My father is a drug addict. He spent the most recent 15 years of his life dependent on crystal meth, a vice that has ravaged my early family life, and many, if not all of his connections to people he called friends. He has stolen cars, stolen money, and stolen peoples’ trust in order to fuel his habit, and for that he has earned himself several terms in prison, and a debt in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. My mother was fully destitute, with a 7 year old son and a 2 year old daughter, without a stable job, and living on little more than the charity of others and my father’s child support checks, when he himself had the money to pay them. The checks eventually stopped coming as my father’s addiction became more and more consuming. At this point, he was living in a known crack dealer’s garage, so my mother had understandably deemed him unsafe for visiting, leaving the responsibility of the welfare of me and sister solely to her.
One dreary afternoon, staring at the bottom of the last canned soup donated from a local church, I asked my mother why Dad was such a bad man. She responded with words that rendered me speechless and instilled in me a sense of realism and responsibility that was far beyond my maturity. “Your father is not a bad man, and I will never say anything bad about him,” she said. “He gave his life for his family.” In the years of hatred for my father, somewhere his tragedy had been lost. While he and my mother were still together, he owned a self-operated business washing awnings. But with another child on the way, his work just wasn’t enough. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day to complete enough jobs to get enough money to make his family happy enough. He had heard through the grapevine that crystal meth was a drug that could keep someone awake and energized for days on end. Yes, it was addictive, and yes, it was detrimental to his health, but in order to secure a stable life for his wife and kids, sacrifices had to be made. For a chance to support the people he truly loved the most, he paid the ultimate price, and for that, he is a saint fallen from grace.
Several years later, and having learned from my father’s mistakes, I can say with confidence that I may someday have the chance to be what he had long dreamed of. But as much as I try to distance myself from his ill conceived life, there is a belief that I gained in the process which I will never forget. Sometimes truly great people are capable of doing terrible things in the name of that which they value most. Only truly great people will put their own reputation and dignity at risk to save the innocent; the most altruistic of acts. That, I believe.
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