11 Things I Learned Growing Up Surrounded By Addicts In The North Country, NY
Start writing a post
Health and Wellness

11 Things I Learned Growing Up Surrounded By Addicts In The North Country, NY

Why are addicts the way they are and why should I care?

11 Things I Learned Growing Up Surrounded By Addicts In The North Country, NY
Wikimedia Commons

Substance abuse and addiction rates have grown rapidly across the country. Consequently, one-fourth of all drug-related deaths took place in the United States, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

As the rates of substance use and drug addiction rise, the controversy concerning them also increases.

Is addiction a disease? Is it not? Does it really even matter?

People are dying every day as the epidemic progresses. In 2016, approximately 64,070 individuals died as a result of a drug overdose in the United States.

I'm from a small town in upstate New York, also known as the North Country. Drug use has been steadily on the rise in the region.

In fact, in 2016 alone, over 14 people in my county, the St. Lawrence County, died from an opioid overdose, two of whom I know for sure wasn't even 20 years old.

As I grew in a rural town flooded with drug addiction, I noticed the way society treats someone who suffers from addiction and the way an addict thinks of society, too. The following list entails 11 other things that being surrounded by addiction has taught me.

1. Addiction creates atypical childhoods.

Growing up in an environment in which people are oftentimes, if not all times, under the influence of a substance can put a strain on the mental, emotional or even physical well-being of a child.

When you're really young you imagine that everyone's father drinks themselves into a stupor. Then, school comes along, and eventually, you catch on to the fact that, well, something is off. You kind of become the outcast really quick... how could you not when your father shows up drunk and creates a scene during your fourth-grade music concert?

Alcohol and other drugs completely make one's cognitive thinking defunct, so how can someone properly care for their children if they can't even think straight.

Though my childhood was not a walk in the park, compared to the children of many other addicts, it was a dream. Unfortunately, some people are so heavy on drugs that they neglect and/or abuse their children (see number nine).

2. Drugs truly turn those we love into unrecognizable fiends.

Drugs change those we love by literally rewiring the way their brain functions! The chemical makeup of many drugs is similar to a neurotransmitter naturally found in our brains. Because the structure of the drug is so alike, it tricks receptors into allowing the attachment of the drug to our neurons, which then become activated.

Despite the fact that drugs imitate the chemicals already found in the brain, they do not activate neurons in the way a natural neurotransmitter would. As a result, unusual and abnormal messages are transmitted throughout the brain's network.

These drugs typically target the system in the brain responsible for rewarding your natural behaviors. Some drugs indirectly or directly attack the brain's reward system by producing large quantities of dopamine, which flow through the brain's network like a tsunami.

The overproduction of neurotransmitters naturally found in our brain can lead to the inability to recycle our naturally occurring chemicals. Once the brain has acclimated to the increased change in dopamine production by decreasing the amount of dopamine produced or the number of receptors that are capable of receiving signals, it can be nearly impossible to feel any pleasure after the drug has been stopped.

The things that used to make someone happy no longer satisfies them, they feel spiritless. In an attempt to feel pleasure, addicts continue to up the dosage. Sometimes, people take it too far and lose themselves entirely, body, mind and soul.

3. Addiction comes in many forms.

Not only my father abused substances, but several members of my family have been hooked on a substance at one time or another. The North Country is rampant with substances for users to abuse and they come in plentiful shapes, sizes, colors and consistencies.

Each addict has had a drug of choice, but when it comes down to it, at the height of their addiction, nothing mattered. Whatever gives addicts that fuzzy feeling, allowing them to suppress their own emotional baggage is, for that time being, worth anything.

For a while, it was enough, for some of them, it still is. When someone is looking for a way not to feel anything, or maybe a way to feel something better than what they've been feeling, they'll go to unexpected lengths. This ranges from popping, snorting, smoking or injecting opioids like Heroin, Fentanyl, Xanax, Percocet, Oxycodone, Oxycontin or even Suboxone, to getting a kick out of nitrous oxide whippets and promethazine.

Sadly, this is truly just the tip of the iceberg, as the drugs available to the public seem to be innumerable.

4. Addicts come in many forms.

Literally, anyone can become an addict. Regardless of race, ethnicity, place of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or class. Class, however, might affect what kind of drugs one is addicted to.

The fact that drug addiction has become such an intense epidemic suggests that you more likely than not know someone who is battling addiction.

It seems that anyone can become someone else with the help of drugs. No matter who they were, no matter how kind, loving and responsible, they are no longer that version of themselves.

That person is gone and instead, a zombie walks in their place, feasting on everything that once made you see such bright light in a person, feasting on someone who once made you feel such tender love.

Every step they take and every move they make convinces you that they're devoid of humanity. Despite the fact that an addict you (once?) loved has acted in such a way that makes you question their humanity, you can't be devoid of it yourself, at least I refuse to be. Maybe I'm too soft and naive, but I simply don't believe in giving up on people.

5. No one randomly decides that they're going to become an addict. Duh!

In fact, over half of all drug users live with a coexisting mental illness.

I remember a conversation with my Aunt, who battled most of her life with addiction, and in the end, lost her life to the infliction. She spoke of how "we all [everyone in her group] struggles with some kind of illness. Most group members she knew were a fleshy cocktail of physical and mental illness.

She thought out loud about how things might've been different had their initial illnesses been properly addressed. Not to mention, many individuals initially get hooked on an opioid through their doctor. Within the last 15 years, the rate of doctors prescribing opioids has quadrupled.

6. Whether or not addiction is a disease is not as important nor as relevant as the fact that people are dying every day.

Though this debate is good on one hand because it is bringing awareness to the issue, unfortunately, in many cases it also sparks stigma. Every time I see a debate going down on Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter I notice that a shockingly large amount of people are so quick to say that addicts get what they deserve when they O.D. They feel that addicts don't deserve empathy because they do it to themselves.

Maybe they do, maybe they don't. I don't know, I'm not some know all genius, what I do know is that people are far too complex to have such harsh snap judgments made about them. Especially, when it's so harsh as to dismiss the life of another with such ease.

Saying things like this only adds to the stigma and is not helping anyone! Why would someone who you made fel so ostracized come to you for help to beat their addiction? They wouldn't.

7. Compassion and forgiveness go a long way.

I think that once you've taken the time to really try and understand someone, once you truly get to the root of that individual's pain, grief, anger and whatever else may be bottled up within them, you start making strides. You begin to see glimmers of the person they once were, but you have to be willing to be vulnerable and so do they.

No one will stay sober if they don't want or feel the need to, and it's definitely not easy to come clean without some kind of support system. There are many types of people in this world. There are people who when they've got no one in their corner, collapse, people who pick themselves up, people who try but don't succeed, people who try to help, people who walk by and people who throw punches (yes, sometimes, deserved).

I guess what I'm saying is I wish there were more people in this world who want to help people up when they fall, rather than kicking them while they're down.

8. Once you're an addict, you're an addict for life.

Sometimes, when I'm at home on break from college, I stay up super late and I just read in my room. I'm lazy, and if I realize I forgot to shut the door after I've already gotten comfy, it stays open.

Anyway, this stupid annoying commercial plays from the living room. It's advertising for a "resort rehab." Every time before it ends, the man speaking says, "I was an addict, now I'm not."

LIAR. Paid actor, same thing.

I always get infuriated when I hear those words. Every substance abuser I've known has said, even the ones who've been sober for 10 plus years, that they still think about the possibility of relapsing on nearly a daily basis.

Recovering addicts still think about abusing every day after getting clean, for a long time it might even be a constant burning urge, a sober addict may think of it only during times of stress or hardship. There is no complete foolproof cure for addiction.

9. Addiction is not an excuse.

Though becoming dependent on drugs does rewire the brain and make it difficult for one to quit using a substance, that does not mean it gives you a pass for the behavior you exhibited, the decisions you made and especially any of the people you hurt.

You are responsible for who you are when you aren't sober, and whatever you do you have to live with.

10. Sometimes you just need to let go.

While the air I've been breathing in the North Country may have been slightly toxified by addiction, many people are not as lucky and are trapped in the confines of a drug-induced nuclear fallout zone. You simply cannot help others if you are not safe in all respects.

If your physical or mental well being has been constantly jeopardized at the hands of someone else, regardless of whether or not they’re under the influence, or they're someone close to you, even related, you still deserve the right to cut ties.

If 10 years down the road they're sober and come back into your life... accept them, or don't, depending on the circumstance. I haven't experienced what you have, no one has, and you don't owe anyone an explanation. Just let go of them for a bit. Let go of everything that haunts you, and if things are ever different in the future, discover what that means for you.

11. You cannot change the past, but you can create a better future.

Once you've let go of all your frustrations and realize you cannot change the past — you can start focusing on the here and now. You can figure out what needs to be done in the present in order to have a future worth working for. Perhaps, you might actually take the steps needed to put your dreams into action.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

23 Pandemic-Approved Date Ideas That'll Send Sparks Flying From Six Feet Apart

There's a safe way to date right now and yes, it includes masks.


While some people would rather opt out of dating altogether during the pandemic so they don't have to wear a mask on a first date, others are choosing to listen to both guidelines and their heart in order to find love during the time of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Should you be one of the individuals welcoming romance right now, there are pandemic-approved dates you can go on that still adhere to guidelines (and yes, you'll have to wear a mask).

Keep Reading... Show less

20 Books About Latin And Hispanic Heritage Absolutely Everyone Should Have On Their Bookshelf

Any ally of the community needs to be reading these incredible reads.


I go through phases when it comes to what I like to read. I am typically reading two books at any given time: one serious nonfiction and one escapist fiction novel to have on hand and open up depending on my mood.

What remains consistent, however, amongst most of my fellow bibliophiles is a desire to try new and different authors and genres. I, as an Indian woman, have been partial to reading books written by fellow Indian and Desi writers since I first got a library card.

Keep Reading... Show less

In our patriarchal society, men hide from their feelings, but toxic masculinity is literally killing men. They swallow the pain and move on so that they can look, feel, and act "tough."

But, strength is derived from asking for help and voicing your struggle and, trust me, working on your mental health is one hell of a struggle. The real way to "man up" is to acknowledge the downfalls in unjust societal norms. Mental health problems do not mean that a man is weak, they are neurologically-based disorders that require professional treatment.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Asked 46 Women What They Thought About The Term 'Plus-Size', And Here's What They Had To Say

It's 2020, where change is inevitable and norms are not only questioned, but challenged.


We live in a world where it's become customary to push boundaries, break rules, and question standards upheld by society. Though try as we might, some of these standards are harder to conquer than others — body image is one of the top contenders.

For years, the body positivity movement has pushed for the acceptance of all marginalized body types not represented or celebrated in the media. Recently, we've gotten better at appreciating and accepting all body types, but one thing that's still lingering is the stigma of body image in the fashion industry — more specifically, the term "plus-size."

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Sorry, But 'I Don’t Care About Politics' Is Not A Valid Excuse For NOT Voting

The younger generation of voters is so crucial to the upcoming election because our vote is going to shape the world that we are about to enter as adults.


When I ask my friends if they are voting this term most of them respond with "no" followed by an explanation of "I don't care enough," "It doesn't affect me," or "I don't keep up with politics," etc. I get it, as a college student I know that there are many other things to be concerned about like school, relationships, work, and friends. I also understand that keeping up with politics can seem like trying to keep up with an over-exaggerated reality show that has way too many seasons. Not to mention most news stations and websites are biased so it's hard to decipher if what you hear is true or fake.

However, despite all of this annoyance, as the next generation of Americans, we have to remember that we owe it to ourselves, our families, and to our futures to care.

Keep Reading... Show less

Taylor Swift Sang 'betty' At The ACMs And It Was The Perfect First Live 'folklore' Performance

I guarantee that Inez is spreading rumors about how fire this performance was.


The Academy of Country Music Awards were last night and the performances were wonderful, but Taylor Swift's live version of "betty" from her newest album "folklore" really took the cake for me.

Keep Reading... Show less
Photo by Anna Hernández-Buces

"Do you have big parties on Cinco de Mayo?"

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

9 Reasons I Unfollowed All The Fitness Influencers On My Instagram Feed

I don't need to feel bad about myself because of who I follow on social media.


Throughout quarantine, something that a lot of us picked up on was working out. With all the free time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on that "dream bod" you've been wanting for years, or to just feel good about yourself.

A common way to stay motivated and keep yourself on-task is to follow fitness influencers on various platforms. For some people, yes, this can be a healthy and helpful way to keep your drive. In other cases, however, this can do more harm than good.

Keep Reading... Show less

The Ultimate Guide To Being A Latinx And Hispanic Community Ally

Educate and celebrate their culture to lift the community up.


It's well known that the Gen-Z and millennial generations are more passionate about social justice and conscious about their decisions as consumers as any other generation to come before us.

For these generations, making mindful decisions about where we like to allocate our money, who we choose to follow on Instagram, and even the books we like to read are extremely important to us. With the rise of the digital age, we are constantly consuming media and content, and so there's no longer an excuse for being uneducated if we want to be educated on a wide range of cultures.

Keep Reading... Show less

It was a day we all knew would possibly come but hoped it never would. The day the outbreak hit.

I remember, back in March, I was just about to return home from a socially distanced vacation in my Florida home with my mom and grandpa, when my dad called to tell us he was feeling sick. At the time, President Trump hadn't closed the borders, my school was still going back after Easter, and sheer panic hadn't yet flooded our news outlets. We were meant to return home on Saturday, but when the borders closed on Thursday, things got a little more serious.

Keep Reading... Show less

21 Romance Novels You'll Fall In Love With By The Fire

It's time to cozy up and fantasize about our fav fictional love stories.


Recently, I found myself reading a bunch of romance novels and it's truly unleashing the romantic side of me. With fall weather nearing, it's the perfect time to cozy up with a good book and ignite the romantic flame in your hearts with the turn of every page.

Here are 21 romantic books you should read this fall, some I've read (hence the reviews), and some I'm hoping to get my hands on.

Keep Reading... Show less

There is a lot going on in the world right now, much of which is contributing to the mental health crisis we've found ourselves in. While it would be fantastic to snap our fingers and jump out of our rut, that's not exactly how these things work. Thankfully, small, sustainable steps can make a huge difference in your mental wellbeing.

Keep Reading... Show less

These 10 Oversized Graphic Tees Are JUST As Cute As Urban Outfitters — And They're All Under $30

There is never a bad time to get some new oversized graphic tees, especially when they're all under $30.


While we all love Urban Outfitters' graphic tees, it can be hard to justify a $40 T-shirt, so I am always on the hunt to find cheaper alternatives that are just as stylish! Thrifting is always an option for authentic, vintage tees, but we don't always have the time to search through the endless aisles of Goodwill.

Lucky for you, there are still affordable alternatives that don't require quite as much effort.

Keep Reading... Show less

On Monday, "Dancing with the Stars" returned to our televisions with their 29th season. This season featured a lot of different changes including a new host, a new judge as well as a new judging system.

Among these changes, there were also changes to account for the coronavirus pandemic. Some of these changes included practicing socially distancing as well as different filming practices.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments