Name: Alexandra Medina
From: Columbia, Missouri
School: University of Missouri Columbia
How does one person.........
How does one person, one voice, one experience make a difference in a crisis that
not only continues to grow exponentially but has no bias towards age,
gender or race. How does one address an epidemic that hides in the
deepest darkest parts of our subconscious? For me, a young woman who
grew up with loving parents, who sheltered my brother and I from the
nightmares of the outside world by raising us in private schools,
pushing us into sports and academics, keeping the secrets of both
sides of our family hidden away as to not have us thrown into the
world of drugs and alcohol addiction.
Growing up my father would sit us in front of the TV if there happened to be a
program about drug addiction, prison and /or gang life. My mother
wasn’t a fan of this being we were so young but I now know why he
did it and ultimately why it worked. He wanted us to see the harsh
brutal reality of going down the path of drug and alcohol addiction
and where it could lead. He held nothing back and would often ask us
what we thought about the specific program we had just watched.
My first experience of seeing the effects of drug addiction came from a visit
to my father’s job in downtown Chicago. As we walked to his office
a homeless man walked ahead of us, yelling and screaming to no one,
or no one we could see. I was terrified and held my father’s hand
in complete fear. When we got to my father’s office he sat me down
and asked me what I was thinking. I couldn’t comprehend what I had
just seen. My father explained that that individual lived in his own
hell, whether it be from drugs, alcohol or mental illness. That I
should understand that it could happen and does happen to anyone from
any walk of life. To this day many years later, I never forgot that
As I got older I started to hear the stories on how addiction had taken an enormous
toll on both sides of our family. Drug and Alcohol addiction had
taken the lives of past family members in brutal ways. There was an
aunt who overdosed and was left for days by her drug addicted husband
while the children were still in the house and the uncle who could
drink an entire pint of Vodka in one deep swallow who died on his own
vomit. There were also family members sent to prison due to drugs.
Their lives lost into a system with a bleak outlook. Not only were
there deaths but the emotional and psychological effects of drugs and
alcohol in our family had such deep roots that my parents kept us
away from other family members.
How does one person make a difference? I don’t have that answer,
but my decision to go into the field of Psychology, I believe, could
be my way of addressing the issues behind the dark hidden giant that
takes a hold and never wants to let go.