What I've Learned Growing Up The Child Of An Addict

What I've Learned Growing Up The Child Of An Addict

When you're a child of addiction, you tend to deal with a lot of pain, frustration, and guilt. At some point, these feelings become more an opportunity for growth and learning than anything else.

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I've always wanted my dad to be someone else. I'm sure every child has imagined their life with different parent(s) in a moment of anger- but when you're the child of an addict, it tends to be more than a fleeting thought; it becomes something of a daydream, actually.

Eventually, though, these thoughts and resentments are replaced with acceptance and appreciation.

As you enter adulthood and start making a life for yourself, separate from your parents', it seems easier to approach the "grown-ups" in your life with a greater sense of perspective and, therefore, understanding. You've now faced losses, have had to make some of the life-changing decisions that send some on a path to addiction, and have been exposed to certain environments that act as breeding grounds for addictive personalities and people prone to distress and deviated behavior.

Overall, you've seen more of the world; you know first-hand how hard it can be to experience, and why some people find any means of escape. I've always wanted my dad to be someone else- until I realized he taught me a lot about myself, the world around me, and the choices everyone must make at some point.

Until I was about 11 or so, I spent my summers months in Santa Cruz, California, where my father lives. I always arrived and left happy enough, but often dreaded the middle part of the trip. It wasn't all bad, of course: I had other family to see, frequent trips to the beach and boardwalk, and a lot of fresh seafood to eat. But many afternoons and evenings, my father was drunk. Very drunk. He would drive me drunk, he would leave me with strangers while he went to the pub to get drunker and when he was around, would hover over me like a sad, lost puppy. Sometimes I didn't understand, but when I did, I was heartbroken for him; I pitied him, even. His mother died when he was very young, and he grew up in Wales, where it was more common to start drinking at a young age, so he didn't really have anyone to urge him against it as relief from the grief he felt. His father, to make matters worse, was often fairly cold and distant.

My father, in retrospect, didn't stand much of a chance. Instead of a loser, or weak-minded and hopeless, I see him now as a product of his environment. I've come to appreciate that lots of people don't have access to the resources I do, or have people available to them that help, and not hinder, their personal growth. I recognize that he's made the choices he's made, good or bad, but have also learned that almost every one of them has absolutely nothing to do with me. In fact, I know he wishes he hadn't made some of them, if only for my sake. Instead of regretting the time I've spent with him like I used to, I appreciate that he even made time for me and that in his self-awareness, he has always allowed me the room to feel anger, grief, and frustration. Even if it was towards him.

Flash forward to more recently, when I learned that growth is not linear. It is not always easy, or helpful, to apply things you've learned in the past to new situations. This became more evident for me not long after Christmas a few years ago. A couple days prior, my dad had come to Washington for the holidays (because we concluded that he'd been sober for long enough to deserve a visit) and we were in downtown Seattle with my aunt and cousin just walking around. Apparently, he hadn't been as sober as long as he'd said, because he went into withdrawal in a small shop on the waterfront. He fell to the ground, and all I'd heard was the crash as his head hit the floor full-force. He laid there, seizing and unaware until the EMTs came for him. And I stood there, still and too aware, until my cousin pulled me to the back of the store.

This wasn't the last time this happened. It happened the next Christmas, too. Different place, fewer people, but it all looked and felt the same. I was disappointed for a long time that he couldn't keep sober for longer than a couple months. It seemed like every time he would make progress, he would fall off the wagon soon after. I started to see a pattern, though. Each time he failed, it became easier for him to put himself back together, and the periods between his failures would shorten in length. Apparently, the idea that growth is not linear did not just apply to me.

Every time I become resentful, or impatient with him, I remind myself that progress has dips and peaks, and is a process like anything else; he deserves, at the very least, the benefit of the doubt. Without it, he wouldn't have much to work towards.

I'm nineteen now and haven't spoken to my dad in months. Every time I do, I feel guilty and an impending sort of melancholy. Last time we spoke I was in Santa Cruz and it was in person; he was still drinking. I thought for sure it would be my last time with him, so I cherished it and tried to walk away with closure. Since that visit, I learned the most important thing of all: I am not obligated to give him my time or attention, nor should I feel guilty about keeping it from him, because it is not, and never has been, my job to keep him on the straight and narrow.

I am the child and, most of all, my own person. If I decide to call him, it is because I want to, and not because I feel I have to. If I call him, it will be because of all he's taught me and all he still has yet to.

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Dear Mom, From Your Daughter In College

Here are all the things our phone calls aren't long enough to say.
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Dear Mom,

Do you remember when I was three and we would play together?

It was the age of princesses and carpet that was actually lava, and you were the prettiest woman in the whole wide world. Do you remember when I was in high school and the world seemed too big and scary? You would know exactly when to take me on a mother-daughter date and have me laughing about anything and everything, and you were the smartest woman in the whole wide world.

Now, I'm buried in homework and deadlines hours away from you and we don't get to talk as much you want, but you're still the prettiest, smartest woman in the whole wide world.

I'm sorry that I don't call you as much as I should, and you know a lot of what goes on in my world via posts and pictures. Our schedules just seem to never line up so we can have the three-hour conversations about everything like I want to. I know we don't agree on absolutely everything, but I cherish every piece of advice you give me, even though it probably seems like I'm hardly listening.

I know that sometimes we get on each other's nerves, but thank you for putting up with me for all of these years. Thank you for listening to me cry, complain, question things and go on and on about how everything in college is. I know I don't come home as much as I used to, but I think about you all the time. After all, you're my first friend, and therefore, my best friend.

Thank you for celebrating my successes with me, and not downing me too hard for my failures. Thank you for knowing what mistakes I shouldn't make, but letting me make them anyway because you want me to live my life and be my own person. Thank you for knowing when to ask about the boy I've been talking about, and when to stop without any questions. Thank you for letting me be my crazy, weird, sometimes know-it-all self.

Thank you for sitting back and watching me spread my wings and fly. There is no way I could have known how to grow into the woman I am today if I hadn't watched you while I was growing up so I would know what kind of person I should aspire to be. Thank you for being the first (and the best) role model I ever had. You continue to inspire and amaze me every day with all that you do, and all that you are.

I don't know how I got so lucky to have a person in my life like you, but I thank the Lord every night for blessing me with the smartest, prettiest person to be my best friend, my role model, my confidant, my person and most importantly, my mother.

Love,

Your daughter

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Doing Drugs Isn't Cool, Period

This so-called "cool" epidemic needs to stop, especially in the college atmosphere.

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Adderall, Ritalin, LSD, Ecstasy, Xanax, Valium, Alcohol; the list can go on and on. The point is, they all can be addictive and they all are promoted in college. No matter what university you attend, you will likely come across someone using at least one of these or overhearing a conversation about them.

For you frat party-goers, you are blind. You are risking yourself to eventually use at least one addictive drug. You may think that you'll never get into drugs, but that's what they all say when they're presenting their story to a crowd of millennials while being handcuffed to a chair.

Be honest with yourself.

If you're questioning if something is safe or not, most of the time, it's not. Studies have shown that college students involved in sororities, fraternities, and athletic organizations are at higher risk of abusing dangerous substances. That doesn't mean don't join these clubs, but it's more of a warning to what could happen if you aren't making smart decisions.

It has been reported that 80% of U.S. college students have abused alcohol.

Your weekly Thursday Instagram post captioned "Thirsty Thursday" while holding a White Claw isn't cool. Please ditch the trend of taking pictures in front of a tapestry in the basement of a frat house. I hate to break it to you, but it really doesn't go with your feed, Brittany. Just because it is Thursday, doesn't mean it's an excuse to feed your alcohol addiction and whatever else you may be doing at frat parties.

Attending weekly parties held by frats is increasing your risk of using addictive substances. Picture this: you had a really tough day of classes on Thursday. Your "Thirsty Thursday girls club" group chat just texted you and said they are going to multiple frat parties tonight. They plan on pre-gaming in your dorm room then walking to the frat party nearby.

If that party is lame, they plan on walking to another one down the street. You immediately express how tough your day was and that you're excited for the later hours of the night. You plan your best outfit, do your makeup and hair, and they come over.

You're having fun during the pre-game, so you invite some more people. You now have close to 10 people in your 130-square-foot dorm room. Someone reported a noise complaint to your RA. Your RA knocks on the door and you scatter to hide all the alcohol and be quiet. They say to keep the noise down because someone made a complaint.

After that, it's time to head out.

You're walking, or shall I say stumbling, to the first party. You get stopped by campus police and they write everyone a ticket for being intoxicated in public and underage drinking. You brush it off and still go to the party. You get blacked out drunk and there's a group of guys pestering you to try LSD. They explained it to be "another world".

You buy a single pill and try it. You convince your friends to try it and you all love the feeling of "tripping". You buy more and take it back to your dorm with you.

As you're walking to your dorm, you collapse. A cop happens to ride by and see you on the ground, and they take you to the hospital. You wake up having no idea where you are and your parents standing next to you. You are presented with multiple tickets and now you're being interrogated so the police can figure out who has possession of the drugs.

Approximately 110,000 students between ages 18 and 24 are arrested every year for an alcohol-related violation, such as public drunkenness or driving under the influence.

Yes, that may seem extreme, but doing drugs because someone convinced you to is not cool! It can lead to addiction, legal issues, hospitalization, and even death. Don't make decisions based on people's ability to convince you. Although that was a made up story, it happens in real life!

If you're prescribed Adderall for ADHD purposes, use it wisely. Don't tell people you have a prescription. Don't sell it.

My point is, be smart and don't do drugs to seem cool to others or to fit in with the crowd.

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