The Crazy Thing About Addiction [Part II]

To read Part I of this blog, please visit The Crazy Thing About Addiction [Part I].

The only goal I have in writing such a deeply personal story is to spread awareness and share my story with others. Many times growing up I felt as though I was the only little girl with a mother in prison. Growing up, I found that like me, many other children were dealing with the same circumstances.

In fact, 1 out of every 28 children grows up with an incarcerated parent (Pew Research Center).

There are a few things we should acknowledge when reading that statistic.

Our parents’ actions do not determine our worth or capability of success. Looking back now, had the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services not intervened, who knows the person I would have become or what I would be doing. I can guarantee I would not be sitting in front of this computer sharing this with all of you. In any situation, whether it involve drug addiction or not, children can find themselves unhappy with who they are simply because of the opinions and interpretations of how other people view their parents. You do not have to lower your own standards because of what you think other people think about your family. It’s your decision and your decision only on who you want to become, the values you uphold, and the people you associate yourself with. Don’t like your alcoholic father? Don’t be one. Don’t like your addicted mother? Don’t be one.  Use your experiences to be the person that you always wished you had.

There are a lot of families that are affected by drug addiction. We have to end our preconceived opinions about addiction. Not everyone’s background or home life allowed them the easy choice of avoiding illicit drugs, and if you’ve never seen them used, this probably doesn’t apply to you. Imagine growing up in a home where you see drug use happening everyday as if it is a daily occurrence. People are much more likely to engage in that lifestyle when that’s all they know.  I’m not making excuses for addicts, I’m simply stating that we don’t know every addicts’ story. There are far too many people impacted by addiction for us to disregard the reasons as to how the addiction started and why it has not been fixed. I could have had a childhood with my mom had she gotten the help she needed. Now I understand that’s a pretty bold statement, considering that she could have been offered help, and just chose not to accept it. It is a two-way street. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Nonetheless, shouldn’t we at least try? 

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It would be ungrateful of me to leave out the special people that molded me into the person that I am today. I grew up in a family of nine, which included my aunt, uncle, their five children, my sister, and me. Every family has their share of ups and downs, but overall I like to believe that I was raised in a household of love, support, and good values.

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My Uncle Sam and Aunt Jodey with me on my softball senior night
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My great-grandma Elizabeth and I before my senior prom

Although my sister and I were not with the parents that gave birth to us, our aunt, great-grandma, and uncle did an outstanding job of taking us in and treating us with the same standards, commitment, and belonging as they did with their own children. Aunt Jodey and Uncle Sam, I am forever grateful for the home you always welcome us into and the belief you always showed in me. My aunt was always the one to advise me, help me go dress shopping, and get me ready for big events like proms and interviews. You got me in my first pair of heels and taught me what a polite young lady looks like. My uncle was my best friend, so-to-speak. We played catch out in the yard and watched football every Sunday. You introduced me to my love of sports and most importantly, set the example for what a father should be when mine walked out. Most people in our small town know my grandma as the woman that wears the big hats and drove the station wagon. I see her as much more. Grandma Elizabeth, you taught me so many lessons that I can’t even begin to explain. You wrote me letters nearly every single day I was away at basic training, and you always made sure Gabby and I had everything we needed. You are absolutely, without a doubt, the wisest person I know. Without the three of you, I would not be the person I am today and I believe that my world is a much better place with you in it.

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Front: Samantha holding Matthew (Rabecca’s son, my nephew), me, Gabby Back: Joseph, Andrea, Victoria holding her daughter Morgan, Aunt Jodey, Rabecca holding her daughter Rose

I have never thought of my five cousins as anything other than my siblings. I’ve always considered every one of them as my sister and brother. You guys were never reluctant to share your life with two people that had a different story. None of you ever pressured me about my mother and all of you were always ready to listen to my frustrations, talk me out of my anger, and console me when I was upset. Rabecca, Victoria, Andrea, Samantha, and Joseph: I love you guys with my entire heart and I consider myself enormously blessed to have grown up with you guys. The bond we share is no different than that of those that share the same parents.

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Gabby. When I was old enough to understand what happened to us, I always took you under my wing. I have always seen it as my duty to love you, support you, encourage you, and stand up for you, more-so than anyone else in my entire life. We walked through the storm and made it out together, strong as nails. I will always watch over you and push you to become the woman I know you can be. Thank you for being my motivation and the sole reason I chose forgiveness. You were always the compassionate one. Some may think you didn’t get bitter about our mother because you didn’t understand what was going on, but I disagree. I genuinely believe you were just a far more loving, forgiving person than I ever thought I could be. You taught me hope. You taught me the meaning of perception. You led me to forgiveness. You are my rock.

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I wanted Part B to be the positive side of the story. I do believe it is, but what I want to end this series on how it relates to the words in which I chose to title these entries. “The Crazy Thing About Addiction.” Yes, it’s a messy and saddening story, and some parts I left out or didn’t tell in full detail, but that is not the route I wanted to take.  I wanted to share my perception of the beauty in something that is the result of what has caused me the most pain in my life thus far. Just because something is negative, doesn’t mean that there cannot be beauty contained within it. I gained five siblings that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I gained the experience of a real father’s love. I gained countless relationships and friends that I probably never would have, had my life gone in a different direction. I gained empathy, passion, and motivation. But most importantly, I gained the liberating understanding of what it’s like to forgive someone wholeheartedly, and there are very few things that are more beautiful than that.

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My mother and me, since amends have been made

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Why it’s OKAY to have absolutely no idea what you’re doing while in your 20’s

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We’re young!

The average human lifespan is 79 years old. Relatively speaking, when you hit 20, odds are you’re still going to have somewhere around sixty years to play with. Don’t freak out because you don’t know what you want to do, who you want to be with, or how you’re going to get there. It’s eventually going to work itself out and you have plenty of time.

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Our likes, dislikes, goals, and personalities change as we go through life.

What you wanted when you were younger may be different than what you want now. When I was in fifth grade, I wanted to be a Park Ranger. When I think back on that now, I chuckle to myself because I absolutely could not see myself being happy doing that now. The experiences we have in the world, people we meet, and challenges we overcome all shape the things we enjoy and how we see the world. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind as you get more experience in life.

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There are SO many choices.

Doctor, mechanic, factory worker, teacher, nurse… The list of careers goes on and on. If you weren’t blessed with knowing exactly what you want to do out of high school, the idea of having to choose something to do for the rest of your life is quite difficult. Some adults will even admit that they don’t know what career they want, even in their mid-forties.

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College isn’t for everyone!

Before I graduated, I had the fictitious belief that there were only two choices to choose from after high school: college or work. That’s not true! Maybe a four year college degree isn’t for you, but that is perfectly fine. In fact, there are many good-paying jobs out there for people that don’t get that expensive degree. Don’t feel discouraged for choosing a community college, work, trade school, or certificate program instead of going to a university. The decision is ultimately yours, so don’t force yourself into unhappiness to please someone that isn’t you. Invest in your own happiness; that’s how you achieve lifelong success.