The end goal in most peoples’ lives is being in a serious committed relationship. You always hear “you’ll know when its right” along with “it takes real work”. Being in one of these relationships myself has taught me so much about relationships in just a few months. The first is that the spark is just the beginning. I’ve had multiple relationships where the spark feels so real and strong and I get so into it all only to be left without much once the spark is not as strong as it was in the beginning. I used to think the spark was love, but I don’t think that anymore. This new person has fully redefined as I know the word love. Love, for me, is knowing 100% deep down that this is it. Even when there are fights or hard times, I never doubt my love for him. The next is the moments. Those moments that are so intense that they are overwhelming. For me, this is laying in bed together just telling something little we love about the other, it is him coming behind me and hugging me with a kiss to my head when I’m making breakfast in the morning. It’s stopping by the store for a surprise for him or they way our eyes meet from across the room. I cannot give enough examples to fully explain this feeling but for anyone else, you’ll know when you feel it. It’s like emotions are flowing out of you faster than you can handle but in the best possible way. Another thing I’ve learned is how having someone to support you and then pick you up when it’s hard is amazing. When I want to pursue a dream that isn’t the most logical I don’t even get a questionable look from him. When I have to make a tough decision for the best of my family which means losing a relationship with my mother, he looks at me and tells me he will just love me extra to fill that void. Sure, everyone has their difficulties to overcome and their little fights. But, if you can find a partner that will openly talk through these things with you, they will seem so minuscule compared to all the good. I feel so grateful every day that I get to feel this unbelievable love and if I could feel this love for the rest of my life, well, that would be a dream come true.
I’m not sure when this rule of mine came about, but at some point I decided that I would not tell people my childhood until the asked the question that almost always came up eventually of, “So, why do you live with your great-grandparents?” . I must’ve just decided that it was too uncomfortable of a thing to bring up and that until someone asked; they were not ready to know. The weird thing about this is that to me my story I not uncomfortable or emotional or awkward. This is my life and I don’t know any other life. My great-grandparents raised me to turn things positive and never dwell on the negatives. An example of this comes about when I was about 9 and would tell my family that, “At least my childhood will be a good story to tell on first dates later in life!”. Although I do not try to start out dates with this now a days, I do take this as a sign that I was just taking my story and turning it positive. So, now I will move on to my answer to the great-grandparent question. Being asked over and over again for almost 15 years, I have come up with two versions of my story. The first is the very condensed version. In this story, I tell that my parents were heroin addicts and my Nana came to visit and realized it was no place for a child. She decided to take me to live with her until my parents got their act together, and they just never really got that straightened out. I always found it interesting to see how different people react to me opening up to them about this part of me. When I was in elementary school I had a few negative responses when kids would go home and tell their parents about me and then my Nana would have to sit down with me and tell me that I couldn’t play with so or so because their parents were afraid. Afraid of what I would always be confused about. I lived in a nice neighborhood with awesome guardians. When I was a teenager I got my answer when again this issue came up. A boy’s parents thought that I would get their child into drugs because of my parents. I told him that I didn’t get it because I hadn’t lived with my parents for many years. After thinking about it for a few minutes though, I realized the real reason. It was that they knew having two addict parents gave me a pre-disposition to be an addict myself and this was too much for them to have their child around. All my life I have been told that I needed to be more careful to most and that I have a high chance of becoming an addict with my genetic history. The funny part about this is that I know myself and that I have the very opposite of that. For me, my parents being addicts meant that I wanted to stay far away from drugs. After seeing what I have and how much a drug can hurt people that you love, the thought of trying a hard drug would not even cross my mind for a second. This is what those parents didn’t understand though. I really can’t blame them though; I do see where they are coming from. In my lifetime I have met a good handful of people my age that had very similar childhoods to me. Sadly, more often than not, these children grew up to be addicts, at least for a short portion of their lives. I really think that the environment that people end up in after being taken away from their parents has the biggest impact on their future developments. For me, I was taken to my family members who I was most close with and gave me a safe and nurturing environment in which to excel and flourish. I will never be able to thank my great-grandparents enough for giving me this. In the other children I met, their situations ranged from foster care to growing up with aunts, to being tossed around between family members. For methods of privacy, I will call the first friend Laura. I met Laura at summer camp when I was 15. This was a 2 week overnight acting camp so we stayed in dorm rooms of two people. Luckily for me, Laura happened to be my roommate. Somehow, that first night of camp Laura and I stayed up all night talked. When she mentioned that she lived with her Aunt and Uncle, we got into our stories. I listened as she told me how her mom was an addict and how her dad was abusive. We took turns telling memories until the sun started to rise. I felt so happy to have someone my age going through the same exact thing to share with. The difference between Laura’s story and mine though was that she didn’t always live with her aunt. Laura had gotten kicked out of various family members’ houses and was moved around fairly frequently for bad behavior. Yet, if she is not in a stable home, of course she is going to act out. Over the two weeks of camp we got super close and promised that we would keep in touch. Like many promises, this one did not hold up for too long. Soon the school year started and we faded away. Through Facebook, I have kept up to date with her though and learned that sadly Laura fell into an addiction to heroin in her late teens and became sexually frisky which ended up with her being a teen mom. I’m not saying that Laura doesn’t have a great life now, because she is now clean and look to very much love her son. All I am pointing out is that a stable home really does go a long way. Even at my age, I know that I have a home and people to call that will help and/or support me through anything at any time of the day.
Another person I met was about a year later on a cruise ship. Brad was a very energetic and smiley kid about 2 years younger than me. My cousins and I ended up meeting Brad in a young teen “club” that was on the ship and since he was just there with his grandparents, we invited him to hang out with us for the trip. Over the course of the first few days I made references to my great-grandparents and he eventually asked the question that everyone asks. After my response, Brad asked if we could talk alone in my cabin. We agreed to a time and I was very curious as to what he was going to tell me. When Brad entered my cabin he had on that big smile he constantly wore and come over to sit on the bunk bed adjacent to mine. Brad explained to me how the grandparents he was on the ship with were his guardians too and that he had never had anyone other than them to talk about his childhood with. I of course told him that he could confide in me, and Brad started to tell me his story. Immediately, the perky Brad changed his demeanor totally and his smile turned right down. To this day I have never heard such a heartbreaking story as I heard in that cabin. Brad’s parents were addicts, like mine and also fought a great deal, like mine. Yet one night, his father got even angrier than most. Brad walked out of his room to see his father holding a large kitchen knife to this mother’s throat and threatening her. I don’t remember the details of why the father was so mad but the next part I remember as vividly as if I was hearing it for the first time. Tears started to roll down Brad’s adolescent skin as he continued to explain how, at this moment, he started to scream to his dad to stop. Brad’s father then dropped his mother to the floor and walked over to Brad, pulling his small body close to his as he now held the knife up to his throat. He said that if Brad said one word of this to anyone he would slice his mother’s throat and Brad’s right after that. By this time Brad was almost hysterically crying in the cabin. I was so in shock that I didn’t even know what emotion to have. I decided that no words could be said and decided to instead just give him a hug.
One Christmas that marked a major life realization for me occurred when I was 10 years old. My mom was coming for Christmas and it would be the first that I could remember her being at. As the days before Christmas passed by, she kept calling me on the phone to tell me that she was coming. I would keep telling her she was the only present I needed as she kept saying how she wouldn’t have much more money for presents. As with most 10 year olds, I was restless that Christmas Eve night awaiting a day of presents and family. The morning came and I started opening the mounds of colorfully wrapped boxes that my Nana always spoiled me with. Finally, the phone rang. My grandma handed me the cord phone and I hear my grandpa’s voice with his normal greeting, “Hello ladybug”. His voice sounds solemn though and I listen as he tells me that my mom is in the hospital, she had overdosed. I hang up the phone and go up into my room. As I start thinking, I tell myself that I will not let my mom ruin my favorite day of the year. I took all the emotions surrounding this event into a box in my mind and wrapped it up as I would a present. I told myself that I would deal with it all, but tomorrow. Today was my day and I was going to enjoy it. As quickly as I made that decision, I was again happy and went back downstairs to open the rest of my presents. Spending the day playing my new Nancy Drew computer game and dressing my new American girls filled the day with joy. Now, I remember the next day having a long talk with my Nana about my emotions surrounding the overdose, but only vaguely. Much more than that day though, I remember the long hours of toys and excitement on Christmas day. This really marks the first time I started to compartmentalize my emotions. Everyone in life goes through hard times and everyone needs to learn to deal with emotions and events. For me, being able to box up an emotion until I am in a time and place that is right to handle them is extremely helpful. Now, I’m not saying I am perfect at this. Sometimes the emotions do take over and there is nothing I can do. When I’m at work though and start thinking of something that is making me upset, I can easily turn that off until I get in the car to go home and then it comes out.
I’m sitting in the back of a ratty stolen car as I try to focus on my “Get Ready for 1st Grade” activity book. My parents are in the front seat arguing like always and I stare as the simple math problems on the page trying to tune them out. The car comes to a screeching halt and my dad steers it towards the side of the road. No surprise to me, even as a 7 year old, the car is broken down again. My father looks back to me and says, “I’ll be right back princess” with a soft smile and gets out of the car. I stay quiet as the door slams shut and my mom turns on the radio. I squint to look through the windshield as I see my father get smaller and smaller until he disappears from my view. For a few seconds I stay staring out that window. Fog has started to creep up the edges during this early spring night. The hours pass and I slowly drift off to sleep. Sounds of my mother crying wake me up. I look at the orange car clock to realize it has now been almost 6 hours since my dad has left and if my mom is crying, then something must be bad. My mind goes back to that image of my father walking away and I wonder if that will be my last memory of him.
As I snap back to reality I realize this was just another one of my flashbacks. I am 22 and not that 7 year old little girl. It’s crazy how vivid memories can be though. I swear I can still see the fog on the window of that car. Not to spoil the ending, but I do see my father after that dark night all those years ago. As I watched my mom cry in the thoughts that my father was dead, he had walked to a payphone to call his buddy to pick him up to get high. As he shot that magical drug into his veins, we sat cold and alone stranded in the Bronx. Psychologists, Google, and addicts themselves have tried to explain drug addiction to me. No matter how many times I read an article or see hard facts, I will never understand. How could a powdery substance cause a man to abandon his wife and only daughter? The story you are about to hear is not focused on addiction itself. This story follows a young woman trying to make sense of her childhood. It shows you the other side of addiction, the one of the affected children.
Dear baby brother,
Here it is summer 2014 and yet again I am writing to you. Since my last letter you have started to settle into your new permanent home with our aunt. She called me yesterday and was talking about how she’s concerned because you have a few developmental delays and confusing reactions to things. Whenever you talk to our mom on the phone or skype, you get very irritable and angry afterwards. Our aunt was asking me if this could be a result of you being in foster care or moved around so much. Im sure it 100% is. You’ll be fine and amazing but know that even as a two year old you were affected by everything. In my life at around age 12-13ish I started to realize everything. I finally comprehended that my parents were drug addicts and that I would never be like the other kids. Brother, I know you too will feel this way. It makes me so sad because I would never want anyone to ever feel like I have felt. Just remember to thank our aunt because she loves you unconditionally and remember that the rest of us are here for you forever and always.
How do we define change? How do we deal with change? There is no right or wrong answer to either of these questions. For me, change has always been hard. I’ve been told time and time again that humans are not easily accustomed to change. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of change because there are so many intense feelings surrounding the topic. I recently made the largest change of my life by moving across the country where I know almost no one and moving away from the guy I’ve loved for 6 years. Leading up to the move I felt nervous, excitement, and anxiety. Yet more than all this I was in denial. Whenever the thought popped into my head I quickly pushed it away and pretending nothing was happening. Of course, eventually I had to deal with the feelings. Within a few days of living in the new city I started to realize just how permanent this decision is. During the day I would go to my new job and feel so happy and excited only to go home and feel the most lonely I ever have felt. It’s crazy how extreme emotions are around a major life change. Happy then sad then tired and anxious. I know though that soon this new city and new life won’t feel so new anymore. Soon this will be my normal and I won’t want to leave. I tell myself this during those lonely nights because meeting people as an adult isn’t as easy as in college. Yet people move on and make friends. People settle and dig roots. Before we know it, the place that was once so scary turns into the place wee call home.
Dear baby brother,
I know you are too young now to understand this but know that I will never let you be an addict. I can tell you story after story about our family to scare you away from drugs forever. I just talked to our mother and she was even more paranoid than ever. Lately, every conversation we have starts off with talking about the weather and quickly turns to how everyone is spying on us and they government is going to put chips in us soon and follow us everywhere we go. She goes on and on about this until I can’t take it anymore and I tell her I have to go. I miss so much the days I could call my mother and just tell her about my day or ask her for life advice. Those days are over for now. I know that all this is just the drugs, but I truthfully don’t know if she is going to get out of this hole this time. She is living in some tweaker pad currently and is “against the man”. When I call our grandmother she gets upset and says she just hope this drug doesn’t kill my mom. Our mother is hurting everyone by her addiction. I mean look at you, you are still in foster care because of it. After hanging up with our mother today, my father calls. He says how he wants to be more involved in my life. Yet, I don’t think I can handle going through another person’s addiction with them. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done because I feel so helpless and I hear our mother get worse and worse with each call. So, baby brother, I will never let you even dabble with drugs. I promise I will do everything in my power to stear you away. Starting with this letter. XoXo
I feel like I’m running through life. Like I’m in a seemingly never ending race towards something. As I fill my days to the max with work, school, whatever I can, I feel nothing. I feel indifferent to everything, I’m numb. I get so accustomed to this that I feel there is nothing else. Yet, when I stop running for a minute and start to feel, I get overwhelmed. Feelings of sadness, worry, fear. They pile in so fast as if a Dam broke and the water is rushing in. I must start running again. I can’t yet deal with all of this. For some reason I keep thinking the end is my big move. I have some magical idea that when I move everything will be fine and I can finally stop running. Realistically though I know this won’t work. I need to start dealing with my fear for my brother, my feeling of a one sided relationship, my fear over moving, and all of this before it builds up anymore. It’s going to be okay. My brother WILL move here, my boyfriend DOES love me, my mom WILL get better, my grandpa WILL be okay, my father WILL keep his promises. Over and over I will repeat these words until I hopefully believe them.
Yesterday during our 10 minute phone call, you were mumbling and dosing off so bad that I only picked out 3 or 4 words you said. I know this is a sign that you are beyond high on heroin. What made me start crying though is that all during this you are driving a car. You tell me something about getting into a car accident and as I can’t hear your bullshit reason for not going to the hospital I know it was because you were probably also high then. I don’t get how you think this is all okay? Every time we have talked the past months you have sounded worse and worse. Everyone sees that you are on a fast downhill spiral. One may think I would be used to your relapses by now but this one seems different. More desperate, more hopeless, all together more extreme. I am so worried mother. I want you to come to my wedding, see my first child be born, and help me through adult life. Most of all I want my baby brother to know you. I got a good few years but he hasn’t gotten that yet. I want more than anything for you to look at your children and see us as a reason to live. A reason to finally go to that rehab that has had a spot for you for weeks. You have the opportunity to not end up like your friend who just died from an overdose. Please just take it because I am not ready to lose you yet.
Starting with 20, I promised myself I would write on my birthday every year. So, here goes 22. It’s an interesting birthday because a year before I was 21 and it seemed like the biggest deal in the world. For weeks my friends were planning bar crawls, wine dinners, etc and everyone was counting down the days. I must add that I was one of the last people in my friend group to turn 21 so it was even more of a big deal. Now comes along 22 which I couldn’t care less about. There is no hype, no planned events except for a small family dinner. I’m not complaining, just commenting on how weird a feeling this birthday is to me. I woke up kind of annoyed instead of excited for the first time in my birthday history.
In this year I will graduate college, move across the country, start a new job, and meet a lot of new people. In short, I will be starting my adult life. So, I should be excited and not look down upon this newfound age. I am a year old than the 21 year old girl I was last year that had a lot of growing up still to do. I have a good life set in front of me just ready to walk into and to experience. As 21 was to me a year to be able to legally drink, 22 is a lot more in that it is the year of possibilities. I have no idea what will happen before my 23rd birthday post, but I know that it will be exciting. For now I will enjoy my last few months of my college career and be excited about my 22 year old future.