On March 16th, 1993, I was born and became another inconvenience to add to my parents’ list. My father left my hometown of Harrison, Arkansas when I was still a baby and never came back to us, and my mother’s on-again-off-again relationship with drugs eventually had me living with my maternal grandparents by age three.
As I grew up, it became clear that most of my mom’s family harbored unwarranted resentment toward me because of their distaste of her. Hard to blame. My grandma, however, always made me feel welcome. She was the only one I felt close to. I loved watching her gentle figure move around as she cleaned the house while I played with my cousins.
My life took a turn the summer before ninth grade. I was helping my grandpa build a church, and I fell from the roof, breaking both ankles. The doctor gave me pain pills to last a week. Unfortunately, the pain didn’t let up after seven days, so I started taking pills from my grandpa’s medicine cabinet. Before I knew it, I was taking pills every day, long after I needed them. I liked the way they dulled out the deafening roar of the world. For the first time in my young life, I felt peace — happiness, even.
At first, my friend Liam (pseudonym) and I would sell the ones we didn’t take. We started the drug market at school, and soon there were a few more people to buy from. After my grandpa figured out how his pills were disappearing, we started buying them from these other “dealers.” It wasn’t long before I spent every day pilled out. Eventually, pills weren’t doing enough, and we looked for ways to elevate our highs. Sometimes before school, I’d meet up with Liam and we’d chug peach schnapps he had stolen and then huff gasoline. Just 14, and we were rarely going to school sober. In the wonderful numbness of the drugs, I forgot all my pain. Nothing mattered.
I never realized back then that the bad hand I’d been dealt as a kid was catching up with me and morphing how I grew up. By 10th grade, I added weed to my routine, affording it by working in my grandpa’s garage through the summer. I started to steal from other junkies, and fight them if they didn’t let me have what I wanted. My chaotic life caught up with me and put me in juvenile detention a few times, but I always got out. Until I really messed up at 15.
One night, I was getting ready to see a movie with friends. My uncle and his daughter were visiting and blocked me from leaving because my cousin was mad about something. I’ll be dammed if I can remember what. They always found something to be mad at me about. She raised her hand to slap me, but I grabbed her wrist before she got the chance. Next thing I know, my uncle was coming at me, furious that I laid a hand on his daughter, I guess. I made my escape out the door before things escalated. My friends and I wound up ditching the movie idea and stole cigars from the country market instead.
It turned out that my uncle had called the cops, so they were already looking for me when someone called about the cigars. When they found me, I was rolling a joint, unsuspecting of their ambush. That night, I went to the “big boy” jail, and spent three days there.
When I came back home, my grandparents decided to send me to Pocahontas, a mental hospital for wayward teens. It didn’t really help. I was off pills for a bit, but I still got into fights and smoked weed. My dear grandma was the only one to show any sympathy during this time. She tried enrolling me in boxing to help me get ahold of my anger, but sadly, I didn’t stick with it. I was this stubborn, rebellious kid that I wish I was not.
I got released from the hospital at 17 and tried to go home, but was rejected by my family. They asked me to clean up my act first. Dejected and falling, I dropped out of school and spent the next six months on the streets, sleeping under a bridge most nights. Sometimes old friends from high school would pick me up and buy me a meal, but I always ended up back at the bridge.
My life changed again after a girl named Diamond took me in for a night and we hit it off. I was so drunk and high that night, it’s all a blur. I ran off the next day, not wanting to overstay my welcome. I thought that would be the last I’d hear of her, but a few weeks later, she came to tell me that I’d gotten her pregnant while I was blitzed. The shock made me clean up my act a bit, get a job, and move in with her.
When our daughter Hayden was born, I was in love. Every free moment I had, I spent doting on her, so happy to have her in my life. I didn’t really want to get married, but my grandpa insisted it was the right thing to do, so I married Diamond that fall.
I still couldn’t visit home often because my family didn’t want me around, but I knew that my grandma had gotten sick because she didn’t attend my wedding. I tried to see her, for what would be her last Mother’s Day, but the moment I stepped on the doorstep, I had a gun pointed at me. My grandpa told me if I ever came back, I would be shot. I couldn’t believe how cruel he was being. Feeling helpless and angry, I relapsed into drugs.
My grandma was not getting better and was hospitalized in 2013. On March 13th, I went to see her one last time, just to say goodbye. I pleaded with my grandpa to give me five minutes with her, and he finally agreed. My grandma smiled weakly when I entered the room. She took my hand and told me she was sorry for everything and that she loved me. I held back my tears as I said goodbye.
My birthday was four days later. My present? Being a pallbearer for my grandma’s funeral. After the funeral, I was shattered. I didn’t want to go home. Instead, I went out with Liam and took enough pills to forget everything. Two days later, I left my daughter and wife behind and went with Liam for Tulsa, Oklahoma. I shouldn’t have, but after that funeral, I felt like I had died. Years of holding back anger and heartbreak sent me on the run, away from all the memories.
I traveled around to a few other places before settling in California where I was introduced to meth. Alcohol and pills couldn’t mess me up as good as meth, and I wanted to get wrecked. My wife and I divorced, of course. For eight months, all I did was work and gamble while “geetered” out of my mind.
It was only a matter of time until the drugs poisoned my head, made me think crazy things. In 2015, after convincing myself that Liam was sleeping with my Californian girlfriend, I left. Two years of running was more than enough. It was time to go home.
I couldn’t find a place or make much money, and I was still doing meth, so I ended up homeless again. I’d wander the streets, wondering how I’d let my life get so messed up. One night, I found myself in the graveyard where my grandmother was buried. It was next to the church that I was helping my grandpa build, where I broke both my ankles at.
As I stood in front of her grave, I crashed. The air was cold and it all became clear. All the things I had done, everything I had thrown away, came to the surface. I lost my daughter, the chance to say goodbye to the woman who raised me, all because I was too stubborn to stay clean and live an honest life. I laid down on her grave and I cried myself to sleep.
The church was nice enough to temporarily house me. Perhaps they saw the change in my eyes and had faith that I was serious this time. The night in the graveyard altered me. It was like that cold air had blown away the clouds in my head. I realized that I had become the people I resented, my parents. It was time to change it all.
I found work at a factory, I went to church, although, down deep, I still felt…lost. I knew I didn’t want to fall back into drugs, but it was hard not to when no one wanted me around. I didn’t seem to belong anywhere. I avoided my old haunts, because I knew where those would lead. Each sobriety meeting brought new temptations. Simply hearing people talk about meth made me want it. It was all I could think about.
That is until I met my current wife in February of 2016. After the whole cheating thing, I hadn’t been with anyone and didn’t want to be, but here comes this girl, telling me corny jokes, and I couldn’t help but fall for her charms. One night, she invited me over and we spent our night talking until we fell asleep in each other’s arms.
The next morning, I woke up to the sunlight streaming through her window, falling perfectly across her face. I had already wanted to get clean, but with her in my life, I had found a reason to stay clean. She was there with me every day and she still is. That cool breeze blew in more than just a clear head, it brought me to the love of my life.
I was born with a pill bottle for a rattle, but refuse to fall into those patterns again and end up like my parents. My wife gave birth to my beautiful son in 2017, and I want his future to be different. He doesn’t have to know the pain I knew. He can grow up happy and loved. Now that I’ve stopped running and realized I can be better despite my upbringing, I’ve become a better man. Every day that I don’t give to drugs is a day I give to my family, and I’m proud to be the best version of myself today.
This is the story of Dalton Brockman
Dalton, 25, lives in Lead Hill, Arkansas with his wife and son. Living in a house where he wasn’t wanted, Dalton fell into addiction to painkillers after an injury and later, got into weed, fighting, jail time and homelessness. After the death of his grandma, the only love he’d known, he spiraled out of control, beginning to do meth. It wasn’t until he visited his grandma’s grave one night that he realized how much he had let his pain destroy his life and decided to turn a new leaf. He has been sober for nearly a year now and is a changed man. He doesn’t fight or steal anymore. Instead, he spends his time chopping wood and taking care of their farm animals. He is currently trying to earn the rights to his daughter back, so the family can be complete.
Life Log #246
This story first touched our hearts on January 16, 2019.
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