By: Maria Rudesill
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?
My father died on October 21st, 2012 after I took him off life support. I was the first in my family to be alerted, as I was his only child and had Power of Health. Yes, this is a very jagged pill that I must swallow every morning.
It has taken me many months to overcome the embarrassment I have felt and to describe the details of my father’s death. I am now willing to share it with many and to embrace the fact that as his daughter, I still love him and am proud of the man he once was.
When it was time for me to clean out my father’s room a few days after he died, I found drug paraphernalia, but I also got to know who he was by his things and books. In my Dad’s wallet, there were pictures of me and many of my achievements, as well as my mom, although my parents were divorced.
Even through his struggle and haze, my dad still went out of his way each time we spoke to tell me that he was proud of me. He bragged, to the point of my embarrassment, and never faltered when it came to expressing his love, even when I had nothing nice to say to him.
He once told me that the only thing he ever did right in this world was playing a part in creating me, that I was his angel, and he clung to that until the day that he left this earth. My only hope is that in his final moments in this life, he knew that he did more than just create me.
In my 37 years, I have been supplied with a lifetime of hilarity, the drive and desire to reach out to others, memories of my father making an absolute fool of himself simply to bring joy to those surrounding him. I see him in myself. Not a “junkie,” a “waste” or someone “deserving of death” because, you know, “what do you expect when you do heroin?”
I see him as a husband, son, father, brother, and family man. Compassion over judgment is how I would like everyone to see him. I still love him and am still proud of the man he once was, and the man that will forever be emblazoned in my memory as my dad. He will forever be my father, and I will always love him.
But it not just for my dad, it is for other addicts and their loved ones as well, because each person that has fallen victim to addiction was once someone to somebody else. Because of him, I am doing what I do today. I couldn’t help him, but there are others who can recover, whether it’s the addict or the family.
That is the legacy of my father, not a spoon and lighter.
About Maria Rudesill
Maria is very passionate about addiction and recovery. As an adult child of two addicted parents, she knows firsthand the harm that drugs and alcohol can do. She is also mindful that addiction runs rampant in her family. After losing her father to his addiction, Maria felt it was time to take things a step further. Seeing how her story was touching others, she decided this was her real passion in life.
Maria also started reaching out where she lived and started being an advocate for addicts. Maria does public speaking in the schools, meetings, wherever she can to educate adults and children about addiction and what the new trends are options for treatment and recovery.
Maria specializes as an Outreach Coordinator, NCRC (Nationally Certified Recovery Coach), and in Intervention. She works with the law enforcement, governors, and city officials. She helped a neighboring city get a law changed. Instead of sentencing addicts to jail, they will be sentenced to treatment.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart
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