I’ll never forget the day my father told me he struggled with drug addiction. I was in the second grade.
I’m a husband, an uncle, a gamer, a marathoner, a passionate educator to amazing students in the 5th grade and a proud New Yorker. My father’s incredible story of addiction, persistence, hope and redemption has shaped who I am today.
Growing up in Washington Heights, I was raised in a tight-knit family – packed into a one-bedroom apartment with my mom, siblings, cousins, my grandmother, and an occasional special guest uncle sleeping on the couch. It was a wonderful childhood enhanced further by delicious Latin cooking, Caribbean culture, lively music, late-night pranks, and above all – lots of laughs and an abundance of love.
My dad lived a good portion of his life in the “wilderness,” as he would say. For many years, he was homeless and relied on his resourcefulness to survive. My mom made my dad sit on the staircase outside whenever he visited because he wasn’t allowed inside our apartment. I wanted him to come in, to experience the fun and all the love there was in our home, but my mom would tell me to ask my father why he wasn’t allowed to come inside.
I asked him and he told me. Instantly my eyes welled into Niagara Falls. It was weird because I was so young, but I remember I didn’t feel ashamed. I was overcome with an overwhelming sadness. I felt powerless. I felt helpless.
I was home alone one night, a rarity, when I heard my father banging on the door. When I opened it, he fell right to the floor. He had gotten into an altercation on a bridge and he was hurt. He wept with pain and emotion – I had never witnessed a grown man crying before. He was dirty and sweaty, and through his tears he said he was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
I didn’t communicate with him for over a year after that night. But then he started writing us letters from a rehabilitation center in Yonkers. The next time I saw my dad, he had turned his life around. He wore a suit and tie, he was singing in a choir at his mother’s church and he looked like a totally different man.
Today, my dad is such a blessing to the people who are lucky enough to know him and love him. He dedicates himself to doing so much for the city of Yonkers. He trains lifeguards and lends his talents to the Red Cross. He loves his dogs and watching the History Channel.
I’ve run four marathons and a multitude of half marathons throughout my life, but this year’s New York City Marathon feels more special. I know this will be my best marathon to date and I am excited as I prepare to run as a Partner for Hope for the Partnership.
I am running in gratitude of my father’s recovery. A man who spent many years in New York City walking around like a dead man, and then walking back in my life – full of love and hope.
I run to honor him and the millions of individuals who are still struggling. Recovery is possible for those of us who have been impacted by addiction. Families can heal – and mine is still healing.
So, let me introduce myself again, now that you know some of my family’s story – I am Dave, proud to be the son of my father, Jorge Robles.