Helping those in our community who struggle with addiction.
The beast of grief is with me daily. There is never a day that passes that I do not think about my Dad. He made a huge impact on my life. And my life with him gives me first-hand experience of knowing that the disease of addiction can truly happen to anyone.
Let me share a glimpse into my life. Each of us have our favorites in life. I like to think of it like taste buds. You are born with them. I mean, why do I love to eat broccoli and cupcakes at the same time? No clue, but my taste buds think it is all the rage. Well, one of my favorite humans in the entire universe is my Dad. When someone brings him up to this day, I can feel my heart flutter. I was hardly the only one who felt this way about him. He was magnetic, caring, talented, hilarious and gave the best hugs on Earth.
Growing up, my Dad worked hard. Yes, he had setbacks and life threw him some curveballs, but he handled everything with a smile and a positive attitude. Our house was the place to be growing up. My friends loved to be there, and my Dad loved to entertain. My Mom and brothers and I just tried to keep up with his energy. He would work all day then volunteer almost year-round. Coaching football made his big eyes shine, and he loved connecting with the kids and the parents. During football season it was not odd that he would stay on the phone with one of the other coaches or a parent talking about concerns.
The true joy of his life was, hands-down, our family. My brothers, myself and my Mom always knew we were number one. No matter what was going on in his day, if we needed him he was there, no questions asked. As we all know, that was a gift that is not always granted to all. And to this day, it is still one of the things I miss most.
I often try to pinpoint when the disease of addiction became the beast my Dad needed to fight. My Dad had some health problems, just like many individuals. Due to his pain level, he was prescribed pain medication. But those highly addictive pills changed the world I once knew. The life with a Dad who was reliable, hard-working, supportive and happy vanished.
Having my Dad literally fall from the pedestal he had always lived on was heartbreaking. When you have a loved one with addiction, it’s as if you are walking on glass. At first I noticed depression. He missed events, never wanted to leave the house and was not the same. At that point in my life I had never been that close to someone with addiction. It felt like the glass I was walking on got a new crack every day.
One day I was in a meeting at work. I can recall this terrible memory like it happened today. My Mom called and said, “Your Dad tried to kill himself; please come to the hospital.” Every part of my body was shaking like I had just been hit by a bus. To be fair, my heart had been hit by the biggest bus of my life. How could the most positive person I have ever known, the person who left notes on my pillow to have a great day, want to leave Earth early?
After this first major addiction moment, my Dad he entered rehab. I will never forget making a photo album for him to bring with him and a journal. My hope was that he would go, and if I showered him with as much love as possible, he would for sure get better. In true fashion my Dad was pretty much the counselor for the patients. We would go and visit, and he would introduce us to all of his new friends. My hope never gave up on him.
The years that followed are still hard for me to allow to flashback on. When you have someone you love so much dealing with addiction, it is hard to ask for help. How do you tell a friend, “Hey, guess what, my Dad is addicted to painkillers and depressed”? No one knows how to respond. Trying to live a “normal” life is impossible when you are just waiting for the phone to ring with bad news. When someone is an addict, they are for their entire lives. And the families that love them are put through hell and back.
On the day of April 29, 2010, I know a few things. I know that at 12:30 my Dad was supposed to check in to 12&12 to start inpatient rehab for addiction. I know that he chose to not go. That evening I had plans to eat dinner with him, but he was too sad to get up for dinner. And I know this is the day the disease of addiction took my Dad from Earth at the age of 48.
Next week on December 12 is 12&12 Day. For the past year I have been volunteering with the organization, trying to see how I can use my personal experience with addiction to help others who have a loved one with this disease. I also have an amazing community committee that is helping me. Each of these individuals has been affected by someone with addiction. Over the past year, 12&12 has become more than just an inpatient treatment facility. They are partners with the Tulsa Sobering Center, OSU Outpatient Addiction Medicine Clinic, and now have a private pay rehab center.
I am a lucky person. The community, family and friends that I have in my life helped my family not become a statistic when my Dad passed away. We were showered with love, hope, opportunity and support. These are gifts that forever changed and shaped who I am today.
But there are many individuals who do not have those options. So I am going to stick with 12&12 for as long as they will have me to help volunteer. I want to talk about the stigma that comes with addiction, help raise money and support anyone who is going through addiction.
If you would like to learn more about 12&12, they are offering tours on December 12 from 3-4:30. You can sign up on this link. And if you are interested in donating, you can go on the website now. We are trying to ask everyone to donate $12. And if you have enough to donate $12 for 12 months that is wonderful.
Many patients do not have warm weather items. So if anyone has items to donate, you can drop them off on 12&12 day on their campus, or prior to that you can let me know, and I can pick them up.
May each of you who have made an impact on supporting me know that I am so grateful. Huge shoutout to my Dad in heaven. Thanks for always watching over my sweet girls. They would have loved everything about you.