On early grieving of a lifelong addict.

I’ve been reading your advice Tumblr for about 2 months, give or take, now – and while at the time I wasn’t at a point in my life where I desperately needed an answer to a question from a perceptive and anonymous quasi-blogger, I am definitely there now.

My father was brilliant and handsome – legitimately a genius, but often as the result of a neglectful childhood and bad influences, he was molded into a rebellious drug addict with few other options to influence him otherwise. I get that this already sounds like the cliched plot to some half-assed ABC Family show, because it kind of is in its own way. Basically, my mother and father got married at a young age, eventually had me (their only kid) and divorced due to my dads lifestyle and being an ill-fit father despite the obvious love for me. After 1st grade, I never saw him again until I spend Christmas of 2008 at his side of the families house, saw him there, and we began talking (I was 18 at the time). He’s a heroin addict of a high caliber – he spent 9 years of his life debilitated on skid row, his legs are swollen and hardened due to syringe abuse, he is HIV+ with hep. C. He’s married to a girl who went through all of that with him, but she’s legitimately clean now, going to a community college and planning on transferring to get her degree, so you’d think the influence would wear off. Well, it hasn’t.

I really loved my dad as a kid, he was my end all be all. His sudden absence in my life really devastated me in a deep way – to the point where I would have tears in my eyes at the thought of him (and I’m really not an openly emotional person) and my relationship with men always fell flat due to my mistrust of their ‘dedication’. I get the feeling this is starting to stupidly drag on, but I want to know how I can help him get out of addiction. He’s no longer on the streets and has an apartment of his own, but how do you get a 42 year old drug addict who has a disease-induced death sentence to embrace life as it once was and for the better? I want this man in my life. I do love him but he’s so headstrong it’s VERY difficult to get through to him. How do I go about helping him make his life better?

I know I can’t make someone do anything they don’t want to do. I learned that shit the hard way long before this. But I don’t want someone dying on my watch. That’s just a little too much for me.

Your dad is going to die.

It probably won’t be tomorrow. It might not be for ten years. Regardless of when it happens, you need to be emotionally prepared. You need to embrace the inevitability of his premature death, and know in your heart of hearts that you are not responsible for the way he lives nor the way he ultimately will die.

I’m not suggesting you enable his addiction. Quite the opposite. Keep fighting the good fight, even though you’re going to lose. That’s the trick, really — you have to recognize that admitting defeat is not the same thing as giving up.

Protecting yourself emotionally will be an exercise in advanced compartmentalization, the kind of harsh stuff that turns a girl into a woman. You’ll have to compartmentalize your love for the man who is your father, and then isolate that love from the various stages of grief you’ll continue to feel regarding your father’s eventual drug-related death.

Based on the way you talk about your situation, it seems like you’re already moving through the stages of grief. By saying, “I know I can’t make someone do anything they don’t want to do,” it seems that you’re not in denial about the situation. After all, you “learned that shit the hard way long before this.”

After denial comes anger, and based on your tone, that stage seems to have come and gone as well.

You strike me as someone who’s in the bargaining stage. You’re looking for false hope. Just the act of writing to me is a kind of bargaining. It’s as if you’re saying, “maybe this Coke Talk bitch knows a trick and can get me a hall pass for my dad’s addiction.” Nope. Sorry. Wish I could, but that ain’t the way it works.

The shitty part is that the next stage of grief is depression. It’s the stage where you face the certainty of the situation and start to disconnect. That’s why the compartmentalization is key here, because you’re going through these stages of grief while your father is still alive. There’s a part of your father that you have to acknowledge is already gone, and you have to disconnect and mourn the loss, all while another part of you still celebrates that he’s alive.

It’s a cognitive backflip, but if you pull it off, it will lead to an acceptance of the painful truth without sacrificing your relationship.

Your dad is going to die a premature, drug-related death. Come to accept that free from any responsibility.

At the same time, get to know him as a man and love him as a father.

Good luck.


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