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Living with Addiction

A Daughter's Perspective

Strong Daughter, Writer

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Research has shown that the type of emotional support that a child receives during the first three and a half years has an effect on a child’s education, social life and romantic relationships even 20 or 30 years later. Babies and toddlers raised in supportive and caring home environments tend to do better on standardized tests later on, and they are more likely to attain higher degrees as adults. They are also more likely to get along with their peers and feel satisfied in their romantic relationships. Ultimately, they (WHO?) found that about 10 percent of someone’s academic achievement correlates with the quality of that person’s home life at age three. 

In 2010, an estimated 23.5 million Americans were addicted to alcohol and drugs. About 11% of those 23.5 million received treatment. My mother was one of the 23.5 million but not one of the 11%. The environment that my mother’s addiction created was not safe for anyone. When I was in kindergarten, my mom would drive me to school, and every day at the same stoplight she would pull out a five dollar bill and sniff up a white powdery substance. She told me not to tell anyone. She scared me and my younger sister into keeping quiet. By third grade I started noticing that there was less and less in our fridge and cabinets. It got so bad that in the summer of 2011 as I was heading into sixth grade, I started working for my uncle in his restaurant to help buy food.

I was a ten-year-old girl who did not play outside with her friends or have sleepovers; instead, I worked to provide for my sister, who was just barely a first grader. I juggled school, work and being a kid – it didn’t work. People would come into the restaurant just to laugh at me and call me poor, but we weren’t poor. My mom just spent so much money on her addiction that she didn’t have enough for her children.  I knew she was using drugs, but I never understood how bad it was until my sister asked me, “Why is Mommy always out with friends, and you’re always home with me or working with Uncle Billy? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

It’s common to think that if you get caught with drugs, everything is taken away unless you go into a rehab facility. That is a possibility, but there are many steps that the government takes before that. If my mom didn’t get it together, she was in such a bad position that she could have easily overdosed and died. She could have been arrested for possession of an illegal substance and child endangerment. Or she could lose custody of my little sister and lose her visitation rights.

Luckily my mother got help in February 2016. She didn’t go into a rehab facility; she joined a program called  Narcotics Anonymous (NA). NA is a nonprofit fellowship that helps people with addiction develop coping skills as recovering addicts. NA provides the members a safe space to connect with people going through similar situations. It is through NA that my mother has recognized her problem.  In order to remain sobriety my mother tries to spend as much time with me and my little sister as possible since she missed out on it when we were younger.

Drug addiction is a very real thing. It isn’t just happening on TV. Anyone can be a drug addict. Because of my experience, I know first-hand how narcotics can completely control people’s lives.  And since both of my parents were addicts, I know I’m at a higher risk of addiction. Knowing these things is scary.

When viewing these situations, it’s easy to forget that the addict is an actual person. It’s important to see addiction from his or her perspective because there is almost always a reason behind it. Knowing the reason doesn’t mean you are excusing the addiction. Instead, if you understand that person’s mindset, if you know what has happened and where the person is coming from, it makes it easier to help them. Not all addicts are bad people; they’re people who have made few bad decisions.

It’s important for people to understand that addiction knows no restrictions. Things like this can happen anywhere. Just as important, support and recovery can happen, too.  

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