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To Save The Addicted

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He was addicted. When you broke it down into the basic facts, he was addicted. He had a gang to go along with this addiction. Well, it was more of a group of friends, but Mom would continually call it a gang. He was constantly with them. What he did with them is still a mystery to me. My dad didn’t do drugs, no pot or anything like that, nor did he drink any alcohol of any type. He was a smoker, a very heavy smoker.

My father loved his family with all of his heart. He always wanted to spend time with me and my younger brother. We played board games inside, catch with a football outside, and other various games and activities. But he also had a spot in his life for his friends. That spot was pretty large. I guess you could say he had two spots in his life for people, one for his family, and one for his friends. “The spot for his family was once very large,” my mother once told me, “But that spot has grown increasingly smaller.” The spot for his family was still larger than the spot for his friends, but not by much. Mom said his smoking habits had continually increased ever since she knew him.

Dad had known these friends since college, or so Mom told me. From what Dad told me, just one of the friends in the group smoked when they first started hanging out. Then, like dominoes, they all fell into the same addiction over time, him being the last domino. They would go to the park, or to one of their houses, or anywhere they found convenient and smoked. How many they smoked at one time was never revealed to me.

But Dad is done with that. He has overcome his addiction. He has been over it for about two years now. But he didn’t do it alone. I helped him. I was the person that got him out of his addiction. Dad says he owes his life to me, but I only did it because I loved him. This is now my story of how I saved the addicted.
***

When I was younger, Dad said he only smoked “occasionally”. His definition of “occasional” and my mom’s definition of “occasional” were quite different. He was out at least four times a week. My mom thought that was close enough to daily. My dad would come into the house with a heavy smell of smoke, and my mom would say “You were out smoking again, weren’t you?” “Don’t judge me!” my father would respond. After a couple volleys of these words, each with an increasing volume, my dad would stomp off into his room and slam the door.

Dad hated that. He absolutely hated it when people judged him. He told me he had a problem with judgments as a kid. Apparently he was bullied as a kid. He was judged on what he wore, how he acted, and stuff like that. He was very anti-social because of this. He had very few friends, so I guess this is why he was so close to his college buddies, they were some of the only friends he had in his entire life. These were the friend that never criticized him on anything, the friends that accepted who he was. Unfortunately, these friends didn’t have the greatest influence on him.

One night, just before bed, my dad came into my room. My mom was out with a couple friends at a movie, and my brother was already in bed, so it was just me and my dad awake. They had an argument just before my mom left for the movie, a pretty large one. “If you don’t get rid of this addiction,” she said, “I will leave you and take our sons. You are a horrible fatherly figure.” This was quite the earth-shaker for my dad. So he came into my room after he put my brother to bed. “I need your help” he told me. “With what?” I asked. “My smoking addiction” he told me.

I knew my brother didn’t fully comprehend what exactly Dad was doing, so he couldn’t have helped Dad. I could also guess what Mom would say if Dad asked her for help. It would be something like “You got yourself into this, so you need to get out yourself”. I was the one he had the best chance of getting help from. I’m glad I said yes. So I told him, “You must tell me EVERYTHING you are doing, exactly where you are going, and what you will be doing.” “I will,” he told me. “So where are they?” I asked him. “I can’t tell you.” “How do you expect me to help you if I don’t know where they are?” “They are behind on of the bricks in the basement under my tool bench,” he told me.

So the next morning, I got up when he got up. I didn’t have school because it was summer, but I had to watch Dad closely. I went downstairs into the basement just in time to see dad pulling out cigarettes from behind on of the bricks. Mom was never in Dad’s zone, so she never found them. In it I saw Dad hunched over in front of a gaping hole in the wall. Next to him was the missing brick. I walked around the corner within Dad’s sight, but he didn’t see me. I cleared my throat as loud as I could. Dad snapped his head up like he had just come out of a trance. I cleared my throat once again. Reluctantly, he dropped the pack he had in his hand onto the floor and covered up the hole in the wall. Then he went upstairs, got into his car and drove away. Once he rounded the corner and was out of sight, I scrambled back into the basement and removed the loose brick.

What I saw just about put me to the ground. I pulled 17 full pack and 11 half packs out of the hole. When empty, the hole could have easily fit a soccer ball. I looked at the pile of cigarettes next to me. Camel and Marlboro were the only two in the pile. My first plan was to hide them in a different spot. So I took a bucket from my toy box and put every last pack in it. I went to my room and slid every pack into the farthest corner under my bed. By then, both my mom and my brother were up. When Mom asked why I was up so early, I said “Because I wanted to.” It was a valid, truthful answer, so Mom couldn’t argue.

When Dad got home, I expected him to smell smoke free. He didn’t. “Where did you go?” I asked him. “Somewhere…” was his answer. I could hear the hesitance in his voice. “And what were you doing?” I asked him. “Something…” he said with the same hesitance. “You need to be honest with me. Remember the plan.” “Okay,” he cracked, “I went out with my friends. I was able to fit a few cigarettes in my pocket before you saw me.” I was glad he was honest, but it was still a problem because he didn’t admit his wrong right away.

Just before bed I checked under my bed to make sure all of my dad’s cigarettes were still there. 25…26…27…, one was missing. I walked into the bathroom where Dad was brushing his teeth. “Where is it?” I asked with my hand stuck out towards him. “Where’s what?” he responded. “You know what I am talking about.” His stubbornness began to show through, “I need to have one pack.” “No you don’t.” I said. “But…” He was thinking of a lame excuse for snatching a pack. “... How can I survive without at least one pack?” “Easily,” I answered as I pried the pack out of his hand.

The next morning I woke up after Dad had left for work, so I immediately checked under my bed again. 25…26…27…28, all of them were there. Then I though “What if he took them out of the pack and put the empty packs back under my bed?” My hunch was confirmed when I found a Camel pack that had only 4-5 cigarettes left in it emptied. Thank goodness that was the only emptied pack. That was when I figured out that simply hiding them wasn’t going to do the trick. So I looked though my closet and found one of those cheap containers with a cheap lock large enough to place all the packs in. I crammed all the packs into the container, locked it, and placed the key in my pocket. It was the only key. I thought it would be good enough to keep Dad out of the cigarettes until I figured out what to do with them permanently, but I was wrong.

Dad gave the whole family a surprise when he got home an half an hour earlier than usual. I asked him where he was and what he was doing. “In your room,” he said me. So we went to my room. “I decided to start by cutting my time with my friend’s bit-by-bit,” he told me. “Unfortunately,” he began, “I stole some more cigarettes.” “Wow!” was the first thing that came out of my mouth. “I know. You’re disappointed in me aren’t you?” “No,” I said, “Your honesty has improved majorly. You admitted your fault before I even got to question you.” At that my dad smiled the widest smile I had ever seen him smile. But then it dropped, and he left my room. I knew something was wrong, so I went to his room. His door was locked, and he wouldn’t answer my calls. I walked to the kitchen to see what Mom was making for dinner. As I passed the front door, I knocked Dad’s laptop case over. To my surprise, a pack of Marlboro and a Camel slide out. I looked into the case and pulled out one more of each. Four secretly stashed packs of cigarettes were in his laptop case. It was then that I realized why Dad had left as soon as I complemented him on his honesty. When I went back to his room to confront him, his door was agape. When I walked in, he wasn’t in there.
As I passed my room to go to the bathroom, I caught him out of the corner of my eye. I peeked in and saw him rummaging through stuff in my room. “Dad?” I said. He snapped his head up to look at me. A look of guilt filled his face when he saw me. He got up with something in his hand. He gave it to me. It was my container with the cheap lock. But the lock was snapped off. “Time for dinner!” Mom shouted up the stairs to both my dad and I. Dad brushed past me before I could ask him about either the secretly bought packs or the busted case.
I knew I had to go more extreme now, and I had the perfect plan. Dad left for work the next day, so I went through my brainstormed list of ideas and chose what I thought was the best one. I gathered all of the cigarette packages and placed them in a pile outside in the backyard. I did nothing for the rest of the day, other than wait. Dad got home surprisingly early that day. His honesty had improved majorly over the past 12 hours. “Son,” he began to tell me, “I think you will be very proud of me today.” “Please don’t lie again,” I told him. “Is my dishonesty that bad?” he asked. “Yes it is,” I responded, “Honesty is something that will need to be worked on if you want to get rid of the addiction.” “Well, I think I am starting to understand that,” he said, “I didn’t go out with my friends today and I didn’t make any unnecessary stops.”
That totally surprised me. That day, Dad overcame a major obstacle in his life in only three days. Looking back I still feel the way I did that day. “Should I continue with my plan, or should I not execute my plan?” I thought. I was so proud of my dad, and I didn’t want to ruin his sense of joy by executing my plan. But I was also afraid of a relapse, which was common in people like him. That day I thought the relapse was the more realistic possibility, so I executed my plan. Thinking about it today, I begin to doubt that I should have done what I did, and just worked on it in a more patient, slower way instead of the extreme thing I did.
“I have a surprise for you,” I told my dad, “Wait here while I get it ready.” I went out the back door to the pile of cigarette packs. I took a gas can out of the shed and poured its contents onto the pile. I readied myself with the matches in hand. “I’m ready Dad!” I shouted to him. Dad walked out the back door, and saw his cigarettes. Before he could even say a word, I dropped the lit match. The pile ignited instantly, sparing nothing covered in the flammable material. “NO!” Dad shouted. He jumped towards the burning pile, hands outstretched. He pulled his hands back from the extreme heat, franticly looking around. I saw his gaze land on the garden hose. He rushed to it, turned the water faucet on, and ran back to the burning pile. He tried to douse the fire with the water, forgetting that gas fires can’t be put out with water. I walked back into the house with a feeling of success, but not knowing what this would do in the long run. I glanced back though the open door before I closed it and saw Dad, franticly spreading out the burning packages with a stick, looking for at least one non-scorched cigarette. There were none.
The rest of the night, Dad was silent with a forlorn look on his face. He seemed lost, not knowing how he would continue his life. I felt a little bad for being so harsh, but Dad said I could do anything to end his addiction. My brother kept asking Dad what was wrong, but Dad wouldn’t answer. That night I went to bed wondering how Dad would be tomorrow. For the next three days, Dad was home early and smelling smoke free. But his forlorn look seemed to be etched into his face, impossible to erase. Then on the fourth day, he was home late, really late. Both my brother and I were asleep before he got home.
In the morning, Dad had left for work, but the house seemed empty. My little brother came up to me and said in an excited voice, “We’re going on a vacation! Mom is packing up her bag and she told me to tell you to do the same!” Panic was apparent on my face. “What’s the matter, don’t you want to go on a vacation?” my brother asked. My mom was leaving for good, but I didn’t tell my brother this. I went into my room and closed my door. This was a problem. I had to let Dad know tonight what was going on. Both the simple and extreme plans didn’t work, so I had to use my last plan, an emotional and personal attack.
Before I could plan it all out, Mom knocked on my door and said, “I hope you’re almost done packing. We are leaving in about two hours.” Two hours! We would be leaving before Dad got home. I had to act fast. I ran out of my room and grabbed our phone. I ran back into my room, locked the door, and dialed Dad’s number. “Get home right now!” I half-yelled into the receiver. “I can’t. I have a meeting in 20 minutes.” “It’s an emergency!” I half –yelled again. “How urgent is it?” Dad asked me in a too cool and calm voice. “Mom is leaving you!” I said in a full blown yell. Utter silence on Dad’s side of the world.
I couldn’t see him, but I can conjure up a pretty accurate picture of what Dad’s face looked like at that very moment. His mouth was probably agape, and his eyes were wide. This was a real “deer-in-the-headlights” moment. He might have almost dropped the receiver, or maybe he felt like throwing it across the room. His body either tensed up, or it went limp. He sat down hard in his chair, the weight of reality pressing down on his life. That’s how I would feel if my wife planned to leave me.
That was the perfect opportunity for the final plan I had. “Dad!” I yelled, “You will get over here NOW and resolve things once and for all with Mom, or all three of us will leave!” I heard my mom come up to my door. “Who are you talking to?” she asked. “It doesn’t matter!” I shouted at her, “It’s personal!” “It better not be your father,” she said. “What do you care if I am talking to Dad?” She left. Dad finally spoke, “You must be joking. Please stop wasting my time. I need to get to my meeting.” Now I was angry. “Dad, when will you get over your stubborn ways?!” I had started and wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. “Are you judging me?” he asked, but I didn’t answer his question. “A father is supposed to be a role model for his sons! You aren’t a good role model for any of your two sons!” “Stop judging me!” he yelled. I could hear the anger in his voice, but I could have cared less. “At this point, if you can’t get over your addiction, I will happily leave with Mom! I don’t need your type of influence on my life! I am tired of being your crutch! I have done all I can to help you, and you still won’t stop! This is something that has to be accomplished by you and you alone!” That did it. Dad fell silent, not asking any more questions, not saying a word. I could have continued, but I felt like I got my point across.
Dad didn’t say anything, he hung up. “Great,” I said, “He gave up on us. Some father!” But I was wrong. Dad showed up a little more than 30 minutes later. He came home bawling. The tears were streaming down his face and his voice was shaky. “Did you really mean what you said?” he asked me. “Sadly, yes.” I said. He found my mother and embraced her in the largest hug I have ever seen, apologizing for about five minutes straight. I knew that my plan had worked; there was no more problem from that moment on. All was forgiven and forgotten.
***
Well, Mom never did divorce Dad. She found out about Dad’s and my attempts to end his addiction, and then she started crying too, saying how proud she was of me. My dad still hung out with his friends, but always turned down smokes. He is currently living a happy and healthy life in the same home of my childhood. He turned into the fatherly figure he was supposed to be soon after he got over his addiction. He spent lots more time with us and less time with his friends. Mom began to see the man she once saw in college, smoke free and family oriented. That is it for my story of saving my father from an addiction, and turning him around back to the man he used to be, and the man he needed to be.



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