taken properly.
I’m here to ask you to please use this one life to do something good. Love your children and your family while you have them. Teach them how to be successful in all aspects of life. Teach them to be honest, loving, and kind. Don’t chose alcohol or drugs over your children. Because one day, more than likely, they too will struggle with some kind of substance as they try to deal with the ups and downs of life. I don’t think any loving parent wants to imagine their child dying in a hospital, unable to have the pain taken away. Or for the only thing they leave behind in the world to be a wallet, two knives, and a drivers license.
Alcoholism: An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
Drug overdoses: In 2014, more young adults died from prescription drug (mainly opioid) overdoses than died from overdoses of any other drug, including heroin and cocaine combined. And many more needed emergency treatment.
Please love yourself. You are a gift to this world from God. It needs any amount of goodness you have within you.
Things that have helped me center myself and find peace:
Openness: Being honest and letting people know I struggle too. Even when I’m wearing a big smile, deep down, I’m struggling.
To my children: I don’t ever want you to go a day in this life, as long as I’m alive, wondering if you are loved. I will never choose anything over you. I will continue to take care of myself, because I want as many happy memories with you as I can cram into this short time I have on earth. #BreakTheCycle ”
Read more stories like this:
‘This is addiction. This is ‘just one more time.’ ‘Just a little hit.’ It’s a 3 a.m. phone call we knew was coming, but prayed never would.’: Family mourns loved one lost to addiction, ‘drugs don’t love you, your friends and family do’
‘How’s your son?’ ‘He’s a homeless heroin addict. I don’t know if he’s alive.’ I left the nail salon in tears.’: Mom’s son ‘missing’ due to opioid addiction, ‘until we meet again, I love you to the moon and back’
‘Why bother? Nothing’s left.’ I was a washed-up, homeless junkie injecting meth into my arm.’: Veteran launches organization to end veteran suicide after battling addiction, ‘your life is worth living’
Do you know someone who could benefit from reading this? SHARE this story on Facebook with family and friends.