When I was a little girl, four or five probably, firetrucks came to our house. My brother Duncan and I were in the living room. I was wearing my pink dancing dress, spinning around and around in circles, making myself so dizzy that I fell down, only to stand up and do it again. That drove my dad crazy and made him yell. When he was a kid he spun around in circles until he span his face into a door jam and sliced himself open.
I remember that my dad was home that day, because I knew that I might get in trouble if he came into the living room and saw me whirling about. He might yell at me if he found out.
I was doing it anyways.
Then I guess it must have been a slow day at the fire department because there were two firetrucks and one ambulance and one police car, all at our house, all of these tall scary men forcing their way in through the front door. And then there was something was wrong with my dad because there he was lying in the hallway not looking like my dad or even like he was alive, and there was my mom shutting the living room door and telling my sister You guys have to go outside now, and there was my sister hustling us out onto the porch and acting very grown up and in charge.
But then my dad was better and standing up and he felt a little funny but really he was fine and he didn't go to the hospital and everyone left and we never really talked about it and I sort of forgot that it ever happened in the first place.
When I was thirteen my dad called home from an inpatient drug rehab center at Watsonville hospital. He had been swallowing bottles and bottles and bottles of Vicodin and Codeine and whatever he could get his hands on, lying and lying and lying to our mom, to us, about everything. He had been trying to stop for years, he told us, and he couldn't, he told us, and now he was in the hospital, he'd checked himself in, and he was staying until he got better. He couldn't get better by himself.
A lot more things made a lot more sense after that.
It explained why my dad was always such an asshole on our family vacations, because he was trying to quit whatever he was doing. He would spend a week in Lake Tahoe puking and sleeping on the couch and yelling at my mom and making her cry and barking at all of us if we made any noise or messes or anything else.
Later, I think when I was in high school, my dad told us that rehab hadn't really worked how he wanted it to. Rehab was where he met scarier people who were swallowing more dangerous things. In rehab he learned about Oxycontin and Morphine and who knows what. After he told us that, he started going to a Methadone clinic.
He couldn't do it on his own.
He wanted his body back.
He wanted his family back.
He needed help.
You know what?
People have really terrible attitudes towards places like Methadone clinics.
People have really terrible attitudes towards drug addiction.
People who don't know a fucking thing about it act like experts and go flinging their blame all over the place.
Those people make me angry.
I am vehemently, passionately defensive of drug treatment and rehabilitation.
I am vehemently critical of our flawed prison system that locks up addicts instead of getting them the help that they need.
I have a hard time explaining why I feel so strongly about these things. It's difficult for me to tell someone why I have these opinions, or why I feel so strongly about them. Not without making my dad look like an asshole and making my childhood look damaged and making my family look flawed.
We're just people.
We're just people doing our best to get by, to do the right thing, to love each other.
My dad turned 54 last Saturday. It's been a few years since he's been totally weaned off of Methadone. He still talks about it all more than I ever want him too. He still embarrasses the living hell out of me. He still works for the same company at the same job he's had for 27 years. He taught me how to throw a baseball. He's teaching his grandkids how to play.
He's still my dad.
And I still love him.
Not only that, I like him.
Because he's a pretty damned good guy.