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What It Feels Like To Be Raised By A Heroin Addict

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By Cassandra Buchignani // As told to Mollie Wagner

Mommy and daddy are fighting again. I haven’t seen much of her lately, just when she’s throwing clothes into bags banging her big box on wheels down the stairs of our apartment complex. Mommy’s gone now—she fell out of our fingerpainted picture right after my birthday; I just turned four. Daddy walked me to the bus stop with his hand in mine just like he did everyday. We live in a small town with trailer parks and broken families, mine included. But I had Dadieo and he had me, his little Sandoz; together we had all we needed, each other.

When we moved to the big city, our house was connected to a bunch of other houses. “A six flat,” Grandma says. Her and Grandpa own it and we get to live right underneath them. I don’t know why, but daddy never carries a briefcase, wears a tie, or even gets a little envelope with money inside every week. I don’t mind though, it only makes him more perfect in my patchouli burned eyes. Our apartment is lined with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix posters, and I always play with the strings that hold together the three guitars my dad takes such pride in. Tonight I head butted dadieo’s beer gut on the thin Indian style rug, pretending to be the big WWF fighters—I won. I always win. We plop down on the maroon couch all out of breath with smiles plastered across both of our faces. I wear the stereotype “daddy’s little girl” with such pride.

Middle school mornings are tough. Dadieo barges in with a huge smile and a little song, but I only long for my eyes to close once more before the sun pokes them awake. He does drag me out of bed though, and I instantly collapse into a starfish onto the heated floor. I watch him as he leans back exposing his beer belly and fluffing his hair back in the mirror. I went to eat cereal, but the only spoon in the drawer had char marks all over it. I skipped breakfast. Dad took me to school and I wanted to ask about the spoon, but he cracked a joke so I just let it ponder in my thoughts for awhile. As the days go by, I come home to more spoons with burn marks and fewer questions being answered. He takes me home from school and there’s alcohol lingering on his breath—I can smell it. His eyes seem to be redder than usual, but I hug him tight and tell him all about my day.

There’s a little clinic on Clark Street that my dad and I go to every so often. I love it. It’s the perfect way to indulge in a whole day with just my dad and me in the city. I’ve never known the purpose for these trips, but I did know that he was so desperate for whatever was in the little pink bottle. This seems to be much more than a drinking problem. Dadieo is sick, and he is trying to get better, which is only making him worse.

It has officially been confirmed that something is really wrong. I see him in his bedroom window. The outside light was just enough to fulfill his needs, which is why his curtains are wide open. Tears fall from my eyes as I scribble the images flashing in front of me.  Doctors use needles, and dadieo is by no means a doctor. My breathing starts to escalate, and my cousin peers over my shoulder to see what I am so hysterical about. I rip the paper of disappointment to shreds. Grandma tries to piece the puzzle together, she tries to understand—no one can understand what’s going through his mind except him. He made up his mind.

He promises to stop, just like last time. This promise becomes a past time. For awhile, he was getting better. But now, we have company. It’s not just him and I anymore. It’s daddy’s little girl now in competition with his new girl. Since I was the only girl in daddy’s life, I was hurt that he was choosing bad habits and influences over me. Dadieo is in too deep for anyone else’s opinions and trying to stop his neverending lifestyle is out of reach and inevitable. As much as I love him, I have to let him go. Daddy’s little girl is being pushed out the door, and I am so relieved to leave.

I am 14, and living with my aunt and her family. Being without Dadieo is so hard; there is no one to pull my winter hat over my head, and my cousins are never in the mood to play poker.

I got off the bus the first day back from spring break. It was a long day. I walked inside to the still house and felt the tension in my bones. My aunt called me from upstairs and asked me to come talk to her. As I start telling her about my day, the excitement in my voice starts to dwindle as my uncle takes my cousins hands and walks them out of the room. She places her hands on my shoulders and sighs hard. Her eyes start wandering; they glisten with tears. She tells me that my father had passed away due to a heroin overdose.

This woman is clearly sick. Worse than daddy. Who would ever make a joke like that? I run into my room and slam the door. My body starts shivering as I aggressively sob. It cannot be possible. I’m crying, screaming and shaking. I’m throwing things, stomping my feet and pinching myself—this has to be a dream. A sick, twisted dream.

This dream was my reality for the next 11 years. The past decade with Dadieo gone; it’s always the little things that make me wish I knew him longer. Eighth grade graduation: gone. Conformation: gone. High school graduation: gone. College: gone. First job: gone. If I get married: gone. He’s missed everything. The comforting faces have always reminded my heavy heart, “he would be so proud of you.” But those words will never fill the void of what’s been taken from me.

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What It Feels Like To Be Raised By A Heroin Addict