“Where do I go from here?” A childhood filled with addiction


‘Where do I go from here?’ 

I was 7 years old when I first thought this. Surrounded by broken people abusing drugs and alcohol, my first reaction was to try to get out of this situation. Having no understanding of why my parents chose this lifestyle, I decided to do whatever I could to ease their stress. My best option was to excel at school and be the kid that doesn’t ask for things I knew we couldn’t afford. I learned that showing love was the only thing I had to offer and so I gave that to my parents to help them be happy without being under the influence. 

       My dad, a drummer, was heart-set on being the next Tommy Lee and loved being high on cocaine. My mom, a struggling soon-to-be single mother, was on and off Xanax. Both of them drank to alleviate pain, stress, and to have fun while forgetting about the bills. My pain was buried and my thoughts were always to do better to help us all escape from poverty because that was the biggest threat to my parents sanity and our family. I was very quiet, keeping straight A’s and to my escape – video games. This became my early addiction because I fell in love with the ability to distract myself from the chaos around me. Our living room would turn into a live concert where each of them loved to play music – which is why I never got upset with them – I didn’t want to see them unhappy and if this is what made them smile then let them be.

         It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Fighting, yelling, and placing blame on one another were common in our apartment. I’ve had things pawned and seen my parents high more than I care to remember. My dad was in and out of our lives dealing with his personal struggles and my mom changed boyfriends like they were new clothes to get help with the bills. I stayed quiet and my plan was to be successful, to rescue my family. 

      My parents are good people that got caught up in making bad decisions, probably due to the lack of acceptance and love by their parents. We all go through some form of discontent, but I believe it’s a mental and spiritual test because we also have the ability to show unconditional love and patience. Everyone learns at their own pace and for some the test may be more difficult or just take longer. Life may not be fair, but always we have the choice to be grateful for what we have instead of upset at what we don’t. 

       As time went on, our family grew smaller to only my mom, sister, and I. We constantly had to move and live with other families/relatives to survive, and this instability caused me to feel insecure and disconnected. It was strange leaving friends behind and making new ones at a different school but this became the norm. I learned to lie about my home life because I was afraid of getting judged and labeled a loser from a low-life family. Occasionally I met friends in the neighborhood who were going through similar situations and that made me feel better, but my true joy was still gaming. Everything was going to plan, straight A’s until I met my next escape from reality, pot. 

       15 years old and our small family had just been evicted from our apartment. I was lucky enough to have a friend who’s mom took me in so that I could go to the same high school while my mom and sister moved in with her newest boyfriend. Feeling uncomfortable around my peers from having an unusual life and wearing mostly my brothers hand-me-down clothes or white T-shirts, I ran away from my thoughts and feelings by smoking weed with friends. I was lost without real parental guidance to tell me ‘it’s going to be OK’. Not that I would believe them at this point. Seeing my mom fist fight a few boyfriends, seeing my dad go to jail, and seeing my brother get sent to boarding school all made me feel inadequate. Sort of like I was destined to be a burger-flipper my entire life, slowly I gave up hope. 

        I started hanging out with scumbag friends because I thought this is what I’ll become so I might as well embrace it. I quit trying to achieve and found peace in smoking weed and playing video games. I was alone and playing the victim because I didn’t believe I deserved the life I was given, which looking back now is a broken mentality to have. A year later my mom took me back in with her boyfriend after moving back in the area and I finished out the semester at a different high school in her attempt to shake me of this funk. It was was awkward moving schools again so I spent my days at the beach alone or playing video games most of the time. 

      That summer, I moved in with my step-mom and dad who tried to rekindle our father-son relationship by sacrificing his love of the city to live in a small beach town and return me to what I considered my home high school. I had lost hope in my future and let myself fade into skipping classes and not taking school seriously because I had no one disciplining me or educating me on what to do after high school. Neither of my parents went to college or did anything successful at that point in their lives, so why would I listen to a pep talk from them? At 17, halfway through my junior year, I didn’t care about myself so I let my mother, who probably was worried about me / jealous that I was living with my dad and step-mom, take me out of school and send me to live with my older brother. 

         He was moving to Colorado to start a new life into the cannabis industry which I found so inviting. Video games and smoking pot became my identity and I never felt comfortable developing a long-term relationship because I didn’t love myself, so how could I love someone else? This went on for years… I felt lost and was searching for happiness through other people’s journey, never stopping to think about what I wanted to accomplish. 

      Recently, I have come to a conclusion that I do love myself and I love my family and friends. I want to be a better person, and so I’m working on how to treat people in a more open and caring way. I’m still looking for better ways to show affection and it all begins with communication. My addiction was separation, but that didn’t make me happy. In fact, it made me feel so empty that I numbed my feelings and emotions everyday to run away from thinking about them. 

       Addiction is difficult to cope with alone and I’m very grateful I have people in my life that truly care about me even though I shut down to be alone. I have to forgive myself for being an empty shell just going through the motions of work and coming home to play video games. I have so much more to offer the world and I was holding myself back with a poor mentality. I’m finding happiness through understanding that I have so many opportunities to learn, grow, and experience life as a person. 

       We all go through tough times and depression can seem insurmountable, but my advice is to have faith. With the help of others, a strong willpower to better yourself, and the hope of inspiring others to do the same, good times can be closer than you think. Moments will come and go…and I suggest that you cherish them all because life is too precious to let slip away. There is always a person in need of love and you have the chance to be the one giving it.. that, for me, is a good reason to be alive. 

      I truly believe that we are all here to enjoy life, while working on how to love each other and ourselves more effectively. My heart goes out to anyone in need of love today and I hope this inspires you to reach out to someone you care about and show them you love them because you just may change a life. 

–Jake Carpenter