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, Now That I'm Older

A letter to the woman who made me the woman I am today.
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Dear Mom,

Now that I'm older, I definitely appreciate you a lot more than I did as a kid. I appreciate the little things, from the random text messages to constantly tagging me on Facebook in your "funny" photos and sending me pins of stuff I like on Pinterest. Now that I'm older, I can look back and realize that everything I am is all because of you. You've made me strong but realize it's okay to cry. You've shown me how a mother gives everything to her children to give them a better life than she had, even when she's left with nothing. And, most importantly you've taught me to never give up and without this, I would not be where I am today.

Mom, now that I'm older, I realize that you're the best friend I'm ever going to have. You cheer me on when I try new things and support me in deciding to be whatever person I want to be. Thank you for never telling me I can't do something and helping me figure out ways to be the best woman I can be. Your love for me is unconditional. They say true, unconditional love can only come from God, but mom, I think you're a pretty close second.

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Now that I'm older, I don't get to see you as much. But not seeing you as much just makes the times I do get to see you the absolute best, and I look forward to it every time. Now that I'm older, I'm not going to live at home. But, I promise to always come back because I know the door is always open. Your house is always going to be my home, and no other place is going to be the same.

Now that I'm older, I realize how much I miss you taking care of me. I miss you making me dinner, making sure I was doing well in school, and taking me to endless appointments. I miss you waking me up for school and then waking me up again because I didn't listen the first time.

But, Mom, now that I'm older, I can see all that you've done for me. I can look back and see how big of a brat I was but you still loved me (and let me live) anyways. I can understand why you did certain things and frankly, you're one bada** of a woman.

To have you as my mom and my best friend has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. So, Mom, now that I'm older, thank you, for everything.

Love,

Your Daughter

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A Mass Drug Overdose Sweeps The Headlines And We Barely Flinch, Welcome To The Opioid Epidemic

While the substance itself isn't surprising, the news surrounding it should be.

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Earlier this week in California, one person was found dead and four in critical condition following a mass drug overdose at a house in Chico. Despite officers administering both CPR and Narcan upon arrival, one male was pronounced dead at the scene. 12 others were hospitalized, four in critical condition. The culprit of the overdose appears to be the opiate fentanyl in combination with another substance.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever, has now passed heroin as the drug most often involved in deadly overdoses. It's the same opioid involved in Demi Lovato's recent overdose along with many other high profile cases including Prince, Tom Petty, and Mac Miller.

While the substance itself isn't surprising, the news surrounding it should be. The language of a mass overdose is unlike anything we've ever heard before and signals more than anything an epidemic that desperately needs new solutions. We can't keep rehashing the same tragic details but failing to put verbs in our sentences.

There are solutions that offer to meet our nation where we are and bring about lifesaving innovations like wider spread Narcan training and availability as well as supervised injection facilities. Longer-term initiatives include greater education surrounding drug abuse and addiction in and out of schools and a more open discussion about the realities of addiction and its intersection with mental health.

If nothing else, the least we can do is talk about these headlines.

The more we talk about it, the more attention we give it, the more we bring it out of the shadows, the greater chance we have at solving it and never having to use the term "mass overdose" again.

One thing is for sure — what we are currently doing is not working. And if we know anything as a society, it's that secrets make us sick.

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