A father who is not perfect writes of a father's nightmares. He ends the story on a hopeful note, but he's had experience enough to know that there are no cures, only remissions.
...Since reason and love, the forces I had come to rely on, had betrayed me, I was in uncharted territory as I sat at a corner table nervously waiting for him. Steps of Rome was deserted, other than a couple of waiters folding napkins at the bar. I ordered coffee, racking my brain for the one thing I could say that I hadn't thought of that could get through to him. Drug-and-alcohol counselors, most of them former addicts, tell fathers like me it's not our fault. They preach ''the Three C's'': ''You didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it.'' But who among us doesn't believe that we could have done something differently that would have helped? ''It hurts so bad to think I cannot save him, protect him, keep him out of harm's way, shield him from pain,'' wrote Thomas Lynch, the undertaker, poet and essayist, about his son, a drug addict and an alcoholic. ''What good are fathers if not for these things?'' I waited until it was more than half an hour past our meeting time, recognizing the mounting, suffocating worry and also the bitterness and anger...I'm reasonably sure I'll face some of what David Sheff has seen with at least one of my children. I can only hope it won't be as bad. That thought makes every moment I have with them now even more precious. I am no libertarian; to give my children a better chance of surviving this I would surrender some of my freedoms, and some of yours too.
...Through Nick's drug addiction, I learned that parents can bear almost anything. Every time we reach a point where we feel as if we can't bear any more, we do. Things had descended in a way that I never could have imagined, and I shocked myself with my ability to rationalize and tolerate things that were once unthinkable. He's just experimenting. Going through a stage. It's only marijuana. He gets high only on weekends. At least he's not using heroin. He would never resort to needles. At least he's alive....
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