The first time I met Dave, he was bent over a pool table with a cigarette dangling from his lips. Dave squinted down the table, yelled, ‘bank,’ and shot the ball. The ball careened off the sidewall and landed in the corner pocket. Dave spun on his heels, grinned at me, and drained his beer.
It was love at first sight.
The two of us hooked up right away. Looking back, that was the first clue. We folks who struggle with addiction can be impulsive. We don’t wait for what we want; we don’t always work for it, either.
Dave and I had four children between us. My kids were just old enough to babysit his. Dave was a good Dad. He loved his children and provided a roof over their heads, food in the fridge, and clothes on their backs. But Dave seldom went without a beer in his hand.
Blended families are complicated.
Blended/addicted families are painful.
It quickly became apparent that two acquaintances and four children do not make one big happy family. Our home was a disaster. We were tense, dramatic, and chaotic simultaneously.
The grin on Dave’s face faded, replaced by a scowl. The carefree man I fell in love with became an angry rager. We didn’t talk in our home. We yelled. Magical thinking didn’t hold up in the harsh light of day, and Dave blamed his behavior on me, his boss, and my kids. And I was just as bad. Even if you don’t drink and use drugs – which I did plenty of – I realize now that you become equally as sick when staying in a relationship with someone struggling with addiction.
Addiction and happy homes never go in the same sentence, and our house was a battleground. Alcoholic families don’t communicate. We react to our emotions. There were moments of peace, but they were few and far between. We mostly walked on eggshells in silence until one of us would explode, and then the cycle would begin all over again.
Dave worked in construction. Those boys work hard and play harder. Dave talked about owning his own company “one day.” But it never seemed possible. Dave’s truck was old. He could barely make ends meet, and a large portion of what he made went to drugs and alcohol.
Dave tells me now that he was ashamed. He’d compare himself to other guys. They had stuff. He didn’t. Dave said he felt like a loser. His words, not mine. Then he said something that surprised me. Dave said, “Do you know what cowards do? They don’t deal with their problems. Instead, they go to the bar and play the big shot. They buy drinks for their friends, and all is well for a few glorious moments. Then, they go home with a bad attitude and empty pockets.”
Dave sought help in June of 97, and he never looked back.
All of Dave’s dreams came true. More even. Dave said he would never have dreamed this big.
Since getting clean, Dave coached his son’s little league team. He donated time and money to build a clubhouse for the soccer teams in our community. Dave was there for his father and mother when they lost their battle with cancer. Dave is a good father to our children. Dave bought a house and a boat. He even got his motorcycle. Dave pays his bills–on time. We got married. Dave started a new company and enjoyed getting up and working every day.
Today Dave employs up to twelve men, some of who are also in recovery. Dave has steady work and an excellent reputation and is a good provider.
But more importantly, Dave’s grin is back.
Dave doesn’t need to go to the bar and play the big shot anymore. He is a big shot, at least to me and many others.
For Dave, success was about how much money he had in his wallet. Dave says you try to impress others when you don’t feel good about yourself. Unfortunately, those people are usually friends and co-workers, not your family.
Today Dave is not out to impress anyone. The need to impress others goes away when you’re living your best life.
Dave tells me that struggling with addiction is awful because you don’t feel like a man- you feel like a scared little boy.
Dave says he finally learned how to man up, which is not what you think.
Dave’s life and the lives of his family changed for the better that Friday, the 13th of June 1997. On this day, Dave walked through the front doors of a treatment center and took responsibility for his addiction.