“If I hadn’t had kids, I would have made different choices. I’m pretty sure being a dad saved my life.”
At 21, Brandon Halpain had no idea who or what he wanted to be. A common biological process changed all that.
“I was just 21 when my first kid was born,” Halpain said. “The big thing then was Americans going down into Central America and working for the cartels. I might have joined the military and died overseas. I had no idea what I was doing then. I would have gone toward the flashy lights and did until I became a dad.
“I remember the day my son was born at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, Aug. 14, 2006. It had been raining all week. My ex-wife was getting induced. The doctor who delivered him is Steve North. He’s been a family friend for as long as I can remember. We were in the nursery afterward. He congratulated me and I couldn’t even talk. I was speechless. All I could see was my son. All I could feel was my love for him. I’ve had that feeling with every one of my children. That’s the only thing that’s ever made me speechless.”
Halpain is a 33-year-old single father of four. His children range from age 2 to age 12. Three of them are girls.
“My hairline’s receding and I have more gray hairs than I can count,” he said. “It’s fun. They’re beautiful girls, each with their own personality. My oldest daughter loves to paint. My youngest likes to eat crayons. I tell her she’ll make a good Marine. It’s something else. They all have their own personalities. As they get older, you begin to see the person they’re going to grow into. As a parent, you can get a glimpse of how to help them get there.”
Halpain dealt with one of society’s most common, and least talked about challenges. He was one of the rare few to come out on the other side fully capable and motivated to build a good life again.
“My ex-wife struggled with meth addiction,” he said. “We haven’t seen her in about six years. I have no idea if she’s still struggling with it. She was going through some issues and child services got involved. The kids were taken away and given to my mother in 2010.
“I was clean until then. When the kids were taken, I went off the deep end. I don’t know why, but in my sick mind, I thought that if I smoked meth with my wife, we could reconnect, fix our marriage and get our kids back. I was sick. My mom always told me there’s a thin line between love and obsession. I wasn’t obsessed with my ex-wife, I was obsessed with an idea.”
Stepping into that pit was one of the most destructive things Halpain has ever done. Stepping out of it was one of the most courageous.
“The irony is,” he said, “that when I started smoking meth trying to get closer to my ex-wife, it killed me emotionally and I had no love for her anymore. I had no desire to go back. I walked out on her. I just didn’t care anymore. I did meth for about nine or 10 months. A lot of people do it for a lot longer.
“When I discovered my religion and started studying it, I bought a rock, smoked it and it did nothing to me at all. I never bought it again. I didn’t go to rehab. I just stopped.”
Halpain has been clean for nine years now. He’s never worried about returning to that behavior. Whether he got lucky or was blessed, he knows that his experience is very much the exception to the rule when it comes to meth use. He didn’t walk away unscathed, however.
“It took me a long time to grow up,” he said. “It’s been a process for me. Fifty years ago someone my age, making my salary, had it all. I don’t like that we’ve had to live in apartments most of their lives, but I’ve kept a roof over their heads, and kept them fed. We finally got a pet. We had to wait until we were ready to take care of it and dedicate time to it.”
Halpain started his career in food service in 2010. He has washed dishes, cooked, served and managed. He loves the restaurant business. But he knows that as fulfilling as the work is for him, it serves a higher purpose in his life.
“The only thing I want to be able to say about my children is that they will grow up to be happy,” he said. “I don’t care how they do that.”
As one who has pulled himself out of a self-imposed nightmare and moved into a life of creation, joy and self-awareness, Halpain believes there’s more to the process of self-ownership than any cliché could offer.
“The most common thing you probably hear,” he said, “is ‘Don’t give up.’ But that’s just the beginning. Not giving up isn’t enough. What are you going to do next? You can ‘don’t give up and keep moving forward.’ But maybe you need to take a step back, remove yourself emotionally from the situation and figure out how you need to respond to the situation. There’s never anything wrong with taking a step back. You have to step back to figure out what the issue is.”