DAVISON — When Jason Duncan wrote about his father’s struggle with drugs and alcohol, he wanted to put a face to the problem of addiction.
Duncan, 36, of Davison said his father passed away last year at 63 after years of struggling with what he told his family was issues with diabetes.
He said he and his family learned several years before his father’s death that, in addition to diabetes, he was suffering from addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol. It was a facet to his life Duncan said his father had kept a secret for many years, masking it as other ailments while being a highly functional addict who gave away few clues to his true condition.
Duncan recently published an essay he wrote about his father’s addiction online in which he details how his father maintained a job and even served as a pastor at an area church for many years, all the while hiding the secret that he was addicted to opioids and was an alcoholic.
He described the essay as therapy for himself, but also as the best way he could think of to honor his father by trying to help others through the telling of his story.
“It seemed like everything I wrote in that would be a complete waste if I didn’t share it with somebody,” said Duncan. “Because I know other people are struggling with the same thing.”
For years, he said his father’s life as an addict was kept secret and even in the end, only Duncan and his brother knew of their father’s true condition.
Outside, he said it appeared his father just had unchecked, ill-managed diabetes because he was so high functioning that it deceived most people who knew him.
Duncan said his father began taking prescription opioids in his early 20s as a way to cope with painful migraines. Over the years he frequently used the medication and alcohol to deal with his pain.
Near the end, he said his father was taking suboxone, a brand-name prescription drug used to treat dependence on opioid drugs, but Duncan believes he was mixing it with alcohol, which may have eventually led to his death.
Officially, Duncan said his father’s death was listed as a heart attack.
Duncan said his father always masked his problems by saying they were related to his diabetes, including painful neuropathy, and assured family he simply needed to have a better diet to get his weight under control.
During one of his father’s hospital visit, Duncan said he and his brother had to go clean their dad’s apartment for him and discovered he was living in squalid conditions.
“That’s when he couldn’t hide it anymore,” said Duncan. “I finally started putting the dots together. Those may be complications from diabetes, but they’re also side-effects of alcohol abuse, from extended opioid abuse.”
He said his father would never come out an admit to using, but it would be those times when he would make a mistake or slip up and the truth came out.
Duncan said the essay is not only an outlet for his to express his grief, but he also hopes it reaches people so they know what to look for if they have a family member who is suffering from addiction, and also to let those people know they are not alone.
“I want them to know they are not alone,” he said. “I feel like in the addiction world it grabs a headline every once in a while, then it disappears, and people forget about it. Over this past year, during COVID, it hasn’t gotten any media attention at all.”
Since his father’s death, Duncan said he has mourned the loss of two people. One was the dad he knew as a loving, caring father who would have done anything for his family. The other was the addict who lied and covered up what he was going through with a facade that fooled almost everyone who knew him.
Writing the essay, he said, was hard and he found it to be a challenge, even though he said he enjoys writing in his free time.
“I still haven’t read it,” said Duncan, adding he sent it to an aunt and had her edit the document before he posted it online. “My brother hasn’t read it, and this was our shared experience.”
The article, he said, is not meant to be a public service announcement about drug abuse, but more about putting a face to the problem of addiction.
“If it was just drinking, I don’t think he’d be dead right now. If it was just diabetes, I don’t think he’d be dead,” he said. “It’s the opioids in the background, that’s the factor he was never able to control.”
His real hope is the article will reach those people who are addicts and think their problem is there’s alone to deal with.
These people, he said, are often dragging their loving families along with them on their journey through addiction and he said he thinks many do not realize it.
“These are the people I’m hoping to reach the most,” said Duncan. “To let them know they are not alone. Hopefully they can pick up on the signs before we did.”
To read Jason Duncan’s article, visit link.medium.com/7Oojg7iUCgb