A girl surrounded by various vices as she debates her decision. Illustration by Analiesa Hollywood
A girl surrounded by various vices as she debates her decision. Illustration by Analiesa Hollywood

Stereotypical Addiction

March 14, 2023

 I remember having my first DARE class and feeling like the smartest person in the room. I would come home and tell my mom all about how I was the kid who knew everything. I also remember her face as I said it. Her smile dropped and her eyes went to worry. My mom has never hid much from me, I was always well informed of the behind the scenes activities of my family. 

Growing up I was very close with my dad’s brother. He called me princess and treated me like one. I would dance, sing in his kitchen and  he made me think I was going to be the biggest star this world would ever see. I never would have thought he would choose an artificial substance over his family. Heroin and fentanyl were his drugs of choice. I sometimes wonder if they made him feel more loved than we did. 

I wish I could say that our past memories cover the new ones, but they don’t. I will always remember dancing in his kitchen as the house filled with laughter, but I will also always remember the night he came to my house and the street filled with screams between him and my father. I will always remember my brother running out of the house to see what was going on and my mother following shortly after. I will always remember staying in the house peeping through the living room windows watching, listening to the uncle I once knew slip away from me. The moment I saw my uncle’s bright red truck pull in front of my house, I knew two things were about to happen; I was losing my uncle and grandma. The love my dad’s mother bears for her children is unexplainable. She loved her son so much she put his addiction aside. 

Substance abuse does not just pertain to the abuser. There is the abuser, the enabler, and the affected. The abuser made a decision and ended up spiraling into an addictive cycle, the enabler loves the abuser in such a strange way the addiction is almost minimized and aided, the affected has a decision to make; spend their whole lives trying to help no matter what personal cost or do what they can until they realize the abuser needs to want help before you can actually help. 

 As you hear some people say addiction is a cycle, it’s real. My mom’s father found comfort in beer and later cocaine and meth. My mom’s uncle found himself hospitalized, knocking on death’s door after getting into an accident while under the influence of substances, another uncle to my mom found himself living on the streets due to his substance abuse. My dad’s father rests in peace with an empty bottle, heroin, methadone, cocaine, and anything he could get to, my dad’s brother somewhat followed the familiar footsteps. There was a cycle and I was well informed. 

When I was in first grade I had appendicitis, my appendix had moved and burst inside of me. I had surgery to get it removed and was hospitalized. The doctors recommended I be put on painkillers, but my parents refused. At the age of 6 my parents couldn’t risk the addictive cycle being repeated. As someone about to turn 18, the stress and worry I carry with me is not just about what college I should attend or showing up to work on time. I worry I am an extension of an abusive cycle. I feel it’s my birthright to break a wheel I was born into. 

My mom’s side of the family used to have family dinners. Once a month we would all get together, taking turns at everyone’s houses. As we would sit down to eat I could only ever notice the drinks that were being poured. An outsider looking in on my family would think all I could feel was love and laughter, but I am not an outsider. As glasses filled with drinks, worry filled me. I know the cycle and I know the behaviors. I fear each member of my family will be a tally to add to the list of abusers.

The night my uncle became just my dad’s brother to me the world that was in my head became a reality. I was well versed in the ongoing activities of my family members, but until that night I never saw it first hand. I knew of two different worlds that addiction and substance abuse had to bring. As my grandpa will hopefully celebrate a whopping 15 years sober in October, my uncle refuses the help my father tried so desperately to give. 

When I think of my grandpa and his life choices I do not see him as his addiction. Yes, he made a life that will follow him forever, but he also got clean. He sought the help he needed and got better for his family and himself. When I think of my dad’s brother I see his addiction plain and simple. He doesn’t want to get better, and as much as addiction is more than just stopping, he chose this life. However, I sympathize with him. I hate to admit I still have a love for him. He had an angel, devil, and someone in between. His brother, willing to help him get out of this place, himself and drugs calling him back again and again, and his mother unknowingly helping him stay there. 

My freshman year of high school I had to take a health class. When we had gotten to the substances section I knew uncomfortable conversations would happen. When I was leaving the class I felt okay, the class discussion went surprisingly well. As I packed my bag and began to walk out, I heard two girls talking, “Addiction isn’t a real thing.” The rest of their conversation was a blur. I wondered how someone could say that, I was enraged at how uneducated and unaware youth, and even adults are. I have seen the things substance addiction can do, for someone to blatantly diminish the disease people I love suffer from felt insulting.

Addiction and substance abuse is real. It is a real disease that people unfortunately suffer from. My entire life it felt taboo to speak out about, I never wanted to step on toes or make anyone uncomfortable. I have come to learn that toes need to be stepped on, stories need to be heard. As lonely as I feel, I know I am not the only one dealing with the mental debate of what to do or how to feel. Addicts need to know they are not alone, the affected need to know they are not alone. 


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I remember groaning internally when my sophomore English teacher announced the book we would be reading in class was “The Glass Castle”. Having read the book before, I knew it would bring up some interesting discussion amongst my class, but I could have never imagined the severity of their comments. Sentiments like “Addicts only care about themselves” and “Why don’t they just quit” were expressed repeatedly throughout the quarter. While comments like these seem innocent they are extremely offensive to addicts and their family. In their defense how could they have known there was a daughter of an addict amongst them. The daughter? Me. The addict? My dad. 

Growing up, my dad was my best friend. We did everything together and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Even after my parents split, I was still drawn to my dad. Sure, me and my mom were close, but I have always felt a deep rooted connection to him. I didn’t know why I felt so connected to my dad until I was 14. When my mom finally opened up about a man I didn’t recognize as my father. For the first five years of my life my dad was an alcoholic. Being so young, I don’t have memories of him like this which is a good thing. But, I also don’t really have many memories of him at all because of this. He was present in my life, but he wasn’t really ever there. He spent a lot of his time passed out or contemplating his next drink, but this part of my life doesn’t really change my opinion on my father. Even though times were hard, I knew he still loved and cared for me. He just needed to get over this hurdle. 

Within a few months of their split my father checked himself into rehab. I don’t remember anything from this time, but I can confidently say this decision has impacted the last twelve years of my life. If my dad didn’t enter recovery I fear we wouldn’t have the relationship we have today. I know his story isn’t uncommon, but his recovery is quite the opposite. About 15 million Americans are currently struggling with alcoholism, but only 18 percent of alcoholics are able to abstain from drinking for a year. This year my dad is celebrating 12 years of sobriety. This is considered a miracle, but his doesn’t have to be one of the few. If we could open our eyes and try to better understand the people who suffer, maybe my dad wouldn’t be one of the few. 

Biological Factors weren’t considered a huge defining factor in an addict until recently. Scientists estimate a person’s genetics account for 40-60 percent of their risk of substance use disorder. These individuals carry a mix of gene variations that influence their ability to develop an addiction. One of those individuals is me. 

Statistics like these are what keep me up at night. Never before did I think my father’s disease would define my future. To me, this is the hardest part of being the child of an addict. Not having control over you’re own future is terrifying. My entire life I have felt trapped behind statistics, never knowing if I’ll beat the odds. I have spent almost the entirety of my teenage years constantly fearing the person I might become. While everyone else my age is going out to parties and doing “normal” teenage things, I am sitting at home fearing my own shadow. Constantly worrying about something I can’t control because of the overwhelming fear of becoming someone I am ashamed of. I don’t really understand where my thought process has come from considering I would never look at my father the way I look at myself. But then again, addiction wouldn’t be as powerful if it didn’t try to tear you to the ground. 

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous defines addiction as a “threefold illness: a physical allergy, a mental obsession, and a spiritual malady.” This is the definition of addiction I choose to apply to my own life. Although I am not an addict, I too have found comfort in AA’s 12 steps. While I don’t practice everything my father does, this book has provided me with comfort. Knowing I am incharge of the outcome of my own life has become a crucial part of my own healing and growth. No longer will I spend my entire life being afraid of something I cannot control. No longer will I let addiction define my life story. I am my own person, not my father. While I applaud him for his own success, I will no longer sit by and assume I will have to do the same thing. I am more powerful than a potential disease. 


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