Growing Up With Addicted Parents
“I am the daughter of two beautiful people who were chained down. Ever since I can remember, my life has been affected by addiction.
My parents’ poison was prescription pills. When they wasn’t high, they were the most beautiful souls you could ever ask to be around. My dad was an amazing musician, and coal miner. My dad was also a talented carpenter. That man could make something breathtaking out of nothing. Not to mention the sense of humor he had! My mother, on the other hand, was the sweetest woman you could ever meet. She was always greeting you with ‘baby’ and ‘honey,’ and would give you the shirt off her back even if it were raining. Her smile was brighter than the sun and you couldn’t help but smile back.
My dad taught me to ride my bike at a young age and when I fell and scraped my knee, he picked me up and made me try again. He had so much patience and never let me quit, no matter what. My mom would dance awfully in the kitchen while she cooked. (I definitely get my dance moves from her, and her sweet nature.) Being kind is the best trait I personally feel anyone can have, and I’m so thankful my mom taught me to be kind at such a young age.
As wonderful as they were, when my parents were under the influence, they were two totally different people than what God designed them to be. There were many nights when I was around 5 years old that I would hide behind the couch praying that the fighting would stop. These fights happened often, and boy were they terrifying. These fights occurred for one reason and one reason only: pills. If my dad thought my mom was hiding a pill from him, there was Hell to pay.
I remember my father getting high and tearing the house upside down thinking my mother had hid a stash of pills from him. He would go from room to room, pulling clothes out of drawers and onto the floor. As a little girl, I watched as he did this and thought, ‘Wow, those pills must really mean a lot to him make such a big mess.’ He would even go as far as to taking boxes of cereal out of the cabinets and pouring the cereal all over the floor thinking my mom may have hid a pill in there.
Oftentimes, my father would get high and pass out, and my mom would sneak and get the car keys. We would be as quiet as we could and run to the car, and off we would go to a hotel for the night. The next day when my dad came off from his high, he would apologize and try to make up for how he had acted. Unfortunately, it was always the same situation as soon as he got high again.
When I was little, I slept with my mom. One night after everyone had gone to sleep, my dad snuck in our bedroom and set a basket full of clothes on fire. I woke my mom up and she was able to throw the basket out of the window in time before the room caught on fire. I was so terrified. I got in front of my dad and cried to him, ‘Daddy, if I had any mommy to pick from in the whole wide world, I would still choose MY mommy.’ He cried with me. Pills had such a hold on my dad that he didn’t even care his own daughter was in that room. That’s what drugs will do to you. They will make you do some crazy things and not care who you bring down with you.
A lot of times at night when the fighting would start, my heart would sink into my chest; I would be so scared. The screaming, the sound of items being thrown. Soon, I knew the physical violence would start. I would climb out my window, barefoot, and run down a gravel road by the light of the moon to my grandmother’s house where she would either call 911 or my other grandmother to come get my brother and I.
When I was 11 years old, while getting ready for school, I heard a knock at the door. I opened and there were blue lights everywhere. Much to my surprise, it was the police and they surrounded our home. My parents were caught up in a drug bust. To make matters worse, there was a news reporter there to catch it all on camera. You can imagine my embarrassment, terror, and shame as I walked down the hill past that news camera to my grandmother’s house. (Thank God social media wasn’t a thing back then, because I don’t think I could’ve survived the thoughts of knowing everyone and their mother knowing my parents were addicts.) You see, at the time I thought it was this big secret I was keeping and that nobody knew. I also felt as if I was the only one in my school going through something like this.
My middle school years consisted of me bouncing between homes of relatives. I switched schools a total of 4 times in 3 years. One time, while at a new school, I was sitting on the gym floor during recess. 3 girls walked up to me and one of them spit on my face for no reason. This girl didn’t know what I was going through at home or why I had transferred there in the first place, and just when I thought life couldn’t get any lower, she proved me wrong.
My eight grade year, my mom landed herself in jail for almost a year. I remember the 1st time I went to visit her. At first she didn’t want me to because she didn’t want me to see her that way, ‘behind bars’ so to speak. She was ashamed of herself and her actions, and it showed. I sat down in a chair behind a glass window that would separate me from her, and a phone attached to the side of the wall so I could hear her voice. She sat down in the booth and tears just rolled down both our faces as we looked at each other. She put her hand against the glass, and I put my hand against hers. I’ll never forget the shame written all over her face. She picked up the phone and talked to me while trying to fight back the tears. I could hear the regret in her voice. Saying goodbye after our visits was always so hard. When we had free time at school, some kids would talk about their plans for the weekend or work on homework. I would write letters to my mom. I told her how much I loved and missed her, and how I wished I could have some of her spaghetti. My mom makes the best spaghetti.
While my mom was in jail, my dad decided to take us school clothes shopping and on the way back we stopped at my uncle’s house. At some point during the visit, my dad got high and decided he needed to run to the gas station. He ended up in a terrible wreck leaving him in a coma for 2 weeks. I remember visiting him a lot in ICU. There were many tubes hooked up to him, and it looked as if he was just laying there, sleeping. I would hold his hand and sing ‘you are my sunshine’ to him while tears rolled down my face. I thought I was gonna lose my dad. The one who is supposed to scare off the boys and watch me graduate high school and walk me down the isle. Thankfully, he recovered. My dad had to go to rehab because he had to learn to do a lot of things again. I remember coming to visit him, and the sheer look of joy was beaming from him. I was the apple of his eye. He laughed and smiled the whole time, and the nurse let me know how much my dad bragged on me.
Losing My Father To Addiction
Finally, my mother got out of jail and was back home with my dad. Social services told my parents in order to get custody of my brother and I, they needed to move away from that particular area, so a few months later that’s exactly what they did. ‘Finally!’ I thought. ‘Finally, I have a shot at having a normal life with a normal family!’ Life is about to get good. Unfortunately, the first night they moved into the house, my dad overdosed and died in his sleep. I was 14, and getting ready to start high school.
My mom grieved so much for my dad. She kept going downhill little by little with her addiction. She lost weight, and gained it back. She went through many emotions. My mom became my best friend. I could come to her with anything and I knew she would be understanding. At the age of 15, I got a job at local diner. I would say 90% of my meals came from there. My relationship with my mother started feeling like I was the mother and she was the child. I was the one asking her why she was hanging around with the wrong crowd, and I was constantly down her throat about her addiction. I loved my mother more than life itself and I was so afraid to lose her like I did my dad.
I remember leaving for school one morning and I heard a peck on the window. I turned around and it was my mom blowing me a kiss. I laugh and blew one back. I’ll forever be a mommy’s girl, there’s no denying that. I would often put my head in her lap. She would play with my hair and we would talk about boys. Having your mom as your best friend and secret keeper has its perks I suppose. My mom liked to write. She would write me letters sometimes, and I remember one of them saying something along the lines of, ‘Mommy is so proud of you. I know I’m not the best mom, but who knows. Maybe there is still hope.’ My mom was self-aware of her actions and how they affected us, but addiction kept pulling her back with every step forward she took. My mom felt as though she was a burden and we would be better off without her. She would sometimes say, ‘I wish it was me instead of your dad.’ That hurt to hear, but that’s how her addiction made her feel. A prisoner in her own body.
Losing My Mom
My senior year, I’m in my bedroom one night watching a movie and I hear a knock at my bedroom door. I open the door and it’s one of my mom’s friends telling me I need to go check on my mom. I go into her room, and she’s unresponsive, blue in the face and foaming out the mouth. I instantly run out of the house to a neighbor and call 911. The ambulance comes and takes her to the ER. The ambulance is driving so slow. WHY ARE THEY DRIVING SO SLOW?! I lost my dad, I can’t lose my mom, too!
We get to the ER and they bring my brother and I into a room and ask us some questions. My brother keeps asking how our mother is. They ignore the question and keep asking us questions. The next question comes. ‘How old was she?’ Right then I knew at the age of 17 in the middle of my senior year, I became a orphan. I lost my best friend. I kept thinking, ‘This can’t be real. How is this happening to me? I’ve been a good kid. I do what I’m asked, I don’t ever get in trouble.’ The cold hard truth is addiction doesn’t discriminate. Addiction doesn’t care if you have a family that needs you. Addiction doesn’t care if you’ve been a good person all your life. Addiction doesn’t care if you have 1 dollar or one million dollars. ADDICTION. DOSENT. CARE.
I couldn’t change what happened to my parents, but I was able to choose my own path. Thankfully, I had an amazing support system. I had family, friends, and a community that cared. The man who owned the diner I worked at set me up with an apartment. Teachers pushed me to finish school. I won’t say it was easy, because it definitely was not. I would sometimes be in class and I would put my earphones in and lay my head on the desk between my arms and cry. I made the decision to push myself. I could have very easily been a statistic…
But 10 years later, I am a wife, I am a mother, I am a provider with a career. I am the daughter of two beautiful people who were chained down by their addiction. My goal is to be a beacon of hope to those struggling and affected by addiction.
Spreading Addiction Awareness
This October marked 10 years since I lost my mother, and since then the rates of overdose has quadrupled. There are many of our youth here in the United States going through something similar at home and we as a community have to do something. We can start by showing support to any kid/teen you may know that are having a tough time at home. Be their support system. Let them know they have some fans in the stands that love them! Remind them they are loved, and worthy and they have a choice of how their life story goes.
If you’re struggling with addiction, please know that you are worthy of this life and your family and friends are worthy of you. As long as you still have a breath in your body, there is hope for you. Always remember there is no such place as too far gone. This life can be so beautiful, and you are deserving. You’re someone’s someone.”
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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Vada Ball of Oak Hill, West Virginia. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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