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A Father's Legacy

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I once knew a staggeringly handsome man who had thick jet black hair and a mustache. An extraordinary extrovert, this man had a jovial laugh and a jubilant energy; a kind of energy that spread like fire and radiated to all who surrounded him. He loved his daughter, sports, egg salad, listened to Chicago, loved Three’s Company and The Hulk. I used to pretend he was my Hulk, rescuing me. He made everyone around him feel like the most important person in the world. We lived in a home in Milwaukee, WI where he worked as a roofer for Packerland. This man died of a heroin addiction that lasted his whole life. A life that ended at 59 years old. This man was my father. That’s right, Carl Michael Minotte, husband, son, father, brother, family man, and heroin addict.

I share this with you, not because I am in search of pity, on the contrary, it’s because I yearn for the moment when those that suffer from, and have fallen victim to the horrific disease of addiction receive the memorial that their souls truly deserve. Many of us, and particularly those that are lucky enough not to be an addict, are unaware that users are powerless over their addiction. Until recently, this has been a difficult concept for me to grasp, as I saw my father shift from a hilarious, confident, and powerful man to an individual quickly dwindling away as if a cancerous python was slowly constricting around his neck. None of us are ever in competition with that python. For addicts, there is never a choice to be made.

However, we are significantly impacted by the decisions and choices made when we love an addict. For years, I wondered if I could have been a better daughter somehow. Did I miss opportunities to help him with his addiction? Was there anything I could have done to encourage changes in his life? When I look at the reality, I desperately wanted him to change, but there was nothing I could do to influence these changes. How could I when he was in and out of jail, and then prison for most of my life. What I didn’t realize was that I am a part of the vast majority of humans that can have an alcoholic beverage or two and not feel the NEED to continue feeding that beast. I’ve never ingested a substance or yearned for something more powerful to fill the darkness within me.

My father though woke up every morning, physically ill, his body surging with pain until he would succumb to the desire to resort to numbness. True, unabashed addiction is a level of suffering I cannot fathom. This morning I saw an image on a social media site. The image depicted a spoon with heroin and a lighter underneath “cooking” the substance so it could be injected. Now, I am the first to stand up and say that allowing an idiotic and insensitive image on Facebook to affect me is absurd. I’ll admit that it’s something I could have truly ignored. However, such an image begs to ask, are the families of the people that have died from drugs and alcohol not entitled to more memories and a candlelight vigil, rather than such a graphic reminder of the realities of addiction?

Is this such a shameful way to leave this earth that we, as their families, aren’t allowed proper grieving? Can I mourn without having to feel as though someone is going to poke fun at my father’s passing?

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