[Interview]
Donnie – Drug Dealer Gives Up His Profession So His Daughter Would Not Be Ashamed of Him

Fifty-six year old Kentucky ex- marijuana dealer

  • Reformed marijuana-dealer and reformed alcoholic, living in Kentucky
  • Stopped drugs and alcohol twenty-six years ago because he was ashamed of the bad role model he was for his daughter
  • Has a son age thirty and a daughter Aimee who is thirty-two
  • Was divorced from their mom when Aimee was eight

 

SELECTED QUOTES

“They were just like a bunch of dogs, and they were after my sister.  I had to get a rifle and run them out of our house.  I was probably in the seventh or eighth grade…”

“My mother controlled my dad through withholding affection.”

“My daughter was definitely underage at sixteen when she got pregnant…”

“I feel my [bad] language around her and her kids is what kept us at a distance, more than I would like to admit.”

“My daughter needs to know that she can trust that her daddy is there for her if she needs me.”

{Sobbing} “I think probably, I would want to hear that I was forgiven for the pain that she had to go through for me to learn my lessons.”

“Who you are as a man is going to set standards for what your daughter will look for in her husband…  You set the stage for joy or heartbreak in your daughter.”


[INTERVIEW BEGINS]

Is there another man who your daughter might call dad — like a stepdad?

Sure, his name is Larry — she calls him Papa Bear.  Little bit jealous of that, but that’s just the way it is.  He gave her away in her second marriage.

Do you feel daughters are different than sons?

Oh, yes, I sure do.

My perception is that they are a little bit more tender in the spirit, in a lot of different ways.  But then again, I think that in a lot of ways they’ve got their own strength.

The awareness of their strength was something that was not shown to me or taught to me when I was growing up.  So, therefore, the way I treat my daughter or the women in my life, is in some respects like the weaker vessel, although I’m finding out that they have their own strength.

Do you connect better with women or men?

Oh, gosh, I hate to tell you this but I think I bond better with women.  I don’t know [why].  I always have.

Always I’ve had more girl friends than guy friends.  Growing up, you know, I had a number of different guy friends. But primarily my social contacts were with girls.  Then on into adulthood it would be with women.  Why that is, you know, a lot of things come to my mind.  Maybe it’s just spiritual in nature.  I have no idea.  Maybe, you know, I’m not confused about a lot of issues.  I’m not as interested in bonding with a man as I would be a female.

Did you have brothers and sisters?

Yes, I did.  I have an older sister and she is — eight, nine [years older] — she’s sixty-one.  Then my little brother is, I think he’s like forty-five, something like that.

Did you have a good relationship with them?

Yes.  Growing up I think that I probably had more difficulty — well, you know.  I had difficulty with my sister in the fact that I was always expected to protect her.

One day in particular, a bunch of guys came over to our house in Homestead, Florida, and, you know, they were just like a bunch of dogs.  They, you know, were after my sister.  I had to get a rifle and run them out of our house down there.  I was probably in the seventh or eighth grade.  I don’t know what age I was.

Then when we were in Miami, there was a kid that she ran into that was making fun of her and was making fun of her weight and she came home crying.  I was told to go up there and straighten him out.  Those are two instances that stick out in my mind.

As a kid were you closer to your mom or your dad?

My father because he was a man. He was a male role model and I looked to him for guidance.

I worked with my dad my whole life in his business down there.  My mother, we didn’t have a real close relationship because we didn’t communicate well.  She was more the disciplinarian around the home and so, therefore, I was upset with her a lot.

Can you tell us about your mom and dad?

{He sighs…} It’s kind of painful for me to go back and to relive some of that stuff.

Mother controlled my dad through withholding affection.  My perception was that whenever he didn’t act right, she punished him.

Occasionally, dad would drink and Mom didn’t like that.  A couple of times I had to go out and carry my dad into the house.  My mom came and got me out of bed a couple of times that they were at parties and my dad had had too much to drink.  So she didn’t care for that a whole lot.

My mom and dad didn’t show me how to talk things over.  They didn’t talk things out in front of the kids.  They usually did that at some other time when we weren’t around so I had no clue how to do that.

And let me see, mom worked for dad for a while.  Then she quit working for him and stayed around the house.  Dad worked, made the money and she spent it.  It seemed like my mother wanted more stuff.

And although my dad wanted to, you know, be a success, he worked hard to make the money to make himself a success, it didn’t seem like my mother was really happy.

What was that like for you, your mother never being happy?

Well, it was frustrating.  It seemed like that there was always an undercurrent of anger or frustration in the house.

In my later high school days, dad found work that kept him away from the home.  Eventually that led to him meeting another woman and it causing a divorce between my mom and dad.  My dad moved away from the house and moved up here to Kentucky.  [I was] probably seventeen, eighteen.

How was that for me?  It made me, you know, I didn’t feel real stable.

What were you like as a kid growing up?

Early grade school, I felt I probably was real self-conscious, insecure, naturally confused.  I wasn’t real athletic and I was more attracted to the girls than to being a jock.

In junior high school, I suppose you would consider me being a clown.  “The class clown,” I think was what a lot of my report cards said.

I started having a talent for music.  [But I also] started drinking, and at that point, a lot of things changed in my life.  I became more rebellious, started smoking.

And on into high school, I was even more rebellious — started smoking pot, doing other drugs, and really wasn’t connected with reality at all.

Then as mom and dad started to grow apart and then separate, I pursued the drinking and drugging even more, which led to living a life… on the other side of the law, and not being a law-abiding person.

There was more intrigue in that kind of stuff, in being illegal than being legal, which finally bottomed out when I was thirty-two years old.  I went into treatment when I was thirty-two and have been clean and sober ever since.

How did you meet your daughter’s mom?

I was in Kentucky.  Before my mother moved up here to get back together with my dad, you know, I was looking for a crew to run around with.  I was doing some drinking, didn’t have a connection for pot and was doing a lot of searching.

My mother came up here.  She told me that I needed to go where I could find a good woman — and I needed to start taking this ceramic class.

In this ceramic class was this woman who didn’t wear a wedding ring and [so] I started to communicate with her.  We became emotionally involved and then we became physically involved.

I found out that she was married [but back] then that didn’t really make a lot of difference to me.  She was unhappy.  I was a good person to lean on.  She eventually got a divorce.  I got married with her mother, it was a year or something like that after I had met her.  And within a year or two, I think something like that, she became pregnant with Aimee.

Why do you think Aimee’s mother was attracted to you?

Because she was dissatisfied in her marriage and I was somebody that talked to her, gave her attention.  She could find some emotional comfort in talking to me.  I think that’s what was attractive about me.

What was going on in your life when your daughter was born?

I was self-employed working with my dad.  And I was going — let me see, I was doing some drinking, made a connection for some pot up here.  Then eventually made a connection down south and I started running down to Florida, picking up loads of dope and bringing ’em back up here to Kentucky.

When you found out she was pregnant, did you want a girl or a boy?

When [my daughter] Aimee was born, I can remember the whole time that her mother was carrying her, I was hoping that it was going to be a boy.  And when she gave birth to Aimee, my initial response was, I was disappointed because I was expecting a son.

I thought I wanted a boy because I wanted a namesake.  I’m the second, and I wanted a third.  I wanted to carry on the family tradition.  I think [that] was probably the motivating pull.

What was your daughter like as a child?

She was a good kid.

Aimee, when she was a newborn, had colic.  I spent a lot of time rocking her through the night, and comforting her because of her cramps in her stomach.   You know, I would hum to her.   I would sing to her to try and calm her down.  I think that it did a lot for our bonding, or my bonding with my daughter early, early on.

And I’ll share this information with you, at the time she was born, the series, Roots was on TV.  I don’t know if you remember that, with Alex Haley.  When, I think Kunta Kinte was born, his father lifted him up to his God and I think asked God to bless that baby.  Well, I had felt that same drive, and I remember going out on my back sundeck and lifting her up to my God and asking God to watch over her and protect her and take care of her, and to make her a godly woman.

And my God has answered that prayer.  My daughter has a real tender spirit about her.  Maybe that’s just because she shows me that because she’s my daughter.

You know, [when she was young], her and her little brother would argue.  She basically minded — not basically, she did mind.

[But] she was a good daughter growing up.  When I got a divorce from her mother, I would have them every weekend until she got to the age to where she wanted to stay in town and hang out with her girlfriends instead of going with me into the farm on the weekends.

She ran through a rough period in her life, was a little bit rebellious, and became pregnant with my first grandchild when she was sixteen years old.  She gave birth to a daughter, Tiffany.

She kept the baby and got married to a guy that was a little bit older than her.  He was strong and opinionated and I think that’s what attracted her to him — except he’s just confused about what it is to be a man and to be the head of his household and how you do that.

So now she’s remarried.  She’s married a guy that’s real good to her and real supportive. And she’s much happier.

She has a younger son by her first husband.  So she’s, you know, trying to be a mother to a rebellious son, and her daughter seems to be back and forth with that.

What was it like — your daughter being pregnant at sixteen?

I can tell you that there was maybe five minutes of disappointment.  But I asked her how she felt about that and they decided they would keep the child — and she wasn’t going to give it up for adoption or get it aborted.  I felt certain that God would take care of her.

[Of course] I felt that her childhood was going to change and that she was going to step into a different chapter in her life.  But I felt in my spirit, confident for her that no matter what happened, she would be able to make it.

On the weekends that you had your daughter, what did you guys do together?

Well, we did a little bit of talking.  I worked with her on some school projects, that I was aware that needed to be done, that I was given the opportunity to participate in.

I took her to my mom and dad’s farm on the weekend.

[Also] I think it’s more about not necessarily doing things with her, [but that] I gave her, I think, a picture of stability and somebody to depend on and being there for her.  I think that I tried to show her my perception of what a family was like, although it seems like her mother had a lot of influence on her life in that area as well.

What were the school-projects like with your daughter?

What sticks out in my mind was, she was given a project in grade school about making a wagon that the pioneers used to go west.  She and I would work on the weekends, on this wagon together.  That happened over a period of weeks.

When we got finished with it, we submitted it in the contest and it was disqualified because the parents and teachers didn’t think it was handmade.  [They thought it was from] a kit.

When I went to see the outcome of the display, contest, whatever, and our horse and wagon wasn’t there and I questioned her about it, she told me that it was disqualified.  But she didn’t want me to make a scene about why it was disqualified — because she was afraid I was going to possibly embarrass her or create a scene.  That’s probably the biggest thing that sticks out in my mind.

How was it, doing that project with your daughter?

Well, I enjoyed spending the time with her.  I can remember letting her do certain things on the wagon.  But there was also the idea that I wanted to be in control and I wanted it to turn out as good as I could make it turn out.  I took a lot of pride in the project, and the end result was the fact that the people that looked at it thought it was a kit and wasn’t handmade.

I don’t know — I think Aimee looked up to me.  I feel like there was this underlying love that I had for my daughter, but I didn’t really know how to express that right.

In my perception [making the wagon with her] was good, because she saw that I cared… to the point that I was willing to spend time making the project.

Do you think your daughter is similar or different than her mother?

I think she’s probably real similar to her mother.  I think that Aimee is a good homemaker. Her mother is a good homemaker.  I think that Aimee wants to be a good provider and her mother is the same way.

Did your daughter change when she became a teenager?

Oh, yeah.  Well you know, guys started becoming more important in her life than dolls.  And so she went through that phase of wanting to be pretty and impressive and attractive.  I think she went through a phase where she tried to act tough because she thought that’s, I guess, what gets the attention of the guys?

[And] did it, yes.  It got the attention of a [much older] twenty-one-year-old, twenty-year-old man.

What was that like, having your daughter spending time with an older boy?

Well, I felt like it was her choice.  Sixteen to twenty-one was five years difference, which really isn’t that much difference of age, you know.

I mean, she was definitely underage at sixteen when she got pregnant.  But as you get older, that five years difference isn’t that much.

I don’t know.  I felt more neutral towards all that, because I felt like that her life was up to her to make the choices that she wanted to make, and have the consequences of her choices.  And if that’s what she wanted, then I was supportive of that.

I took my kids to church when they were young, you know, when they were eight, nine, ten, eleven, that kind of a thing, on the weekends, on Sundays.  So I did try to bring them up in the church.  And they did the church thing for a while.  Then we got out of going to church and life went on.

Did going to church affect your daughter?

Oh yeah.  She goes to church today, and she brings her children, and she tries to have the church or God be in her home — [she tries to] bring her children up that way.  [By contrast], my son is not churchy.

What do you think your daughter remembers most about growing up?

Her mom and dad not being together.

I think that was a hard time in her life because there was two or three other men that her mother befriended.  One guy she met, he was sober.  After they got married he started drinking and his drinking got bad.  It’s always bad when you got a drunk in the home.  It’s even worse when you have a stepfather that’s a drunk and how that affects the house.

When her step-dad started drinking, did your daughter become closer to you?

My daughter was always close to me.

I didn’t hear a lot about what it was like when he was drinking around the house because they didn’t share that with me… because of probably how it may have impacted me.

Have you ever had deep meaningful talks with your daughter?

Oh, yeah.  When she was thinking about getting her divorce and what her life was like living with her first husband.  We did a lot of talking there about that.

I don’t know that we did a whole lot of deep talking when she was a younger girl.  But now she’ll call me up and talk to me about what’s going on with her life, and share with me what’s going on with her ex-husband and her children.

At times we’re closer and at other times we’re not as close because she’s afraid of how the information may impact me and how I will respond.  She knows I’m very protective of her and so sometimes she’s guarded with what she tells me.

Are you comfortable talking about personal stuff to your daughter?

Yes, yes, I am.  I share with her what my relationship is like with my present fiancée, you know, and different things we go through.  You know, the difficulties I’m having with work or coping with what it’s like being a stepfather, future stepfather, dealing with my stepkids, future stepkids.  I think that my daughter and I have a real good line of communication in that way.

Yeah, I call her probably a number of times during the week.  I’ll call her and tell her I love her and leave messages on her voicemail.  She called today just to find out how our day was going.

How have you impacted your daughter?

I think that probably my language has been more offensive to her in the past than it is now.  I try to be a little bit more aware of my language around her and her kids.  I feel like that’s what kept us at a distance more than I would like to admit, but she still loves me.

I think that I have her respect.  I think she loves me as being her dad.  I think she looks up to me as far as a role model goes.  [But] I think you could probably get a better idea, if you were to talk to her directly.

I think if we didn’t have a close relationship, I wouldn’t be getting phone calls from her.  If she didn’t look up to me or respect my opinion, she wouldn’t have called me when she was having trouble with her first husband and asked for advice and that kind of thing.

I want to encourage my daughter and I want to be supportive of my daughter.

I want her to know that I love her and I think about her and I care about her and I pray for her, a lot.  She needs to know that she can trust that her daddy is there for her if she needs me.

What’s easiest or hardest about your relationship with your daughter?

The easiest thing for me in my relationship with my daughter is to be supportive and tell her that I love her.  The first thing about my relationship with her is to let her be a woman.

What about how your daughter is turning out makes you proudest or saddest?

Proudest is that she hangs in there and she tries to make a good home, but that she also is a strong disciplinarian.  She tries to teach her kids, to bring them up in the way they should go.

I think the thing I would be saddest about is that my daughter has had to experience some difficulties as a result of her choices that she’s made.  That probably causes me the most sadness.

What makes a great dad and what makes a bad dad?

What makes a great dad is a dad that tries to find the balance, a good balance in being nurturing as well as being a disciplinarian.

I think what would make a bad dad would be a father that is so wrapped up around his own life that he doesn’t want to sacrifice some things that he thinks is important to him for what’s important to the child, being attention and time.

Who’s someone you know who’s a great dad or a really bad dad? 

My goodness.  A great dad.  I think my son is a good father to his daughter.  I think that my daughter’s second husband is a good stepdad.

A bad dad, a bad dad… Well, I think that probably a better way to describe that is — “a poor example of what a father is.”

I think that my stepkids’ dad, he drank off-and-on for twenty years in his marriage.  And our oldest stepson right now has just turned thirteen and his father just got his year sobriety.  So [that] for example would be a father that is unwilling to give up his time for fathering his children.  It’s not easy being a father.  It’s not easy being the parent.

What do you think a daughter wants more than anything else from her dad?

I think that probably a daughter wants from her father is his attention… his time… his ear.  I mean, she needs to be heard.

Is there something you wish you would have done differently in your life?

Oh yeah, you know, my past.  I think that probably I would have not been as wrapped around drinking and drugging as I was.

If I could change that, if I could be a different man, I would like to have been a man that was able to put away childish things when it was time to put away childish things.  And then pursue more adult behavior and decisions when it was time to do that.  I regret not being able to have done that.

Although I don’t regret my past, because I’m no longer the man that I was.  I found a way out.

But I’ve lost a lot of time and I’ve hurt people along the way as a result of that.  I’ve done my best to make amends for all that.  [But] even though I’ve made the amends, I don’t think that you can recover the time.  So there’s always that loss.

If this was your last day on earth, what would you want to tell your daughter?

Oh, man, that’s hard. {long pause}

I would probably want to tell her that I love her and that I’m proud of the woman that she is becoming.

What would you want your daughter to tell you?

{Sobbing} I think probably that what I would want to hear is that I was forgiven for the pain that she had to go through for me to learn my lessons.

What could you tell your daughter about yourself that she doesn’t know or understand?

She knows a whole lot about me.  Gosh.  You know, I don’t know.  We’ve talked so much about who I am.

She’s real aware that I don’t know how to act appropriately in social situations.  She also knows that there’s a deep love that I have for her and her brother and her mother.  So, you know, I don’t know of anything that I would want to tell my daughter that she doesn’t already know.

I don’t have any secrets from my daughter.  She knows a lot about what I was before I got sober.  She also knows everything — you know, I feel she knows most of everything about me since I’ve gotten sober.

Is there something your daughter knows about you that other people don’t?

Yeah, I think that she knows that I have a good heart.

I think that she also knows there’s a lot of people that know me that don’t have a clue of who I really am, because of their perception of me.  The people I work with, they have a perception of me that’s not accurate.  I think that Aimee knows that I have a lot bigger heart than a lot of people are aware of, if that makes sense to you.

If you never had your daughter, how would your life be different?

I think that I would not be nearly as much in touch with my heart without her.  I think that she’s made me more aware of that side of me… the tender part of me.  She’s brought that out in me.  I wouldn’t have it if she wasn’t in my life.

What advice would you have for a new dad about being a dad to a daughter?

He would need to be patient with her.  I think I’d also tell him that, that he needs to find another man that has a good relationship with his daughter that he can talk to about what he’s going through with his daughter. That he needs to have a friendship with that man, that he can talk to, and listen to his counsel.

I’d ask him about his spiritual condition and what that was.

I would encourage him to question what his values are that rule his life, and how did he intend to impart those to his daughter.  What was his thoughts in how he was going to pass that on to his daughter.

What do you mean— imparting his values on to his daughter?

WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR?  Because what you stand for as a father is what you’re going to teach your daughter.  Who you are, is what your daughter is going to learn what a man is supposed to be.  Who you are as a man is going to set standards for what your daughter will look for in her husband.

Would he want his daughter to look for a man that represents or mimics him as a man?  Without him being the model, or whatever model he projects, is what his daughter is going to be thinking that that’s what a man is.  So he sets the stage for joy or heartbreak in his daughter.

What have I forgotten to ask you about being a dad or about your daughter?

I didn’t hear you ask me if I thought I had been a good father.  What kind of an influence can I tell I’ve had on my daughter and who she is as a woman?

I think I have.  I think I’ve been a good father, but also, there’s a part of me that looks for how I can be a better father, or what I can improve to be closer to my daughter, to be the man that my daughter could look up to, to be the man that she would want her kids to be able to look up to and to respect.

In a lot of ways I think I am. But I also think that there’s other ways that I fall short and that I need improvement.  Probably spending more time listening and, and less time probably trying to solve her problems.

So, how has who you are, influenced your daughter?

{Long pause} I think that it’s given her a freedom to be honest in her relationship with her husband, be honest with her kids.  I think that who I’ve been has given her the strength to take some of the hard times of being a parent, and being willing to do that.  I think that’s something that I’ve passed on to her.

There’s no training manual for being a dad, is there?

No.  But I think that there is — that my father, God, gave me that unconditional love, and He shows me how to be a father to aspire to.  So, I’m always on my knees in prayer for God to give me wisdom on what it is that I need to do and my responsibility as being a father, and to give me direction.

And so {he sighs} I’m glad that I was given an opportunity to turn my life around and head in a direction of being a father, a sober dad, a straight father.  [Even if] I’m not the kind of a guy that’s got the experience of what it’s like to be a… to have perfect attendance at church, if that makes sense to you. 

[INTERVIEW ENDS]

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