It’s hard to reconcile the smart, strong man you grew up idolizing falling victim to a drug problem. It can rock your very foundation to think of the man that held me when you were young, gave you the best advice of your life and healed your every wound as frail and temperamental slave to pain medication. I experienced the indignity of older adult drug abuse early on in my life—enough to last me the rest of my life. I had always deferred to my father’s wisdom, because there was never any reason not to; however when I noticed the stronghold that pain pills had on him, I knew something wasn’t right and he no longer knew what was best.
I first noticed changes in him around his 64th birthday. I was driving him to his doctor’s office, and he kept making a big deal about not mentioning that he was still on pain pills. When I asked why, he tap-danced around and said that he wasn’t even going there for pain. He had sustained a back injury two years prior and had been taking Vicodin ever since. What I didn’t know until much later was that his doctor told him to stop taking it after three months. I’m ashamed to admit now that I kept my mouth shut when he was at the doctor that day.
As time went on, he became crueler and moodier in some of his criticisms. It didn’t seem like he wanted anything to do with his grandchildren and he became verbally abuse of my sister. Part of my thought it was the onset of senility. Then one day he collapsed at my house. After rushing him to the ER, his blood tests showed alarmingly high amounts of Vicodin. When he woke up, and thank God he did, he tried to brush it off like it was nothing, but I wouldn’t let it go. In a battle none of us saw coming, we started yelling at each other right there in the hospital room and I wound up walking out. We didn’t see each other for three weeks.
His career had meant everything to him, so he went back to work as soon as possible. Two weeks after being discharged from the hospital, I got a call that he had fainted in a board meeting. This time, I insisted that he seek treatment and then either retire or work part-time. He agreed and checked himself into a facility that offered treatment for older adult drug abuse. Since he’s completed treatment, he has gone back to work consulting and I get to preserve the image of my father as strong, smart and loving person I always knew he was.
The key to dealing with an issue like this is honesty. I let the past cloud my judgment and almost rob me of any future I had with my dad. You can’t be afraid to confront your loved ones if you feel it is in their best interest. You may be the only thing saving their life.