Her Name is Eliane
The word addiction has this negative stigma around it. Because only criminals are addicts. Addicts are deviants who get what they deserve. Hell, they did it to themselves! But why? Why would someone choose this path? Why would people consciously hurt their loved ones? This piece is titled “Her Name is Eliane” because I am using her to explain why.
Eliane. My embarrassingly outgoing grandma. Who believes everybody, including the local Asian store’s cashier, is her best friend. She often overshares; for instance, I never needed to know Grandma owns thongs with slits at the bottom “because they’re sexy”. But that’s Grandma, she’s fun to a fault. In her youth, Eliane was the beautiful girl-next-door with golden blonde hair and blue eyes. Nowadays, she has two missing front teeth and went through recovery from broken ribs. What happened? Addiction.
My bloodline is no stranger to it, including myself. And I would list off every relative that’s an addict, but I’d be better off just showing you my family tree. My mother, in tears, once called this phenomenon “the family curse”. There is no denying that there is a genetic component to addiction. Pulling from the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, scientists concluded the risk of addiction from genetics alone can be between 40 and 60 percent. (NIDA) If that is nature’s impact, what could it mean for nurture?
This is where I experience conflicting feelings towards my family, including Eliane. A few of her siblings never ended up having kids due to the childhood trauma they experienced. Maybe for good reason, since Eliane did not exactly end up being the best mother. My father, Mark, was her firstborn. When he reflects on his childhood, it is nothing but laughs. But it was a lot darker than that. As a byproduct of his environment, Mark developed anger issues. He jokingly told me a story of him as a teen, it was about how drunk Eliane threatened to call the police officers on him once, so he smashed all the phones in the house and took off in the family car. At the time when I heard that, I did not think twice about it. I just laughed, and it is so strange think about how normal crazy can be.
Eliane ended up with 3 kids. Who all exist with very separate but similar lives. My dad, though his anger issues have settled down with age, developed alcoholism. Which nearly led to my parent’s divorce this past February. But they have pushed through. The middle child is my aunt, who has slept around a bit, and for a while had tied herself off to an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. The baby of the family is Robbie, who is 13 years younger than my dad. Being the youngest, he spent the most time alone in his parent’s chaotic household.
Robbie fell in love with drugs from a young age. Experimentation with weed eventually led into meth. He had a son with his now ex, that was also a user at the time. When Robbie had to spend time in jail, the mom was not around for reasons I do not know. So, his son was left to be cared for by Eliane and my workaholic grandfather. There came a day Eliane was blacked out while caring for this toddler in her 4-story home. She fell down the stairs and couldn’t move at the bottom while my cousin cried. A neighbor found her, and Eliane was taken to the hospital to be treated for those broken ribs. She ended up spending time in jail on charges of child neglect. She experienced heavy withdrawals there, but I am sure the inmates loved her. She is quite the character even when she is sober.
Nurture has played a huge role in Eliane’s kids, and their lives are living proof of it. All of Eliane’s kids had teen pregnancies. All of Eliane’s kids developed addictions. All of Eliane’s kids were simply byproducts of their environment. Eliane herself, was one as well. There are a million stories I could tell, and a million more that I don’t know. But they would arrive at the same truth. If you ask me what the solution to addiction is, I’d tell you that I wish I knew. Addiction is a disease. But my mother, who has been through her own journey with family, has raised me by this truth: “I just want my kids to be better than me.”
Breaking my family’s generational curse is the only solution I have for my future children. I am starting this off by attempting to be a first-generation college graduate. I want to make my mom proud and cannot wait for the day my family will be watching me walk that stage. They live for me. As I do for them.
This was not easy to submit, but thank you Seasons in Malibu for all that you do. You’re doing the impossible.
“Drug Misuse and Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 13 July 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-misuse-addiction.