Growing Up in Addiction: My Story and How I Choose to Be Silent No More

We often wonder as we get older what our purpose is in life. We wonder after we walk across that stage and receive our diploma at the mere age of eighteen, what will we have to offer to this world, our legacy. We all remember those speeches or those essay questions about how we will change the world. I remember in first grade in honor of Black History Month having to write down what I would do to benefit the world one day and sitting there not really understanding what that meant. But after many ups and downs, highs and lows, and twists and turns, I finally can answer that question to the point that a simple sentence or essay cannot do justice, but I can actually write a book about it.

Adversity is something we all have. Cliché, but true, we all have baggage. Yep, I basically had a front seat to the harshness of adversity. My whole life, I always sensed that there was something different or something amiss. My dad has been an alcoholic for as long as I could remember. Some of my earliest memories were screaming, things breaking, cops, etc. As I grew to be an older child, I started to pick up on everything, but I never understood really why things were the way they were. The only thing I knew was when my Dad drank this clear liquid called Vodka, he became a completely different person.

I remember everything as vivid as if it all just happened yesterday. I was ten years-old and in fourth grade. 2010 was a new decade and a real turning point. My dad was sentenced to 7 months in county jail for 3 DUIs and 10 years loss of license. My aunt and my mom were not on speaking terms, and my grandmother’s health was on the decline at the age of 86. My mom always worked two jobs, and since my dad was incarcerated, she needed someone to look after me because I was only 10 at the time and wasn’t capable of being alone at night. So my mom had her cousin look after me.

In the beginning, going to my mom’s cousin’s house was actually quite a luxury because I would be showered with affection, food, and we would talk for hours. But as time went on, I started getting caught up into the wrath of their addiction and co-dependency lifestyle. My mom’s cousin was an alcoholic who passed out drunk after dinner and a chronic co-dependent, and her two children (20 and 21) were addicted to pain pills and cocaine. They would get violent, belligerent, and bring in their girlfriends and do things of sexual nature. Hell would have been a vacation, would have been a vacation. I was afraid to tell my mom because I didn’t want to burden her and start trouble. Part of me actually thought it was semi-normal because it was similar to what I grew up with in my home.

After I stopped going to my cousin’s house, I started feeling the trauma of what I witnessed. I was left feeling despondent, broken, and desolate. Here I was at the ripe age of ten and in elementary school and already going through a depression and emotionally confusing situation.

In fifth grade on a Sunday October night, something happened that would alter the course of my life and present situation. I saw the show Addicted on TLC. It showed Kristina Wandzilak, an interventionist, helping a young woman in rehab with her childhood traumas. As this young woman was reading her autobiography with details of child abuse and neglect, I realized that addiction was a legitimate disease. Co-dependency was also discussed. This all sounded familiar. After the episode, I visited the website it gave me. At that point, I was intrigued. I wasn’t intrigued because I wanted to make it my career, but just for me to understand my own life.

In 6th grade, a distant relative of mine actually died from a heroin overdose. That was when my mom’s cousin requested for me to help her and my second cousins. Helping my cousins gave me great gratification, but things didn’t work out after my cousin (the then 20 year-old) got sentenced to 6 years in prison for armed robbery and aggravated assault. Besides, they weren’t ready to face their demons. I felt like a failure, but not as in helping them, as in failure in myself of not being able to help myself. For the two years prior, I just used school, friends, and just appearing not genuinely stable as a Band-Aid. After my cousin got sentenced to prison, I just fell into depression again.

My middle school years were the best years of my life. In sixth and seventh grade, I could hardly wait to get to school. I had great friends and close acquaintances. By seventh grade, I was taking AP Language Arts and Honor’s Spanish and was on the Principal’s List.

I was also suffering with my own addiction of co-dependency.

I suffered with it for a total of four years, but it was really at its severe for two and a half years. It all began the summer after sixth grade. My cousin got sentenced to 6 and a half years in prison, and I didn’t handle it well emotionally for some reason. I turned to looking up their drug “friends”. At first, it was a mere curiosity which opened that Pandora’s Box to the plague of addiction. I got a high off of what I did. It made me feel powerful, strong, cool, and smart with my knowledge. I twisted to make it out as if I was doing a positive thing when I really knew it was problematic. It was my medicine to deal with the anger, resentment, and depression I had from events that took place two years prior that I kind of swept under the rug.

When I began a correspondence with my incarcerated cousin, it was going pretty well. I was as excited as a kid on Christmas every time a letter came in the mail. Though I was wrapped in my addiction, it made me feel stable. He became my favorite cousin whom I “loved more than anything or anyone else in this world”. How that came to be after his abuse is unknown to me. I guess it was another coping mechanism.

In November 2013, I went to go see my cousin in prison, and from our correspondence, I thought he would have a really positive attitude and would be very motivated about his recovery. But I learned that wasn’t the case. I went back in January 2014, and he was really obnoxious. He told me about who he “hooked-up” with and showed great pride in being the wild child drinking and doing drugs from the age of 12. He criticized me for being the “good child” and mocked me. At that point, I was basically repelled at the person he truly was.

To this day, I do not have the exact date. All I remember was towards the end of February 2014, and I was sitting in my room before bed time reading my Bible. For the two months prior, I was praying to God every night to release me from my co-dependency. I was reading about how as a believer in Jesus, I am the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the living grapevine, and a city on a hilltop that can not be hidden. As I was reading that, it was like God spoke to me saying that I didn't need my co-dependency to live and thrive. In an instant, it was like I was liberated from my prison cell. From that point on, I was free.

I do not hold any bitterness at all because I have utilized my adversity for the better. You can choose whether your past will influence your future in a negative or positive way. I chose and am choosing to let my difficult past to change my life for the better and change my family by choosing to break the chains of addiction and toxic behavior that has plagued my family for multiple generations which will be to the benefit of our posterity. I plan on getting Honor Roll throughout high school, graduating, attending college, and becoming a paralegal. I also plan to continue writing and doing addiction work throughout my whole life.

Recently, I have published two more books "Where Hope is Born", a series of vingettes about growing up in an addiction-stricken family, and "Still My Best Friend?", a children's story explaining the disease of addiction. I have now come to a place where I realize that healing is not about the trauma not hurting anymore; it is about coming to a place where you can take that negativity of the past and turn it into something beautiful. If you are reading this and can relate, I want you to know there is hope; I am an example of that. You can choose to let your past dictate your future leading you down the dark road of drugs, alcohol, gangs, prison, dropping out of high school, etc. or you can use it to change for the better by making it motivate yourself to be a success in life. If you have generations of addiction or negativity if your family, you can either choose to let yourself be doomed to the same fate as your family members before you or you can choose for you to be the generation that finally breaks the chains. Freedom is possible! Recovery is possible!

There is a stigma about addiction that it is shameful or makes someone bad. That is NOT the case. Would you place judgment on someone that has cancer or heart disease? No. Many may believe that addiction is an exclusive disorder, but that is also not the case. It is a disorder that affects the whole family. Addiction is a disease as painful as any other and is traumatic for every loved one of the addicted person.

That being said, I choose to be silent no more!

Quotes by Me:

"The best highs are earned through just being yourself and the posive choices you make, not found in a bag or bottle"

"Your family's history doesn't have to be your destiny"

"Co-dependence is an around the clock job that we do not get paid for. It is volunteer work that we get no satisfaction from nor are our efforts doing any good in a person's life but rather stifling their chances of getting better which is to no benefit for ourselves or the people we are putting our effort into. It is a tug of war that never ends until we choose to let go. It essentially a fight to the death until we choose to live and let live. The vigorous efforts are futile."

User Comments
Anon-1

Addiction is a devastating illness, one that our society has yet to come to terms with as being something which isn't a simple matter of personal weakness or a "character flaw." It is neither of those things, any more than cancer is a "character flaw." 

It sounds like you've really come to grips with things, that you're handling your trauma constructively... it's amazing that you've written books to help others cope, but looking back at your history, it makes perfect sense that you would go that route. Congratulations for doing so!

Anon-2

I like the quotes you've got at the end there. They really spell things out clearly and paint a picture that a lot of people would do well to pay attention to. Thank you very much for sharing!

Anon-3

A great story! I have had my own personal battles with addiction, I strongly agree with "Your familys history doesnt have to be your destiny"