NYC247 cover image See all stories from issue #247, May/June 2015

[SUBSCRIBE NOW]
RK-YD image Get great stories in 'Teen Success Library'
ISBN: 9781935552017
[BUY NOW]
It's Never Too Late
I hope my dad will stop using crack someday
Tameara Newkirk
headshot

“Ma, what is crack?”

I had been asking my mom why my dad hardly came to see us, and she had replied by telling me he struggles with a crack addiction. The only drug I had heard of was weed. She explained to me that it is a powerful drug that took over my father’s life.

youthcomm logo
  www.representmag.org

“You’re old enough for me to tell you that now. It’s hard to fight,” she said. “Trust me, I’ve been in his shoes.”

“Only God can free him from that addiction, the same way he had to free me,” my mom continued.

“I know your father loves y’all, but he is suffering with a habit that is hard to break.”

This news was a lot to absorb, but I was glad my mother was honest with me. It was the first time I was able to understand why my father acted the way he did. I never suspected that he was on drugs.

Deep down I never wanted to acknowledge that my father was one of “those kinds of people.” Even though it upset me to learn he was an addict, part of me felt relieved to know there was a reason he was so unreliable.

Dad Disappeared

Until I was 5, I lived with my parents and my three sisters and six brothers. My mom and dad got along great sometimes and we would be a big happy family. But other times, they would be at each other like fighting animals. I didn’t know both of them were using crack.

Then one day my mom was eating roast beef and she began to choke. I knew she needed help when I saw her eyes rolling in the back of her head. My two little brothers and I were crying and screaming; then somehow my mom managed to get the meat out of her throat. The next day I overheard her telling one of my older sisters, “I could have died. I begged God, ‘Please, I’ll stop using dope. Just please don’t let me die in front of my kids.’ ”

Since that day my mom has not used. When she told my father she was off drugs forever, he packed his bags and left. Looking back now, I think he was upset because he had no one to do his drugs with. But at the time, I didn’t understand why he left.

The timing was bad because our house had been in foreclosure, which means the bank took it back because my parents couldn’t pay the mortgage. The bank kicked us out and we all had to go to a shelter. Everyone asked my mom the same question: “Where’s Dad?” I remember my mom saying, “I don’t know but he not gonna be nowhere near me using that stuff.” After living in a shelter for two years, my mom got a job as a home health aide and we were finally able to move into an apartment in the Bronx.

My 7th Birthday

After my father left I was confused. I was his youngest daughter so he liked to spoil me. But now he barely came over. When he did show up he didn’t seem happy to be with us. He’d have this weird attitude like we were wasting his time. I wanted my father and my mother to be together again. I wanted to feel his love. But none of that happened.

My father left my young heart confused and shattered. When we asked my mother about him, she didn’t give us a straight answer. Now I know that’s because she thought we were too young to know the truth about his addiction.

I remember my 7th birthday. I was wearing a pink dress and white sandals and I had my hair in pigtails. I was excited for my birthday but even more excited when my mom told me my father was coming. I hadn’t seen him since Easter, five months earlier. I missed him. He was expected at 4 p.m.

At 4 p.m., I looked out the window to see if he was walking down the block so I could run out and jump into his arms. Every five minutes I would peek my head out the window. At 7 p.m., I asked my mom to call him to see where he was and she said he wasn’t answering his phone. At 10 p.m., I thought for sure he’d just had a busy day and he was on his way. I waited patiently. Still no show, no call. I asked my mom why he didn’t come and she looked at me with pain in her eyes but said nothing. Later, she whispered under her breath, “I knew he wasn’t going to come.” I cried the rest of the night.

This was always how it was. Me expecting to see or hear from him, and me just waiting and waiting. My mom never knew what to say. I would get sad and feel hurt, because I thought he didn’t want to see me. This was how my father behaved the majority of the time. My mom hated how he treated us.

image by YC-Art Dept

I Begged For His Love

During the rare times when my father did answer the phone this was how a typical conversation went:

“Dad?”

“What?”

“It’s me. When are you coming to see us?”

“I don’t know Tameara. I’m busy.”

“Well, are you coming for Christmas? Mom is making a nice dinner.”

“Man, I don’t know. I’ll see you, Tameara.”

“OK then. I’ll speak to you later.”

Sometimes I would try to add to the conversations, but then he would cut me off and say he was busy.

These brief talks left me sad and wondering. Why did my father act like he didn’t want to speak to me after we hadn’t spoken for months? I was dying to tell him school news like when I’d win academic awards for math and English. But he didn’t seem to care. I was a little girl with a screaming heart begging for my father’s love. I wished I could be more like my brothers, who didn’t seem to take my father’s rejection as hard.

It’s Never Our Fault

I think a lot of kids with absent fathers think like I did: that their dad doesn’t love them or want to see them. And even though I didn’t feel this way I know some kids also feel like they did something wrong and that’s why their dad doesn’t come around. I know some boys who have such hatred toward their fathers and the way they release this anger is to get into fights or other trouble.

But I know the fact that my father left and never came back has nothing to do with me. I know that if a parent leaves it’s never the child’s fault. Sometimes dads leave because their father did the same to them. My father’s dad left him when he was 10 years old. And in my case, my dad’s addicted to crack.

I do not hate my father, but I hate that he left us, and I hate that he is on drugs. But I still love my father and forgive him because I know if he was in his right state of mind he wouldn’t act the way he does. I think deep down in his heart he wants to come visit us, but his mind is in another world.

Once my mother told me my father was addicted to crack, I no longer felt like he didn’t love me or that he did not want to be in my life. Now I feel sorry for him. I want to give him a hug and tell him that I love him. I want him to get off crack but my mom explained to me that it’s not easy. “He needs to go to rehab, but he needs to be ready and he’s not yet,” she told me.

I’m convinced that one day he will be ready. My father has a strong addiction but he is also a strong man. Even if everyone gives up on him I will always be by his side. Just like my mom was able to, I believe he can fight his addiction and God will set him free. Until then, I will do anything I can to help him.

For help understanding a parent's addiction, read our story Growing Up With an Addict

horizontal rule
(NYC-2015-05-04)