The night I killed my father, I became addicted to heroin. I loved the son-of-a-bitch and I just watched him die.
Why did I do it? Well, it’s complicated.
I was a breech birth, feet first, my head got stuck in the birth canal. My father brought me to Children’s Hospital in Boston. The doctors diagnosed me with Cerebral Palsy. The loss of oxygen to my brain had destroyed a portion of the frontal lobe.
But my father was a tough Irish Catholic, old-school warrior. He refused to listen to them. No son of his was going to be a cripple. He found a doctor that told him how he could take the place of my injured brain.
Every day, he laid me on the floor and exercised my legs. The muscles in my right leg were all shrunken and twisted. His job was to straighten them. Back and forth, up and down, he stretched them until the heels of my feet evenly matched.
My mother told me the sound of me screaming was so unbearable that the neighbors called the police. She said he couldn’t look at me. She told me how his tears made wet stains on my little T-shirt.
For my 13th birthday, he threw me a party and allowed me to open every present but a large box neatly trimmed in wrapping paper. When everybody left, he marched me into the basement to open the box.
A pair of boxing gloves.
We put them on, and he beat me unmercifully. Each time I tried to get up, he’d knock me down. I begged him to stop. Instead, he picked a target on my face, never once missing the bull’s-eye. When I collapsed, he cradled me and said, “I’d cut off my right arm if that would make you whole.”
My father actually believed that beating me that day was all about getting me ready for the real world. He told me I was a man at 13-years-old and how things for me, a cripple, would be extra tough.
But listen, he wasn’t a monster. That same year, I wasn’t picked for Little League Baseball. At tryouts, everybody laughed. My right leg awkwardly slanted inward when I ran. My father heard their snickers. On the ride home, he held my hand, and we cried together.
Two weeks later, my father started the Shedd Park Minor League. He raised money, bought uniforms, enlisted coaches, acquired permits, and every kid played.
In high school, I became a football star. One Saturday afternoon, I intercepted a pass and headed for the end zone. At the five-yard line, I looked around to see if anybody was chasing me, nobody…well, except my father running full speed along the sidelines.
You see, my father uncrippled me, and I let him die the night my mother was in the hospital recovering from surgery. I found my father with another woman. He clutched his heart, and I thought he was faking. I refused to help him. By the time I realized he was truly having a heart attack, it was too late.
At the end, I bent forward and he whispered, “I love you.” He slowly reached for my hand just as he had done years ago on that ride home from Little League tryouts. Then he was gone.
That night, I shot my first bag of heroin.
I took heroin just once. Yes, only once, and after that first shot, heroin took me any place it wanted to. I destroyed everything in my path. I robbed family, friends, anyone, no exceptions. Nothing I said was the truth.
Heroin was like the peak of an orgasm that lasted for hours. The euphoria allowed me to escape what I had done to my father. I let him die on the floor, and heroin stopped me from reliving it over and over. From the instant that first blast of heroin hit my heart, I couldn’t live without it.
In the end, I wanted to die. I couldn’t face one more day on earth as a heroin addict. Life just wasn’t worth living. I bought a brick of heroin, 10-bags, cooked it, filled my syringe, pulled the trigger and died.
Fortunately, I was found, and two shots of Narcan brought me back. It was difficult climbing out of the hole I had dug. I did it cold-turkey, no methadone, no subozone.
Pure hell. Just sheer will and determination, something my father had beat into me. A fire in my soul that was a carefully blended concoction of hate and love.
Ironically, at the age of 35, a neurosurgeon in San Jose, California, told me I didn’t have cerebral palsy. He explained how the doctor’s forceps at birth had damaged the frontal lobe of my brain.
My father never knew the truth. But his death saddled me with a persistent gnawing, an unyielding guilt, as if at any minute the world would find out what I did. How could anybody do what I had done?
It feels so strange to love somebody as much as you hate them. Sometimes I cry and rejoice at the same moment. However, one thing is perfectly clear: my father’s love gave me the power to overcome heroin addiction.
Yes, help boiled down to a simple cliché…Love Conquers All.