I remember sitting in a freezing car in the middle of Los Angeles, looking out of the car window at the homeless people that passed. Many of them walked by without a second glance, but a couple of them made direct eye contact and stared. Eventually they moved along, but my heart raced as I waited for my father to return to the car. As every homeless person passed, I imaged my dad in their torn clothes, begging people for money on the streets. To this day, I'm not sure why my young mind had placed him there, maybe it was just one of my worst fears playing tricks on me.
After a while, my dad did return with things wrapped in foil. I asked him what it was and he told me it was food. So naturally, being a kid, I asked him if I could have some. He wouldn't let me touch the foil and hid it in the middle console of his car. I shrugged it off and happily took the gift he had promised me, a small turtle from the street corner vendor. It took my mind off of the foil completely and that was the end of that.
I must have been around the age of twelve then, I'm twenty-three now. I remember bits and pieces of that day for some odd reason even though nothing was that particular about it. Maybe it stuck in my head because I could sense something was off or maybe it's just one of those weird memories that stick to you to fill some space.
If you're wondering what was in that foil, I couldn't tell you. I can tell you that recently I was confronted with the fact that my father is an addict and you could assume that he was buying drugs as I did. I mean, I had always kind of known but I was in denial until his addiction confronted me head on.
My dad and I didn't always have an incredible relationship but it wasn't as bad as it could be. He never abused me, he was never mean to me, and although he clearly neglected me, he seemed to love me. I constantly heard the rumors from my mother that he didn't pay child support for me but I refused to believe it. I idolized him and put him before my mother (even though she was the one taking care of me) because I didn't see him much. I always tried being like my father even though I'm a girl, I took up skating as a hobby because he liked to skateboard. Even convinced him to take me to get one because I wanted him to be excited about spending time with me. I begged my friends to teach me how to get better at skating, my dad wasn't around to teach me and I wanted to impress him. I wore band shirts of the bands that he liked, you name it.
We talked on the phone pretty often and he would always show interest in my life. He was my best friend at a point, and none of the negative aspects mattered to me. I defended him whenever someone spoke against him and made sure that everyone knew how much he meant to me. Then everything changed one day.
I logged into Facebook to see a post from my father stating, "someone get a hold of my wife, I've been shot." EXCUSE ME? The phone slipped right through my fingers. I remember fumbling to pick it up as quick as my shaking hands would allow and I tried calling him. No answer. By this time, I'm assuming that he's dead. Tears are storming my cheeks and I can't breathe. I'm gasping for air when my grandma (his mom) starts to call me. She tells me that he's alive and being rushed to the hospital.
I tried calling his wife, my stepmom, but she didn't want to speak to me. I was at a loss for what to do, I just wanted to hear his voice and know that he was truly ok. Eventually, my father did contact me and tell me he was going to live. He explained to me that his friend saved him and jumped in front of the second bullet that was fired at my father, sacrificing his own life for him. I had never been so grateful in my entire life.
Time passed and my father grew more distant. I can only imagine the emotional agony of being shot—but also watching your friend die right in front of you to save your life. I tried to be understanding and gave him his space but things never returned to normal. Not that they ever were normal to begin with, I guess.
Years passed and my father started a divorce. I tried to steer clear of that and be there for him, but I was young and unsure how to console him. I purposely started to study psychology so I could try to do more to help him, which is still my major to this day but I couldn't change him and I couldn't save him.
Being young and naive, I sent him money when he would ask for it and that's the only time he would really speak to me. He did always send my money back as well as a little extra, to be fair, but eventually people started telling me that it's not right for him to come to me for money and that he was using it for the wrong reasons. I was confused but I agreed to stop sending him money and let him know. He wasn't too happy about that but he didn't lash out at me. That was in 2015.
On Easter of 2016, my father called me after not speaking to me for a year and asked me for money. I told him that I didn't have money to give him and that I was struggling on my own. He was persistent and began begging me for money and telling me that he was starving and homeless. The thought of him in those torn clothes from my childhood made my skin crawl. I started thinking of all of the different ways I could get money to him, desperately wanting to save my father as anyone would.
That's when it hit me. How did he end up in this situation? The pain in his voice led me to believe that he really needed me and that he was being sincere but all addicts and manipulators have that ability. Could my own father really use me for drug money?
It was a question that bounced around the walls in my mind over and over again. I just couldn't find the answer. So I started calling around to his few remaining loved ones and asked them what the deal was.
My heart sank when I heard it. It was the first time anyone was ever straight up with me about it.
"Kasey, your father is addicted to pills. Please do not send him money."
So here I am, twenty three years old bawling my eyes out on Easter because my dad was calling me to feed his addiction. That's how bad it had gotten. That's how desperate his addiction to pain medication had made him. He was willing to take from his own daughter in order to get his fix.
He was originally telling me that his stomach hurt from how hungry he was but after I gathered my courage to confront him, he admitted his stomach hurt from withdrawal. He began crying and telling me that he had nothing—that no one loved him. Well, I did.
I tried explaining to my father that I loved him and I gave him all the advice I could. I told him I would order him food to pick up since he said he was starving and he said he needed cash for gas. It was like a stab in the heart knowing he was still lying to me.
Somehow I remained trying to rationalize his behavior and retreated into my own denial. I was afraid to talk to anyone. I had lost my appetite completely and it took a full week before I started to recover. I felt like a monster for denying my father money. I haven't spoken to him since. I told him happy birthday via text message recently and he said thank you. He doesn't call me anymore.
The thing is, no matter how many drugs my father does or how many times I have remind myself that it's the drugs and not him—I would do anything to protect him. Even from his own decisions. I guess that's just the price that I pay now, because that attachment to our parents is always there, even when we don't want it to be.
To be clear, my dad hasn't died from the drugs but every day I live in the fear that he will. We've tried admitting him to rehab centers, we've tried reaching him, but the drugs have taken a hold of his rational side, and I fear it's too late. No matter what I do, I can't seem to get my father back.
Drug use is not funny. Drug use is not cool. Drug use is painful. Drug use is selfish. Addiction will rip you from your loved ones and you have no idea how agonizing it is for them to watch you decay. You have no idea how hard it is to give up on your own father—or any of your loves ones. Please think about who you're leaving behind before you venture into the world of drugs because sometimes there is no way out and even when there is, chances are, you won't take it.
I will always love my father and I hope that someday, he starts to love himself before it's too late. But for now, I accept his choices and I hope for the best.