From: Tigard, OR
my bike?” I asked my mom one warm summer morning. Although I live
on a secluded street and my bike had been left out of sight from
anyone passing by, it seemed to have been stolen. My grandma gave me
that bike, it was the most beautiful aqua blue beach cruiser and it
was one of my favorite things. My grandma also had recently just
moved in with us. She’d been living in the Portland Rescue Mission
and my parents decided to open our house to her with the promise that
she would abstain from drinking and abusing prescription drugs. What
I didn’t know then was her promise didn’t last long and my mom
(who has done everything to shelter me from the host of addicts she
calls her family) had recently had a fight with her about her
wrong?” My grandma says over-hearing me talking to my mom, “Her
bike is gone.” My grandma then throws some shoes on and walks off
with her wild hair and frumpy clothes through our neighborhood, right
past the house of the neighbor boy who had asked me only a few days
prior if my grandma “…had special needs” due to her erratic
behavior. About a half hour later my grandma comes back, pushing the
bike up our hill towards our driveway. “I found it!” she says.
She claimed she was a little psychic and knew it would be in the
bushes, deep in the woods, down at the bottom of our hill. I burst
into tears as I realized my grandma had stolen and hidden my bike.
What my mom recently told me is that when my grandma was drinking she
would take things she had once given as gifts if she felt people were
mean to her and didn’t deserve them anymore. She would then
sometimes give them back in order to be thanked and appreciated.
family has a very long line of drug and alcohol abuse. In addition to
my grandma, I have an uncle in prison resulting from a meth
addiction, and an aunt who can’t get through the day without self
medicating with alcohol. None of these people speak to each other,
they all speak through my mom. Drugs and alcohol have literally split
up my family. The irony of it all is my great-grandparents were
leaders in AA boasting over 35 years of sobriety. My great-grandpa
was once awarded Los Angeles’s drug and alcohol counselor of the
year during his time as an addiction therapist. And my grandma (the
bike thief) was a rehab nurse at Hazelden for years. I will refer to
my family a lot in this essay as I feel they give me the best insight
into this nationwide problem.
believe we are dealing with an addiction crisis
drugs and alcohol look attractive to young people. Even recovery from
addiction is often glorified. You see gorgeous people smoking cigars
and drinking in movies; suburban moms having Wine Wednesdays or
saying how “It’s almost time for my
wine!” As if wine is the only thing they look forward to each day.
You hear about the fun times in college with the parties and the
unforgettable nights. Oftentimes you hear of wild stories from
recovering addicts but always under the umbrella of humor, as if
talking about the good ol’ days…”Wow, wasn’t I so wild, ha ha
ha!”. Yes these stories start with how addiction ruined their lives
but what adolescents hear is how fun it was when they were wasted.
With children being raised hearing all this it’s understandable how
the 2 week drug and alcohol lesson received twice in high school
barely impacts a person. Although that first drink or smoke won’t
kill or severely harm you, it can in the future. Drugs and alcohol
can turn into self medication. That Wine Whatever’day may turn from
a social event to just another excuse to medicate your stress,
anxiety, and pain.
consequences can vary greatly for each individual.
day you may be living in a nice house with a family then within a
short time you are house hopping until there’s no houses left to
hop to. My uncle was a multi-millionaire before he became addicted
and ended up on the streets. My grandmother as I mentioned was a
registered nurse whose life’s passion was to help people, not steal
from them. She too ended up homeless. On the flip side of that my
aunt is able to be a “functioning alcoholic”. She manages to go
to work each day before returning home and drinking herself to sleep.
While her consequences aren’t as immediately threatening as others
she has slowly shortened her life span, alienated friends and set a
bad example for those younger family members whom she claims to love
so much. I don’t know of an example of someone who is substance
addicted in which their addiction hasn’t had some impact on their
first line of defense in remedying alcoholism and drug abuse is to
STOP GLORIFYING IT, so the next generation has a chance to learn
better coping strategies and ways to have fun. Ask someone you know
who seems to drink or smoke marijuana responsibly why they do it.
Usually the answer is because they’ve had a stressful day, to let
loose and relax or to help with their anxiety and depression. This is
the message young adults take with them to college but with very few
lessons on how to manage their intake and with a barrage of media,
both traditional and social, encouraging them to use. The sooner
people start turning to substances to manage these moods the sooner
it can turn into an addiction. As I am writing to a rehab facility I
know my words may be read by recovering addicts who are now
caretakers. But if you are still a drinker, stop for a moment and ask
yourself if you drink more now than you did even a few years ago?
When you drink, do you wake up in the morning remembering you had set
out to just have two and ended up drinking three or more? Maybe these
aren’t the right questions for this audience but I can safely say I
do not know a single adult who can honestly answer “no” to either
of those questions, regardless if society would label them an addict.
This is what every young adult I know sees and is taught is normal.
I feel we have to begin to fund treatment that is truly accessible by
all. I have another uncle (yes, really) who was drug addicted and my
parents paid for a prestigious rehab for him in Pasadena. His Co-Pay
was $600 a week (for 90 days). My dad was on a military Captain’s
salary at that time so it was a major strain on our finances.
However, this was the final time he was in rehab (after many attempts
at other free or reduced facilities) and is now clean and living a
wonderful life. My grandmother was also finally able to get sober
after going to an in-patient facility in Georgia that treats dual
diagnosis cases (both mental illness and addiction simultaneously).
She was ineligible to have this paid for through Obamacare and was
relegated to lesser types of facilities that would either help with
her addiction or with her mental health, but never both and never as
in depth and for as long as the treatment she received in Georgia.
Once treatment was over they would drop her back off at the homeless
shelter with a pamphlet of local meetings. This didn’t just happen
at one or two low cost facilities either. The follow-through was
never there so she would return to drinking almost immediately. My
point here is we have a major class division in this country when it
comes to treatment that is available. Lower income patients do not
have the same access to the institutions that have higher cure rates.
Oftentimes the most successful humans are now living in poverty due
to their addictions, which they can’t get effective treatment for
because of their income level. But regardless of if you used to be
rich or you’ve always been poor, every human deserves the same
access to high quality treatment.
grandma stealing my bike seems trivial I know. Other than a few mean
texts and the bike incident I wasn’t directly affected by her
behavior. However it doesn’t mean I haven’t inadvertently
suffered. What I was unable to be shielded from was the pain and
agony it caused my mom, at times causing such anxiety that she became
severely ill. I also had to decline going to the top ranked
universities (including my dream school) that I was admitted to
because a lot of my family’s resources had gone to helping my grandma
and getting my mom well. This is what I want people to know the next
time they make a joke about their daily “wine time”, or post a
meme about it always being 5 o’clock somewhere or say in front of
my little sister, “There ain’t no laws when you’re drinking
Claws!” Your abuse of alcohol may be felt for generations to come.
I am currently a pre-med major it is my hope to one day be very
active in reversing the pervasiveness of drug and alcohol addiction
by having an open and honest dialogue with all my patients. Until
then I will continue to speak realistically to my sorority and other
students about all the consequences of addiction.