April 8th. My Tabby is asleep, curled at my shoulder. Her paw draped over both eyes. The darkness of a sun not yet crossing the horizon makes it easy to keep my head on the pillow. I don’t want to get out of bed. So many emotions running through me. Sleep is a time-machine of memories. I am a child. I am a teen. I am a man. My father is all those things. Alive and vibrant. He would have been ninety-three today.
The reality is different. He is gone. It’s still fresh. An open wound that has closed a bit since that brutal afternoon. The text from my brother Mark to get right over to my dad’s place. “It is happening” My stomach and heart still throb with an emptiness. I can no longer kiss the top of his bald head and tell him I love him. I can no longer steal his chips at the blackjack table. He smiles, winks and says,
“You’ll get my bill in the mail.”
There will be no family dinners with him and my brothers, regaling our childhood exploits.
I try to shift gears to the positive. Move from bitter to the sweet. I am twelve years sober today. He lived to see me free of the mental and physical handcuffs booze and cocaine locked inside for so many years.
I am grateful for that. For the morning I sat on his couch. Alone. Ashamed. Two days off a blackout. Two days off a trip to a psychiatric facility. Two years off a near suicide. Two decades after a line of cocaine provided me the artificial self-love I craved, replacing decades of self-loathing. Countless bottles of Jack Daniels and Grey Goose to deaden the pain of a little boy.
He sits next to me with his body up against mine. I sob. My body convulses and wretches. He puts his arm around me and pulls me close. His head lays on top of mine. My hair dampens with his tears.
“I love you, Brian, what can I do to help.”
“I am alone dad. Amanda has moved out. No one will ever love me again.”
“You’re wrong. I love you, Brian, your brothers love you. You are not alone. Have you spoken to them?
Not yet, I respond between sobs. The truth is that I don’t want to feel their shame and disappointment in me. I am ashamed enough for the entire world.
“Let’s do this. Stay with me for as long as you want. We’ll get through this together. First, call your brothers.” He releases his hold and hands me a Kleenex, taking one for himself.
For a second I forget the guilt and remember what he told us growing up. A mantra he learned from his parents. No matter where my travels take me. No matter what happens. Pick up that phone and make sure my brothers are doing ok. Tell them I love them, as he did with his two brothers. Allow them to love me when it matters most.
I made those calls. I stayed with my dad. I entered 12-step. I began therapy. Amanda stuck by me while I rebuilt the broken trust. While I rebuilt myself and helped that little boy let go of his pain. It’s a continuing journey. I miss my dad on his birthday. There is also joy. The joy of feeling the pain of love and loss sober with the people who care about me and who I love. I will go to his grave and tell him about it.
Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The Addicted Lawyer. Brian is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales Of The Bar, Booze, Blow & Redemption (affiliate link). A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his résumé as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery on April 8, 2007. He left the practice of law and now writes and speaks on recovery topics, not only for the legal profession but on recovery in general. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.