This is a message of truth, hope and compassion. This is a message from my heart.
When Robin and I first learned that Leah was using drugs some 10 years ago, we were shocked, angry and embarrassed - our daughter could not be one of those persons.... the kind that people whisper about because they believe it could never happen to their family.
Addiction does not discriminate. Leah grew up in a loving home. She loved her parents, grandparents and her older brother. Leah was a "B" student and enjoyed having the latest fashion trends in clothes, purses and cellphones. She was, however, a follower and not a leader. Peer pressure wrapped its hands around her. Eventually so did experimental drug use. It was the beginning of her addiction.
We tried hiding it for years, while helping our daughter get treatment. There were good days, good weeks and good months. There were battles, struggles and scars for everyone. There were relapses, not only for our beautiful daughter but for us as parents. It was a roller coaster ride for all who loved this vibrant young lady.
Leah succumbed to peer pressure in her early teens. She dealt with being accepted, and what she perceived as failures in life. It led to drugs. I first looked at it as a habit. Unbeknownst to me it was a disease. And when looked at from broad perspective, it's an epidemic.
As her dad, I felt betrayed at first. Then guilt. There was always anger. Anger channeled to why Leah would always give in to her so-called friends and not heed our parental advise. It was crushing at times.
When my cellphone would ring at work, I hesitated to answer it because I had been conditioned over the years that it was bad news from Robin. You see, Robin has always been the go-to person for our children. In Leah’s case, she was her rock.
About 6 years ago when Robin and I attended a mandatory parents retreat at the rehab center that Leah was enrolled in, there were the usual nuggets of information that I had heard so many times. But near the end of the session, one of the parents made a plea to our group: NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR CHILDREN, no matter the torment, no matter the heartache, NEVER GIVE UP. He had lost a daughter to drug addiction. Another one was in rehab.
Those words lodged in my heart and I never forgot them. Yet, there was always this roller coaster ride. College scholarship, dean's list, dropped out. Job, income, quit. Drug free, drug use, detox, rehab, sober living. Repeated almost a dozen times. Yet, we loved her for who she was, not what she was. Leah was our daughter.
You see anyone who has lost a loved one through addiction knows that society treats that death in a much different manner than a death from any other cause. It's called STIGMA. There is the unspoken feeling that the individual who succumbed to drugs must have somehow been less than a good person. And for the persons who are left to grieve, surely they too must have somehow been a failure, for "letting this occur."
As parents we could never see the side of Leah that many, and I mean a lot of her peers in rehab saw. Many tributes were shared at her memorial service. She was an inspiration to so many who were guided and helped by our beautiful daughter.
I am here to tell you that Leah was loved by many and none any more than her grandma and pap.
I always told her, including the last time we were together that WE BELIEVED IN HER, WE LOVED HER and that HER BIGGEST FANS WERE AT HOME. She always smiled and said, “I know dad. And I love you for that.”
She is now safe in Heaven and doesn’t have to struggle with this hellish disease. I will ALWAYS BE HER BIGGEST FAN and she will ALWAYS BE IN MY HEART.
Leah loved leopard print, the color purple and Hello Kitty.