Addiction and parenting: tales of a single father

Joseph Scialabba is a single father from the Chicago area who   unexpectedly lost the mother of his child to drug addiction. This blog post chronicles his experience with raising a female child alone in the 21st century.


Addiction and parenting, one of life’s ultimate toxic brews: the most common way to pass one parents mistakes to another.

Addiction is why I'm a single parent; it’s why my daughter doesn't have a mother and why millions of other kids are minus one parent or, in some of the worst cases, both parents.

Look, I know what you’re thinking, because I hear it all the time: it won’t happen to me, it won’t happen to my kids. No one wants to wake up thinking that; no one wants to realize they helped killed their kids or send them on a downward spiral into the abyss that is addiction and eventually death.

It’s a tenuous subject for most to discuss  There's a wide variety of opinions on the matter.  They range from believing it should be treated as a mental disorder and that treatment should be utilized, to “screw them, let them die in the streets”, with every varying level in between.

Now me, I watched addiction passed down from a parent to their child, I watched addiction consume someone I loved, and I watched as my daughter now has to pay a terrible cost for both her parent and grandparents choices.

Addiction does begin, ultimately, with a choice to use. No one ever plans to be addicted; no one plans to lose it all.  I know my daughter’s mom never planned to die at 26, but it happened. It will also happen again today to someone else(and tomorrow and the next day). There are 175 addiction related deaths per day.  That’s over 60,000 deaths last year and that's just the stats from the opioid epidemic. For those of you unfamiliar with the opioid epidemic, it is currently the leading cause of death in America for adults under 50 years of age.  Not guns, car accidents or heart disease, but opioids, heroin and prescription drugs.

So if you’re from the school of thought that it won’t happen to you, it will. Without even touching on the states of both alcohol abuse and other illegal drugs you will be hard pressed to find a family in America that hasn’t been personally touched by this epidemic.

Many addicts are trying to cope with mental illness. The rates of shared mental illness and addiction are staggering. More die because of the fear of the stigma of addiction. They refuse to recognize their problems & seek help.  Sometimes it happens because they don’t know how, others because they don’t want to be labeled an addict.

It’s even harder for addict parents, who may just be struggling to keep it together. Now I’m not saying they shouldn't be held accountable. They should definitely be held accountable for their actions.  After watching a father’s addiction kill the person I loved the most and change my daughter’s life forever, I wanted to be angry. It’s easier that way, but then I realized what I really want is a world free of addiction; one where treatment is available for all who will accept it; where mental healthcare isn’t impossible to find.  So many people turn to the bottle (or something worse) to ease their minds. I began working for a foundation to help people into treatment after my daughter’s mother’s death. What amazed me the most was the wide variety of people I meet who need help: fathers, mothers, sisters, doctors, police officers, paramedics and lawyers. There is no cookie cutter addiction anymore.

Drug addiction is a cancer to our future as a society. The longer we ignore these facts and allow it to grow, the more lives will be lost. I’m sure some of you reading this will have harsh opinions of it and that’s fine. I encourage you to donate time to a local NA meeting or treatment foundation to see just how out of control this has become. The experience will be eye-opening, and you might just save someone’s life. \

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Photo by Getty Images

A Pakistani drug addict injects himself with heroin along a street in Rawalpindi on June 28, 2018. - Traffickers commonly use Pakistan as a transit point for drugs from Afghanistan, the world's biggest producer of opium, from which heroin is made. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)
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