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“I Remember…” (My personal tribute to Addiction)

16 Feb

I remember that summer day all so well. It was a Saturday afternoon, and life was good. I was excited that day as my Sunday School class of teenagers were over at our apartment for a barbecue when that fateful phone call came. It was my mom calling, and with the party festivities underway I was like “Hey mom, can I call you back?” Her response was “No, I need you to get somewhere quiet so I can tell you something…Jarvis, your dad, has died.”

All I could do was let out a blood curdling scream when I heard the news. My husband ran upstairs to find out what had happened. I was crippled with emotions. I could hear the group of kids downstairs whispering what was wrong, and my husband was gracious enough to call their parents to come pick them up to afford me privacy. All I could think was, my dad is dead . . .at 40? This didn’t make sense…but then again, it did.

My dad had struggled with addiction the better part of my childhood. I remember what “Mary Jane” looked like as a 5 year old, and also that time when he was “tripping” in the middle of the street for all the neighbors to see, while inside the house my mom was busy trying to “flush the evidence” down the toilet before the cops came. Military life changed him and exposed him to a new world of not only travel, but drugs. For the next 18 years, after my parents divorced, I would see my dad randomly – a smart and very intelligent person struggling to keep life together. I remember when I worked at Bradford Rehab and went to pick up the new patient charts from the medical ward, and to my surprise flipping through the charts and seeing a photo of my dad as a new patient just admitted. It was pretty awkward going into the cafeteria at the facility and see me – the employee, running into my dad – the patient. Although we never spoke about why he was there, secretly I hoped he would find the help he needed. We vowed to keep in touch more, and that we did. We even talked about going on vacation together as a family to Florida – a place he loved.

We had “the talk” one day about his drug addiction. I told him he did not have to live the way he did and that God could save him, and restore his life. After a long discussion, and him listening quietly on the other end, his reply was that he was tired for the evening, and we would talk more soon. That “soon” never came.

Fast forward… and now here I was, 22 years old, and my dad is gone before his prime, at the young age of 40. Ominously, he died on that Florida trip that we did not take together of a massive heart attack in the hotel room within minutes after he had arrived. Rumors began to swirl over what had happened, some hinting to someone lacing marijuana with a fatal dose of cocaine, and selling it to him. When I asked those with him during his final moments, the reply was “He was fine, all he had that day was a couple of beers.” He had his enablers on one side, and the ones that loved him on the other. That day, He left behind ex-wives, 3 children, and future grandchildren that he never got a chance to see. Was I angry at God? No. Here is why…

My dad had lived a full life, and I was thankful for how he was not afraid to live it. I got my zest for life from him, his book smarts (my mom’s books and street smarts), and my love for books and photography. We could have deep intellectual conversations, and he would usually be the one to trip me up :). He was just fun and magnetic to be around. I had to respect the fact that he chose the life that HE wanted to live, and that did not take away from him being my father – I had to separate the two. I couldn’t love him out of it, I had to love him in spite of it, and through it. I still do…

Sometimes death will come, and leave “ugly evidence” of the things we surrounded our life with in the very room they found us in, which cannot be denied or ignored, no matter how we don’t want to acknowledge them, but we must if we don’t want the next group or generation to end up like this. The enemy loves to hide behind silence, and he is banking on us to do so to further his self-destructive agenda. Alcohol and drugs have claimed the lives of a lot of great men and women brimming with God’s greatest gifts and potential, and we walk right past the alcohol bottles, pill bottles, crack pipe, or marijuana joints to pretty things up with no regard to trying to explain the proverbial question, “How and why did this happen?” As a responsible society, we have to be willing to have the raw truth conversation about addiction, and if not, their death is but in vain.

In that moment of grieving my dad’s death, God shared with me that you might not could have helped save your father, but go try to save someone else’s father. Whitney Houston is gone, Michael Jackson is gone, and my dad is gone, but there is another person struggling, even as we speak, and there is still time for them. There are children of addictive parents who need our constant prayers. Let them know that they don’t have to do it in their own strength, they can rely on God’s strength. He has the power and is fully able to break EVERY chain or stronghold in our life – if only we surrender our will in exchange for His. The blood of Jesus has not lost its power. Let this be a teachable moment…

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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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