(I actually wrote this post a few months ago, but decided now is a good time to actually publish it.)
I am 32 years old, and as far back as I can remember, there has been a pattern of drug and/or alcohol-related death in my family. My maternal grandmother had 13 children; however, I only knew and had a relationship with eight of them. Of the eight I had a relationship with, only three remain—my mother, an aunt, and an uncle. The other five aunts and uncles succumbed to their drug and alcohol addictions. Thankfully, my mother, aunt, and uncle are not on drugs, and only drink occasionally. I’m even more grateful for the fact that my mother has never tried drugs and she rarely drinks.
I’m writing this post because in early March of this year, I found out that the eldest of my grandmother’s children – my 70-year-old uncle – passed away from a methamphetamine addiction. I was pretty shocked by the news because never in a million years would I have thought that this uncle would be associated with drugs in any manner. He was bright and responsible, and didn’t strike me as the kind of person who would intentionally do himself any harm. After simultaneously learning of his addiction and death, I felt compelled to write my feelings because this manner of death is an all-too-common occurrence in my family, and I desperately want better for us and I’m determined to have a better life.
The cycle of drug abuse and alcoholism doesn’t have to continue; it can be stopped. Just because I was exposed to a particular way of life growing up, doesn’t mean I have to allow that to take root and manifest itself into life-destroying behavior. I believe that’s why I felt the urge to write this post because I can be one of the ones in my family to break the cycle. I knew at a very early age that I didn’t want to live like family members who were living to support drug habits. They were all my motivation to do better. Did I have an abundance of resources? Well, yes and no. I had resources in the respect of mentors and those who saw potential in me and encouraged me to excel in school. I also had the courage to talk to my school counselor about how I was impacted by my family members’ drug and alcohol addictions. I shared with her that I didn’t want to fall victim to that same way of life, and thankfully my counselor pointed me in the direction of resources to further my education. On the flip side, financial resources were very scarce. My mother worked hard, but didn’t make a lot of money. Despite that fact, she gathered together what she could and emptied her CD to help me start my college education. Every time I think about that, it humbles my heart and makes me so incredibly grateful for her and her sacrifice. She, too, wanted more for me.
I know that there’s so much more to life than chasing the next high. I want to help those in my family realize that we are so much more than our past. We don’t have to perpetuate the cycle; we can break the cycle and chart a new course and legacy for our family. Let us learn from the mistakes of those gone before us, and choose life. Will the road be easy? Sometimes yes, but most often it won’t be. It’s during those times of challenge that we have to persevere and focus on the desire to be better than our past.
I want to be someone my children can look up to and be proud of. I want them to aspire to be even better than the model my soon-to-be husband and I set for them. I don’t want them to look at me as talent wasted, or a life not lived to its full potential. I want to inspire drive and determination. I want to inspire the generation after mine to excel even further than the one before. It’s like Gandhi said, “The future depends on what we do in the present”, and so the time to break this toxic cycle is now.