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As the Bills Piled Up, My Family Fell Apart

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Commentary, John Handley Posted: Feb 05, 2009

Editors Note: A young father looking for work found the pressures of life during the recession too much for his family to bear. John Handley is a contributor to YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

I am a 24-year-old youngster who recently moved from Oakland to a small town called Willows about two hours north of the Bay where I grew up. I have a little son and he is four years old, and when I moved, I was still with his mother my long-time girlfriend. We moved back to Willows from Oakland for the simple fact that our house got broken into and we lost everything we owned, and I am not really a fan of being robbed every time I step out of the house.

When I got back to Willows, I was certain that there would be work waiting for me there. Well, I was wrong. So I began my journey for work in this two-mile-wide town. I mean I was doing things I thought I'd never do, like actually turning in an application at Taco Bell, and you know that wasn't happening because I got fired from there when I was 16. So I did what any respectable hardworking American man would do: go on welfare.

I started to feel as if everything was going to just fall apart. My ambition for being the Man of the House was slowly turning into the life of a Dead Beat Dad. My lady was letting me know every day that I couldn't buy her anything nice. Weeks and weeks went by, and still nothing had come up, but I kept my head up for better times. She was working and I was taking care of the little guy, which wasn't such a bad gig, seeing that all I had to do was keep my little dude happy and make sure he was learning his colors, shapes and eating healthy. I enjoyed every moment with my son and we bonded more and more every minute of the day.

But money, money, money was all I was hearing from the lady. Bills started stacking up. Household services started getting shut off, and the pressure wasn't letting me think about my priorities. A few weeks later, my ladys hours got cut and welfare was the only thing keeping food on the table and keeping the electricity on. I was just getting s--t from every angle. It was not long after that when I just starting picking up the bottle, thinking I just needed one drink to escape all this madness that was coming at me. Big mistake. I figured if I had a few drinks before I opened my mailbox, it wouldn't hurt so much when I got slapped with another bill.

Drinking, no job, and relationship problems do not make a happy home. My girl and I were at each others throats every minute of the day like starved pit bulls. My drink became my best friend but was always my worst enemy. I found myself in court numerous times on drunk-in-public charges. (More money!) So I became the town drunk. (Great, who is going to hire me now?) I don't know where I went wrong with finding work, but I can tell you this: that bottle wasn't doing s--t for me, either. At that point, some things had to change. I had to get out of there.

So, I came back to Frisco. I knew that it was not going to be easy leaving my son and my girl, but there was nothing up there for me but a huge amount of trouble. A fresh start seemed to be what I needed.

I'm back in San Francisco now and my head is in the right state of mind. I understand that the economy is causing layoffs, and it's hard to find work down here also, but there are no excuses for me anymore, because the work is there. The grind must go on, and I understand it's not about me anymore.

Related Articles:

How the Economy Killed My Relationship

Guess What Troubles Young People the Most?

The Comeback Dad

Families in Economic Freefall--and Off the Political Radar

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