Letting go of people is difficult, but letting go of family is even more difficult.
My biological dad was in and out of rehab, jail and eventually prison my entire life. His charges were “non-violent” drug related crimes, but they tore up our family just the same.
It is hard to love a drug addict. People talk about the pain and turmoil the addict faces, there are support groups for them to find other addicts to cope with. There is so much support out there, but as a child of a drug addict I found I was (with the exception of the support from my mother and my sister) very much alone.
First, I had to learn to live with the fact that I will never get the apology I want from him. He will never apologize for the times he disappeared and I thought he was dead, for the times he didn’t show up to my birthday, for him being in Prison during my high school graduation and my wedding. He will never apologize for missing the births of each of my children. He will never take accountability for the scary things my sister and I saw when we had to stay with him every other weekend, for leaving us home alone at a young age in a bad neighborhood, or for breaking our hearts over and over when we knew without a doubt that he could never love us as much as he loves his drug.
I had to learn to let that go. I had to learn to accept my growth as the closure I so desperately wanted from him. Eventually, I accepted that any apology I would get from him would be rehearsed and not genuine.
Next, I had to learn how to love him in a way that protects me and my family. I have always been a well of forgiveness for him. I wanted him in my life so badly that I never created any kind of boundaries for him. When he served a 9 year sentence in Folsom State Prison, I believed 100% that he had the “wake up call” of a life time and that at the end of it I was finally going to get my dad. I opened my arms to him without a second thought, I brought him into my family, introduced him to my husband and his family. We rallied beside him, excited to finally have the man I wanted my entire life.
Well, within two years he was using heroin and incarcerated for a year and a half for stealing a baby monitor from Target. It sent me in a whirl. I had to explain to my daughter why “Papa Mark” would not be coming to bring her blue berry muffins anymore. Why she couldn’t see him. I had allowed her to adore him the way I had adored him, my dad is a FUN crazy guy. He is easy to let in.
After seeing my daughter process that, I had to make a decision. Was I going to keep bringing him in and letting this happen, was I going to sign my children up for that same disappointment? My husband and I live quiet simple lives, was I going to allow someone to expose my children to the things I was exposed to? Or, was I going to stand up for my children in the way that my mom wanted to so desperately but was unable to because of custody agreements? Was I going to love him, and wish him well but at arm’s length?
I chose the latter. I chose to put their needs above my want to have him in my life and his want to be there. My father loves me and loves my children. It’s a decision I have to make every day. It’s not easy to tell your loved ones that they can’t come around because of their sickness. Because drug addiction IS a sickness.
In doing so, he is not that powerful to me anymore. My children are the most important people in my life, their security comes before all else. It was a hard decision to make, but an easy one to stand by. I have made my healthy boundaries. I am open and honest with my daughter and when she asks about it I tell her in details that are appropriate for her that he is making bad choices and needs to be away from us until he learns to make better choices.
Finally, I had to find peace with the fact that I defended him against my family when now as an adult I know more of what he put them through. I remember being told as an adult something my dad did that was just horrid, and I called my mom bawling because I could not even hold the guilt I felt for looking her in the eye all those years and defending him. Of course, my mom forgave me. She didn’t need my apology, but it was maybe healing for both of us to acknowledge it.
I have found talking about it helps. I have learned to not be embarrassed by the things that have happened in my life and to share it with others. By doing so, I have found more support and more people who can relate. I have found how very not alone I am.
Sometimes I think that one day it will be different and one day he will make a change and be in our life. Sometimes I wonder if the next time I see my dad will be at his funeral. Knowing how very possible both of those things are shows me that he cannot be here now. I can’t control what he does, but I can control how much impact he gets to have on my life and as difficult as it has been I have finally come to a place where I am strong enough to do that.
I hope someone out there reads this and relates, and can maybe find some peace. It’s good to know you aren’t alone. Feel free to reach out to me if you need a listening ear ❤