Name: Alison Lu
From: Honolulu, Hawaii
A Slow Metamorphosis
Alcohol addiction: a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol. The amount of scotch, sake, and wine my dad consumes in a day is comparable to the amount of water an average person drinks. On most nights, he shuts himself in his room with his bottles. On rare occasions, he comes out of his room and sits on the living room couch with my mom and me, but all they do is fight over his excessive alcohol consumption before he slinks back to his room, bottle in hand.
It didn’t use to be this way. My dad used to come home from work and prepare dinner. The kitchen would fill with the fresh aroma of ginger, garlic, and green onions. After dinner together, we watched singing competitions like “The Voice” or played a round of Chinese checkers that lasted into the evening.
Gradually, however, my dad began spending less time with my mom and me, and more time with his alcohol. I did not say anything because his consumption seemed moderate, limited to just a glass or two. But, it soon became entire bottles on a regular basis, and things deteriorated at home. My living room quickly descended into a battle arena, where nightly screaming matches erupted between my mom and dad over his excessive drinking.
One evening, my dad grew increasingly hostile and aggressive, lashing out sharp, verbal abuse at me. I ran into my room, tears streaming down my face, and locked myself inside. I crawled into bed and wrapped my arms around my knees to stop the shaking as I drowned myself in soulful ballads, crying to sleep.
Following that night, I grew further apart from my dad. I spent less and less time with him for fear of saying something that would trigger another violent outburst. But the growing rift with my dad caused uneasiness in me. Seeing an ordinary scene of a family sharing a picnic at the park would remind me of my fondest memories of my dad: rushing me to the hospital after I scraped both knees from playing soccer and taking me to the bookstore to teach me Chinese language tones.
As much as he hurt me, I missed my dad, and deep down, I still love him. When I think of all the times I could have been with my dad, I can’t hold back my tears. Flipping through old photo albums, I noticed how much my dad has aged and how much time has passed, and I regret not spending more time with him. His health has also deteriorated, and now, I no longer see him as the man who yelled at me for no reason, but as my dad who has problems with alcohol.
Despite these hardships, I continued to work hard academically by maintaining a 3.93 GPA while taking several honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses each year and being recognized as an AP Scholar. I became significantly involved in my community and at school and became a member of the National Honor Society. I conducted research on the worsening Hawaii Physician Shortage at the Johns A. Burns School of Medicine as a research assistant and attended the competitive American Legion Auxiliary Hawaii Girls State Program to discuss social issues in Hawaii and their possible solutions. At school, I became the president of Punahou’s Admission Tour Guide Club responsible for planning and organizing admission tours for prospective students and became a teacher assistant for the Punahou Mandarin Immersion Program teaching Chinese characters to students in grades K-5.
Seeing firsthand the effect that substance abuse had on my family, I became determined to help other families facing similar struggles. As a Congressional Award Gold Medalist and National President’s Volunteer Service Award Gold Medalist, I demonstrated initiative, dedication, and responsibility to community service by volunteering over 400+ hours in the previous two years at various medical facilities; personal development by working a part-time job at a bakery to pay for a summer course on addiction neuroscience; and physical fitness by becoming a varsity member of our school judo team to learn self-defense. I also worked to become Certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid to become adept at recognizing the signs of a person suffering from a variety of mental health disorders, including substance abuse and addiction, and being able to provide initial care until professionals arrive.
I wish to study alcohol addiction, substance abuse, and the etiology of alcohol addiction, with a focus on the sociocultural influences of alcohol use. Through conducting research at Brown’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies on neurological changes due to substance abuse, I aspire to advance our current understanding of substance use to help the very people and their families who are affected by alcohol and addiction issues every day and become a physician specializing in the field of alcohol use and addiction.
In the future, I plan on assisting neighborhoods in Hawaii with drug abuse problems, to discuss the risks of drug addiction with community members, and to create a program with surrounding facilities to help those afflicted through rehabilitation. I hope that by becoming a physician specializing in addiction medicine, I can destigmatize addiction and substance abuse in Hawaii and nationwide.