I am the son of a Heroin Addict. When my father was fourteen, he got what he called, “His Wings” and injected that insidious drug into his veins. By the time he was eighteen, he was in the first drug program New York City ever had. It was a methadone program. It was the city’s first and in that program, a doctor told my father he needed to have a hobby that kept him off drugs. For whatever reason, he chose backpacking and climbing mountains.
He had me when he was nineteen, so by the time I was five years old, he was already bringing me into the Catskill Mountains in New York. Across the entirety of my life, I have hiked with my father on some of the greatest mountains the East Coast of America has to offer. Because of his drug problem that he has, to this day, I got to see unforgettable views and some of the greatest and most beautiful places our nation has. I have climbed mountains on both the west and the east coast of America. I have climbed the highest mountain in the United States east of the Mississippi three times called Mt. Washington and so much more.
These times in the mountains with my father were the only times in my life I ever got to know him. The real him, off the drugs. I am grateful I at least have that. Others do not. Other fathers with this problem did not make it. Incredibly mine is still alive. I wanted to share this story and some of the pictures of various trips in different states across America. I wanted to share it because I see today heroin is on the rise again and others might be dealing with these issues that affect the whole family. I wanted you to know you are not alone. I stay away from my father as much as I can because of the toxicity of it all and I don’t want my daughter to be affected by it. However, know that inside the heart of every addict there is a human being in pain.
This is the world my father has spent a lifetime in. Sadly, he only knows three states of existence. Being high, coming down from being high and planning to get high again. His life has been an endless cycle of Hell outside the gates of paradise. Many of you have family members living in this despair. They are lost and have left an endless trail of destruction in their wake. It is up to the family members left behind to reconstruct their lives. That is what I want to talk to you about. I want to share with you how I handled it and what I did to survive a father who was a heroin addict.
Being the son of a heroin addict, I often questioned, “Why me?” I asked how could this happened to my family. My father first injected drugs at the age of fourteen and he is nearly seventy years old as I type this and he is still overdosing, losing jobs and crashing cars. I have a lifetime of countless memories that I share with millions of people out there. Those of us who have been affected by this scourge have similar stories. The plight hits us all. It touches our self-identification, our self-esteem and the very core of self. It rattles our core.
How a person overcomes the destruction that comes with this kind of problem is a miracle in itself. Anyone and I mean anyone who can survive this kind of thing and come out the other end of it, should consider themselves lucky. I have never seen an example of that in person.
Try to imagine the door opening and my father walking in the home. Within seconds he collapses right in the middle of the living room. My mother, running to his body laid out on the floor and trying to remove his drugs and needles from his jacket pocket before she calls 911 for an ambulance. Running through the home with a syringe and bag of drugs in her hand. Hiding all of it in my bedroom behind my teddy bear in my dresser. You see, this is not the first time she was faced with this event. It was not the second time. She was so versed in what to do, she knew she needed to remove the evidence so her husband could get medical help without going to jail and losing his job leaving the whole family on the streets.
This one time, after stashing the drugs and paraphernalia and returning to the body dying in the middle of her living room, there were two cops standing over my father. They just walked in our home. My mother screaming, “Give him the shot! Give him the shot!” while the two cops stand over my dying father calmly saying, “Tell us where the stash is first.” My mother still screaming at the top of her lungs, “Give him the shot!” as we can hear the sirens getting closer and closer louder and louder. My father is dying on the floor in front of everyone as the paramedics rushed in and ran to his body to administer the NARCAN shot or “Saving Shot” and pulled him back from the brink of death.
My father is coming to and once again avoiding death. You would think just the plain fear of death would make a person take another path after that, but this became a way of life. In the end, by the time I hit the age of eleven, my mother finally had enough of this lifestyle and my family shattered with a divorce. A lot to handle for a kid like me who was only in fifth grade. I carried this shame through my neighborhood and throughout my entire upbringing.
I tell you from a lifetime of personal experience you cannot let these kinds of people destroy your life or your family’s life. The absolute only way to handle it is tough love. You must remove this kind of toxicity from your own life. It is fine that they make it to a rehab over and over and that there are periods of sobriety and being clean. However, the brutal truth is that they will, more times than not, slip off the wagon and bring destruction to anyone around them.
I believe that you cannot keep letting these people back into your life only to walk on eggshells around them until their next fall from grace. For me, I had to reach for that inner strength to throw my own father out of my life and keep him out forever to have a chance at decent life. For my child alone, I had to make this agonizing decision. I find no other way to be healthy. Once I saw the color of the true sky and the beauty of life, I knew I could reconstruct myself and my life. Only through a renewing commitment each day could I maintain the strength to carry on that tiresome commitment of tough love. I just had to love him from afar.
This may not be the way for you to handle your loved one that is struggling with drugs and/or alcohol, but I knew this was the only way for me and my family to survive. It took many years of introspective reflection to get to that point. I have my own demons. I am no angel. I have no more room on my back for other people’s monkeys.