When I was in high school I was walking home with a kid from class and he told me addiction wasn’t all that difficult. He said it’s as easy as having an itch and being able to avoid itching it, and if you can do that, you can avoid addiction.
At the time, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was missing something. That somehow he had oversimplified addiction – that somehow he completely misunderstood it. But I kept that to myself, not feeling brave enough to argue, not knowing what to say.
Now, I want to ask him some questions, like, what if your life depended on that itch? What if you couldn’t make it through the day without scratching it? What if the decision to scratch that itch was a decision between life or death – could you really simplify it to a itch then? I want to tell him, he is very, very wrong.
I don’t have a clue first-hand what addiction is like, but I do know somebody who does.
Today marks 30 years. 30 years that my dad has been sober. 30 years since he has scratched the itch that this young high school kid thought he understood.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t be home for the celebration. I couldn’t celebrate with the birthday cake; I couldn’t tell him in person how proud I am. Instead, I wrote an email and I included something I had wrote many months ago. It said this,
“He believes in science
And he believes in God
And he is not afraid to answer your questions if you are not afraid to ask them.
He will tell you what the bottle felt like in his hands
And the day that he finally put it down
And you’ll try to squint to see past the person he’s become
Because you will never believe where he has been
And he will change the way you look at the world
Because somewhere along the line, someone changed it for him.”
This, is my dad. A man of both science and God – a man who trembled over the bottle and now stands strong without one in hand. I wasn’t alive 30 years ago so I can’t tell you what he was like. I’ve heard stories, here and there, and I know he’s not afraid to share them, but none of them sound like the man I know now. In fact, the reality of his alcohol addiction seems like a dream I was once told of but that can’t possibly be true because have you seen him now?
He’s a role model, a business man, a loving father and husband. He is a devoted Christian, a musician, and someone I will always look up to. I cannot picture the drinker, cannot fathom who this person was and how he can be the same person that I know today.
My dad, is one of the strongest people I know, and his past – the things he has been through and the things he has pulled himself out of – only make me more proud.
I think an itch is a very poor way to describe addiction – I think it’s much, much more than that. But if that were the only metaphor we had, then I would say this:
30 years ago my dad did one of the most difficult things anybody who has known addiction can possibly do – one of the most remarkable things somebody can do – he stopped scratching.
I love you dad. Happy 30th.