Today my 11 year old son asked me a question I hoped he would have never asked me.
"Dad, have you ever been addicted to drugs?"
I've been afraid of this question because I was never sure how I would answer it. I think most parents would lie but I'm not sure this would be a smart approach. Would my denial create curiosity, glamour? Would my confession encourage emulation? Would he lose respect for me if I told him I was just a man and not a hero? Every father wants to remain the hero in his sons eyes and fears having that image lost. I wanted to remain his hero forever. What if?
"I learned about heroin and other drugs and the effects on the body and addiction and I was curious if you have ever done drugs or been addicted?"
My wife paused and looked at me as soon as he finished his question. She met me a couple of months after I had gotten back from Texas, where I went to clean up. She knows my past and helped me get through some of the lingering after effects of getting clean. She doesn't want my past to affect our kids and I understand that. I have always been afraid to tell my son the truth about this part of my life. I know he looks up to me.
What if I went through what I went through as a lesson so that I can speak from experience and tear apart the glamorization of that life. The whys, hows, and what's.
I've been close to death and have seen people die due to drugs. I've lost friends. I have seen addicts with no intention of getting clean. I have seen good people turn to crime. I've seen friends turn on each other and I have seen people lose everything.
Maybe my life is a lesson that was intended to be shared with others?
"Yes son, I have done drugs and have been an addict. Before I met your mom. Sit down, let's have a talk."
I told him about how I fell down the path I did. The feeling of being alone. The wanting of more. How everything always starts out as fun but quickly goes down a different path. I described to him what it looks like to watch people shoot up. How one can see the death and hopelessness in their eyes. I described to him how scary it is to see someone overdose and what it feels like to think you are about to die. I told him how my friends couldn’t stand to see me do that to myself and how they distanced themselves from me.I told him how I would see friends turn against one another. How they could become enemies over the most menial things. I told him how it felt to lose faith in everything. The depression, the hate. I described to him the devastation that accompanied getting sober. The pain, the sweats, the forgetfulness, the tremors; the feeling that you may never get back to being normal again. I spoke and he listened and with every word that escaped my mouth I feared that this may be too much reality for him. That his father , who he looks up to, could be so weak. That I will not be the hero in his eyes anymore. I spoke and he listened.
“ I will never lie to you son. If you ever have questions or concerns, I won’t bullshit you. It May not always be the answer you want but it is the answer you deserve to hear.” I finished.
My son is very smart and has a very good grasp on reality. Though I was surely afraid to tell him the truth about my past, I am glad I was able to man up to a very uncomfortable question. I only hope that my mistakes will not be his. My family is my life and my reconciliation. Their happiness will forever be my attempt to right my wrongs.
“ I understand dad. Thanks. “ He said. “ I love you.” He finished.
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