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How do you end up in rehab? That’s my question. I look at him and I don’t understand how we got here. Here is at a gigantic, three floored rehab center two hundred miles away from home. Mom and I drove up to visit him. He’s going to be gone for sixty days. That is, like, forever. Sixty days in my life is an eternity.
My dad and I are really close. We use to go fishing. We’d stay out all night and my evil step-mother would get mad-which made me excessively happy. But that was before all this started. Thinking back, I don’t even know when it started. Wait, I do. When Papa Terry died. That was my dad’s dad. He shot himself in the head in front of my dad’s little sisters. Needless to say, they both have issues. One of them actually came to live with us. She was an addict, too, by thirteen. It runs in the family.
After Papa Terry died on the Fourth of July, my dad just wasn’t the same. He and his wife kind of fell apart like a broken cookie. They started fighting all the time. It was even over just dumb stuff. They fought a lot over my aunt who came to live with us. When she came, she was pregnant at fourteen, and I already told she was an addict a year before. She got her self cleaned up when she got here, and my dad became her jailer/surrogate daddy. Her mom is/was a meth-head and actually got her started on drugs in the first place. Makes your family look normal, huh?
Adding to the stress of the household, my aunt went into labor after winning my soccer tournament. Being only fourteen, she didn’t realize she was in labor while sitting watching me kick a ball around the field. Her son, Jacob, was a preemie (of ten weeks). Jacob had to be flown to Denver, CO. He was born so early, his lungs weren’t developed yet. A couple of weeks after he was born, we drove to Denver to see him. My aunt was scared to hold him because he was hooked up to all these tubes. My dad was the first to hold him. He fit in the palm of dad’s hand.
When he finally came home, he was on oxygen. He was kind of an ugly baby. When he got bigger though, he was a chunky monkey. We use to say he had twist-on ankles and hands because of the little roles around them. He has finally grown into his head. These sixty days are going to be really rough on Jacob. “Uncle” (my dad) is the closest thing to a daddy he’s ever had.
My aunt use to live in Havasu (Lake Havasu, AZ, but we call it Havasu). She practically raised herself after Papa Terry died. Her mom was a drunk and druggy and no dad around, she had no rules. No structure. She was allowed to run around and do anything. She doesn’t even know who Jacob’s dad is. That just makes me scream and cry. Because my dad and I are so close, and I want that for Jacob, too.
Sometimes my aunt can be a jerk, but, most of the time, it’s nice because she’s so close to my age. I can go in and hang out with her-especially when World War 52 is taking place out in the living room. My dad and the Wicked Stepmother from the South, Vickie, fight a lot.
Vickie just drives me nuts! She says she wants to lose weight but then she gets stressed and eats junk food, and harasses me about my weight. Thanks for the eating disorder, lady! In short, she’s fat, depressed and consequently sleeps too much. When we moved from Guernsey, she had lots of friends… now she doesn’t have many. She’s been in my life since I was a baby. We use to be really close. Now, I’m just a weapon she uses to try to manipulate my dad.
There has been so much stress in my life. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep. I think about the drama with my aunt, Jacob, Vickie, but mostly, my dad. Now, I’m getting an ulcer, and I’m getting depressed. Sometimes I want the world to stop or pause so I can do thing over, and maybe make my life better. I wish I could control what other people do, too. Can’t they see what they’re doing? Can’t he see what it does to me?
When I say “My life sucks right now,” no one understands except my best friend (she’s at my house a lot). I can’t tell my boyfriend the things that go on in my dad’s house. I’m so scared that people will judge me by my family, and then no one will like me or be my friend.
The stress. It impacts me every day, at school, at home, on the phone. I do everything thinking about my life. I just can’t get away from it. I never realized I spent so much time worrying about my dad. Thinking about if he’s in a good mood or if he took his meds this morning (or if he has the right meds for that matter). He goes out for a drink, and I worry he’s going to wreck or hurt himself and others. He’s done things he claims he doesn’t even remember. You know, like forgetting to come home. Other things I don’t even want to think about. I can hide in my aunt’s room, but that doesn’t make my ears not work.
When you grow up with an addiction, you don’t completely realize it isn’t normal at first (until I go to my friends’ houses). You think everyone’s house must be like this. My mom and dad aren’t together so I have two houses and that actually creates more stress. I have one set of rules and things to worry about in one house and a completely different set of worries at the next. But no matter where I am, I still think about my dad a lot.
And now, I’m here to see him. For the first time since he went away. I look around the waiting room, the solid boring furniture scattered around like my thinking. Some of the edges are tattered here and there. He told Vickie he had to fix himself before they could work on their marriage, but that scares me too. When you are so use to something being broken for so long, what is it going to be like when it’s “fixed”? And what if it breaks again? That would probably break my heart.
So I wonder what he’ll be like. He’s been here ten days now. Does he look different? Will he still call me “baby girl”?
My mom squeezes my hand and smiles. She knows I’m scared out of my wits. She’s told me that she’s experienced this herself with her dad, so she can understand a little bit of what I’m going through. That’s why she drove me all the way up here to visit. There is a lot of stuff she doesn’t know about from my dad’s house; I know I can’t tell her everything. Then what would happen? She and my dad would fight and it would be ugly. I try so hard to protect everyone around me.
I hear a door swing open and I jump to my feet and shriek, “Daddy!” Hurling myself across the floor, I slam into him like a freight train. He wraps his arms around me and hugs me tight.
“Baby girl!” He yells, spinning me around on the gray floor. I cling to his arms and I fight back tears. I am not going to cry. I don’t want to upset him. I don’t want to make him feel bad. He may quit. He pulls me back and makes me look at him in the eyes.
They are clear and focused… and calm. The raging storm that use to be there, seems like a kiddy pool now. At first it startles me, and I am scared for a moment-who is this man? Where did my daddy go? Then looking a little deeper, I see my reflection in his eyes and know Daddy is right here. I relax a little and take his hand.
My mom and my dad make eye contact for a moment, and mom smiles and daddy nods back. She leaves the room to give us some time together. Daddy tells me about some of the things he does every day. Having to get up at a certain time and going to bed at a certain time. He assures me that they make him take his meds. In fact, they’ve been working on it to get it just right. I tell him about school and everything that’s going on. I show him a print-out of my grades, which, as usual, is really good.
“Thank God you got your mother’s smarts,” Dad jokes, and I smile. He looks serious like a lawyer for a minute. “What do you think I gave you?”
“Your butt,” I answer without hesitation and he bursts out laughing. It feels good to laugh. It feels good to laugh with him.
“Things are going to be different when I come back,” he starts, staring at the floor. I feel kind shaky inside and my heart is pounding. “Things are going to be better. We have to make them be. I don’t want you to think this is what live should be. I want for you, what I didn’t have.” I take a deep breath and focus on the wall in front of me, still not wanting to cry.
“I need things to be different, Daddy,” I whisper, a single tear rolling down my cheek.
I guessed I answered my own question; that’s how you end up in rehab.