I had 2,051 words written as of last night and I decided to start over. I’m not a writer. Sometimes my thoughts just don’t flow out of my head and to my hands correctly so let’s try again. I hesitated whether to write this given who could read it but I am choosing to do it anyway.
If all the most undesirable emotions about life were piled together into one big pile of crap, close to the top in my view would be hindsight, regret and probably guilt. When I think about Ava, all of these things come to mind. Anyone who faces tragedy, no matter what the specifics are, is plagued with hindsight. You can just go back and look at all the things that happened. Where did I go wrong? What could I have done differently? If only I hadn’t done this… If only I would have done that. Why didn’t I see this? Why, why, why… Pretty soon, this turns into a viscous mind trap that does nothing but spiral out of control. The scary part about it is no matter how many times you climb out of this trap you have a tendency to return. You almost need to. Hindsight is very unfair. I will never look at past events with true objectivity because of it. I can see every little thing that could have happened which could have given Ava a chance to survive. It’s torture.
Regret and guilt almost go together. I experience these feelings regularly. I ask myself if I did everything that I could have to show Ava that I loved her. Did she know? Was she aware of the love I felt? Did she understand my presence and how much pain I was in? Not only do I think about that, I have regrets about how things unfolded when we first arrived at the hospital, how much time I spent with Ava and how well I was paying attention to everything that was going on. This is all because of the torture of hindsight.
When we arrived at labor and delivery at Bronson, my panic was much worse than when we left the OB office. I was with Leah at first, but once the staff started to lean towards Leah having a c-section I was asked to go change into scrubs. I was already worried and I was trying to reach Leah’s parents and her sister on the phone so that they knew what was going on. I remember trying to call right after I changed into scrubs. I don’t think I managed to reach anyone yet. It was during this time Leah was being bombarded with absolutely having to have a c-section. If I just would have been in there when all this happened, maybe I would have stuck up for her. Maybe I could have stopped this from happening. I don’t know that I would have given that I would have been told the same thing that she was told but I still regret not being there. I remember I managed to contact them right before I went into the OR.
Once Ava was born and Leah was out of recovery, it was a constant process of seeing her as much as we could. I remember that we both went a very long time without sleep and even when we did get rest that first night, I slept for less than an hour and if I remember correctly Leah hadn’t slept at all. I was so sleep deprived. I felt miserable. Looking back on that I feel quite a bit of regret because there were many instances when we were with Ava where all I could do was consume all my energy just to stay awake. My mind would also fixate on needing rest. It almost felt wrong leaving her just to try to rest, but it reached a point where we didn’t have a choice. That sleep deprivation continued because we both were so distraught about the entire situation. There were conversations that happened that I can’t say that I entirely remember because I was so tired I could barely pay attention. I felt like in the moment I was aware of my surroundings and I was taking part in conversations, but I wasn’t absorbing much. I already have trouble with paying attention to things in the first place. Add lack of sleep into that and it gets even worse. This all compounds into regret. I wish that I could have been that dad that was just on top of everything- in tune to all my surroundings making sure I was doing everything possible for Ava. I don’t always feel that I did everything I could have. This regret as I mentioned before develops into guilt.
There are certain parts of my life that I only touched on at this point. When it comes to regret or guilt, these parts of my life have come into my thoughts a lot when I have asked myself whether God was inflicting some sort of punishment on me. Leah has talked about it too. Her sense of punishment comes from a different place or maybe it just comes in a different form than mine. The majority of the time, I can’t convince myself that God would use an innocent baby like Ava as a weapon. That doesn’t mean I don’t ask myself if I deserved this.
When I was about 14 years old, I discovered something about myself I would have had no way of knowing about beforehand. This was a long time ago so my memory may not be completely right but I remember what I need to know vividly. I had sprained my ankle, which required me to go to the doctor. I was put on a prescription pain medication which is completely normal for injuries like that. My ankle had swollen up to the size of an orange. I could take one or two of these pills depending on the pain. At one point I took two. This was the very first time I discovered the fact that I was an opiate addict. I of course didn’t know this at the time, but after I took those two pills I was in Heaven. Some people are just wired differently than others. Some people could take two of these pills and feel nothing. I felt everything. And I loved it. I was on top of the world both physically and mentally. From that point forward, to varying degrees, I chased that feeling and I chased it for another 14 years.
There are tens of millions of people (I think) that suffer from the exact thing that I do. This says nothing of the millions more that concurrently have the same issues with alcohol. I also had a lot of trouble with alcohol. I couldn’t always get my hands on my drug of choice. When I couldn’t I always had alcohol. It was one or the other, and sometimes both. There are different opinions about addiction, particularly if it is a disease. There are basically two differing opinions. Either it is a disease and should be regarded as one like any other medical condition, or it is a choice and therefore a question of morality or character. Just like our circumstances with Ava, unless you are one who suffers from addiction or knows someone who has, you most likely don’t understand that addiction is about anything but choice. The one exception to that is my belief that the addictive cycle at its beginning does begin with choice. It does not take very long before that choice is no longer available to you. It is ripped away at which point you are at the mercy of God or you can rely on some slim chance you will get out of it on your own without destroying your life. The latter of the two does not happen often in my experience.
So, for 14 years I was in the midst of chasing this high in one form or another. There were 4 very distinct points in that 14 years where I had a wake up call and I should have learned from my mistakes. Unfortunately I never took my addiction seriously and always reverted back to normal unhealthy behaviors. The first three times I had my wake up calls, I was not in a relationship which trust me is a good thing. I let my parents and my family take the pain and misery with me. One of the many selfish things I would do. The last time around, my chance to get my act together would not come until after Leah and I were married.
When Leah and I first met, she was at least aware of my problems, but neither she nor I took the problems seriously. While I had abstained from drug use for quite some time, I couldn’t go without alcohol. I never believed I had an issue with alcohol because it quite honestly was never at the forefront of any of my major screw ups when I was actively using. This time around, alcohol was definitely a problem. Well over two years ago, my addiction had reached such a point that I was hiding it from Leah and from everyone in my life. Anytime I was accused of anything I denied it, exhausting all available resources to defend myself. I was a dishonest, awful person.
Leah and I were married for just over one year when everything came to a head and I fell off the deep end. As an addict, you eventually are no longer pursuing anything out of pleasure. It becomes a necessity. You cannot live without your drug of choice. Doesn’t matter if it’s alcohol or a prescription drug. The disease of addiction does not care. At the end of my rope, I was immoral. There was nothing that I wouldn’t do to survive. Any personal sense of a moral code I had, I broke. To put it lightly, I am not proud of the person that I was or the things that I have done. For a long time, I was absolutely ashamed.
I disappeared off the face of the earth for between one and two days when I jumped over that cliff. I was ready for a divorce and I wanted nothing to do with anyone. I was prepared to lose my job, my wife and my family. I was not suicidal, but I had not a care in the world about my own well-being. If I died that day I would not have cared. I wish that I could say I am exaggerating but I am not. I refused to take any phone calls during that 24 hours except for one, from my mother. She ended up telling Leah what had happened with me and she was devastated. She had no idea just how dark of a person I could become. She had no idea what I was capable of until that day I disappeared. I destroyed my trust with her. I destroyed our marriage and I let a lot of people down.
You see, this may have all come to a head when I was with Leah in the worst way. But this says nothing of the fact that I had 13 years before this where I hurt those who cared about me the most. I took for granted the trust my parents and my family had in me. None of us knew the dangers of being an alcoholic or an addict. In my experience, most addicts/alcoholics have to give up almost everything in order to quit. You have to be so miserable you want to give up. The use of the words ‘give up’ are for good reason. Alcoholics and addicts don’t lose anything and don’t have anything taken away. We give it away little by little because as sure as the sun rises, our addiction becomes more and more important and everything else becomes just the opposite. I have heard countless stories in my recovery about the complete devastation required in order for people to get out from under active addiction. I can assure you that some go through things ten times worse than me to learn their lesson.
It has been over two and a half years since that day. I had to get the right help which I did and have been living a sober life since two days after the day I disappeared. No alcohol, no drugs. I am not the same person that I was before by far and it took an immense amount of work to get here. Leah stuck by my side through all of this. She didn’t have to but she chose to. She believed in the sanctity of marriage. Something long forgotten by me in the depths of my addiction. We battled the aftermath of this for a long time. We both had our ups and our downs but the pain was always there. We had countless arguments and misunderstandings. We were both lost struggling so desperately to find the way. This lasted through the pregnancy with Ava. I was so misguided about life. I was focused on all the wrong things. When I say I took for granted the fact that Ava was coming, this is why I say that. I should have been worried about her, not me.
This brings me back to the present and how this has all tied into guilt and remorse. Maybe you understand this or maybe you don’t. When Ava was taken away from us, I wondered if my history was catching up to me. Was this punishment? When a tragedy as awful as this happens, absolutely nothing is off-limits to the feelings of guilt and remorse. What is worse is that there is no question that you can just ask God that he is going to answer. I will never get my answer. God will never affirm or deny anything about my wondering whether or not Ava was taken away from me as a result of the person I was. It is a question that will haunt me until the day I die. I will of course have times when I don’t believe it was punishment, but the haunting questions will still be there.
I wanted my recovery to mean something to Ava. If it is one thing I know I wanted it was for all the past agony to finally mean something. As misguided as I was, I felt my recovery was misspent. I had managed to steer clear of substance abuse, but I couldn’t get my marriage in order. I managed to build a decent career (more like start a career) and graduate college, but I couldn’t make my marriage better. I wanted to be able to tell Ava someday about the crazy journey I had been on. I wanted her to see me for who I honestly was. I didn’t want her to see me as invincible or as the strongest man on earth. I just wanted her to see me as the flawed person that I was. I was someone who had spent a large part of my life in such a dark place but I was able to overcome the obstacles. There was so much I wanted her to know about me.
This all came to a halt just four weeks ago. I regret that I could not have brought Ava into this world having been in a better place. I regret that I spent so much of time in a place I didn’t want to be with Leah. I was someone who was bitter and unforgiving. I was cold. I was not the father Ava would have wanted. If there is anything that does come out of this entire post it is that hope is the only consistency in any of the struggles I have faced in my life. Without it, you are in the darkness with no flashlight. You might as well just stay in the darkness. I hope, from the depths of my soul, that Ava sees me as a good man. I don’t know whether she was instantly made aware of every detail of my life the second she entered Heaven, but if she was I hope she can forgive me. I wish that I had more to show. It is one of my biggest regrets. I just wanted my daughter to see the man she inspired the second she came into my life. That’s one of the gifts that Ava gave me. I couldn’t possibly put into words what that means to me.