Last Breath by Dillon

“Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner”

A winning essay from our Brighter Future Scholarship contest

Most parts of my entire life made me who I am today. I am a student because of school. I am a daughter because my mom had me in 2004. I am a human because the color of my blood is red. But, in all stories, there is a significant part of my life that shaped me into the person I am today.

My father had a stroke when I was in the eighth grade. Every weekend, I sat next to him on the hospital bed and replayed the moments before he had aphasia. He used to be a short-tempered, raging alcoholic who loved nothing more than sipping a beer bottle in restaurants, eventually slurring actions that I knew far too much of. There were two sides of him that I loved, yet I hated. He had a brain, a sharp-witted one that cuts you like a knife. But, there was this other side that rooted him with his “inconvenient” past. Most likely, the percentage of him mentioned was 50%. The other 50% was unmentionable, for short, the other things I didn’t come to fully understand why he is like he is.

With that being said, I was shocked. Right next to me, my brain-crippling father had no idea why he was in the hospital. Over the months of care, he yelled at my mom and me. Then, he had massive fits about drinking coffee. By the time he did receive therapy, he was fluent in cussing rather than speaking the English language. So now, I felt like a missing piece in my puzzle. Though, that piece was damaged in the wrong places. Yet, those were the right places to start my reality check.

Throughout my childhood, I knew I was afraid of my dad. He did things I hated. He never listened to me when I needed him to. I couldn’t believe that my father was my dad. Being often drunk, my mother took the driver’s seat. He often screamed at my mom while driving too fast on highways at night, with me screaming from the back to slow down. When we would go home, my dad threw a glass bottle of vodka at the wall. I denied that I was scared, but I was actually scared for my mom, scared for my life. But then, he swore to quit drinking and he did. Was it for my mom? Was it for me? I didn’t care, I was happy. For the first time, I was happy. Finally, I thought, he’s my dad and I have him back. Then he remembered why he had a stroke; after several months of sobriety, he drank before going to his friend’s house.

I know that “that” moment in my life has affected the way I think about addicts, and how their reckless actions take a toll on a family’s life. But, this period impacted my life. I trusted people doggedly. I believed in the betrayer when I should run from them. I hurt myself by being dependent on someone’s promises. Why was I so surprised when my dad had a stroke and drank again because of it? I didn’t see it coming, yet I should’ve prophesied. That wouldn’t change things though, it is what it is.

As I learned and grew throughout the years, I questioned the intentions of my peers and myself. I learned that being a skeptic could mean having distrust in something questionable, or unpredictable. Yet, I valued open-mindedness, and how it is important to swim around waters to understand the feeling of it. Eventually, I forgave my dad. I couldn’t change, I wouldn’t dare touch him. He is his own person, and I am my own. I say to myself, thank you for making me learn to never expect a promise to be made.

Therefore, I began to be this embodiment of what I pursue to be. Of what I dared to be to show myself that I am taking on challenges and that I have the potential to do anything I want to do if I have the motivation to do so. In a way, I escaped from my little self to walk away from the past and move on with my life. The world doesn’t stop for me, and will not stop for anyone. After all this time dealing with life’s challenges and surprises, I can’t help but think how I am very lucky to be in this life today.

Today, I rarely talk to my dad. I forgive him, yet I can never forget what he did in the past. Even though he makes excuses and blames his abusive past that my grandfather (from my dad’s side) committed, I think it is still his obsession with the past that led to his downfall. As usual, I couldn’t care too much about it, since I have been scarred for life. But, life isn’t perfect the way it is.

Because of my father’s addiction, I learned to hate the sin, but not the sinner. I don’t let my past mark me who I am today. The past has done its damage and nothing could change, no matter how hard I try to turn things around. Anyhow, I wouldn’t change anything. I probably wouldn’t grow up with reality fast enough and I would be stuck in the same cycle of blaming and anger. In addition, I grew closer to my mom. She works on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as Mondays. Since COVID-19, we worry about how much money we need to save for college tuition. As a result, it leads me to limit my ideal schools because of the constant thought to find a university matching my current financial needs.

With the Mountainside Scholarship, I’ll use it as an opportunity to study in the field of Criminal Justice or become involved in the field of counseling those who are struggling to overcome their addiction. Though this scholarship will support me financially because of my current situation, I understand that receiving this scholarship is an honor to realize that my experience of addiction is meaningful and could help another person process through the challenges of addiction, whether it’s the victim or the addict.

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