Saturday, March 14, 2009

Falling and Not Falling

Day 68

Ashley fell off a horse last night and broke her arm. Actually, the horse stumbled and dumped her. (She made sure everybody knew this, from Grandma to the X-ray technician.) She takes weekly horseback riding lessons at a little stables. It's crammed between the freeway, some car dealerships, and the Santa Ana “River.” A little hay-lined hole in my asphalt-lined county.

At one point I kind of freaked out, realizing that the grown-up here was me, not my wife or my mom. I called our HMO and eventually got connected to the emergency room. The lady told me that I sounded pretty excited and anxious, and to be sure to drive carefully. I had to laugh. Calm down, me.

What mattered through all this was: I got to be her dad. I had the privilege of running out to her little crumpled body and putting my arm around her. I got to help her stand, wipe her eyes, and tell her that everything was gonna be OK. I got to sit next to her in the emergency room. We watched "Prince Caspian" without any sound on the little TV hanging from the ceiling. She made me cover her eyes when Susan shot the bad guys, because she couldn't stand to watch them fall off their horses. That's the kind of stuff you remember.

There is nothing in my life like hearing her call me “daddy.” Nothing. It's one of the first things on my gratitude list. Ashley's “daddy.”

When I was first getting high, I took both the kids into the pool in the middle of the night. It was freezing. James was only a few years old, and couldn't swim. They thought I was fun. I've driven them to school when I couldn't stand up straight. I've stolen DVD's with them sitting in my shopping cart. James once saw the pornography on my monitor. Mostly, I've been distracted while I made my evil plans.

I remember Ashley crying because her babysitter's daughter had been mean to her. Could she please never go back to that house? What she didn't know was that the only reason I took her there was to see that babysitter. She was the one who paid attention to me during the bad years. What if it had gone further? What if I'd slept with her? Then how much would Ashley pay for my selfishness?

In the pharmacy, I saw my drugs. The demons peaked over the wall. I heard their voices. They call it “euphoric recall.” The overwhelming warmth, the ecstasy in every nerve ending, the surrender. When I'm high I don't just forget my problems. My mind believes it's solved them all. I stop being anxious because nothing looks broken. But I “played the tape all the way through.” The lying and the loneliness, the knots in my stomach. Linsey, taking care of a broken child by herself. And Ashley, hurting and afraid.

I ignored the voices, like John Nash in “A Beautiful Mind.” Did they stop talking to me?

No, they did not.

They followed me around for a while. But that's OK. Because so did James – my bored little six-year old, tired of the emergency room. And I was sober, and I wasn't afraid.

On the way home I asked him how much he weighed. Sixty-four pounds, he said. He's proud to be over sixty pounds – this means he doesn't have to ride in a car seat. I asked him if he knew about the "chocolate bar law." I told him that he hasn't reached the eighty pound minimum for eating chocolate while riding in a car. If he didn't want to get a ticket, he'd better give me his candy bar. For some reason he wouldn't believe me, so no chocolate for me.

But I was thankful to be his dad.


  1. I hope Ashley's hanging in there and her arm heals quickly.

    My husband says he's grateful even for the painful things he goes through these days because he's present and not numbing everything away.

  2. Your 'stories' are fascinating. Isn't it GREAT feeling(?) to be an 'adult' sometimes...and act 'grown-up'? Like learning how to walk after a broken leg repair! -grin

  3. "And I was sober and I wasn't afraid."

    Isn't that a beautiful thing?! I love this line from your touched me somewhere deep.

    Good for you. I also love the way you shared your unadulterated joy at being able to be someone's daddy. Precious stuff here.

    Hope the arm heals quickly.

  4. You are going to be OK. Someone in active addiction never cares what their children might see.

    Good to hear from you.

  5. I hope that Ashley is healing. I was thrown a lot from horses but never broke anything except maybe my ego. You sound like a great dad.

  6. Well done. I love reading the posts about children and recovery. For it is through their eyes that we can truly measure our progress. My kids are the yard stick by which I measure my growth in recovery. When I am hurting them, then I know that I am "off" somewhere in my spiritual and mental fitness. Time to get back on the horse (so to speak ;)

    I hope your little one is OK.