Daughter of an Addict

“Check to see if he’s responsive, if not call 911, then call me, got it?”

Have you ever been asked the question: what’d you learn today? Normal kids would reply and say “I learned how to add and subtract” or “ I learned the ABC’s song.”

Not me.

I was only seven when I was taught the protocol of someone who’s overdosed. At the time I didn’t know what this meant, I just thought my dad had gone to sleep for too long. When he was away, at what I now know was rehab, I was told “he’s on a little trip right now.” It wasn’t until when I was almost nine that I learned that even when you follow all the rules and do everything you’re supposed to do, it doesn’t always work out. 

As a kid I didn’t know what was wrong with the person I looked up to. I was too young to be told the truth about his disease. But I was old enough to know something was wrong. When I came home from school would he be awake and ready to play a game of H.O.R.S.E with me on the basketball court? Or would he be passed out? Would my mom be hiding her fear and worry from me?

Growing up as a child of an addict, I never knew what to expect from him or really anyone. So as you can assume independence was something I had to learn very early. Well my friends were out having meals as a family I was making my own. Throughout highschool I learned that what I thought was a curse actually came to help me. I had already been self-sufficient for most of my life while many other people around me were learning how to be independent.

Compassion is the skill of “suffering together”. I acquired this habit very young as well. As someone who’s seen and knows death, I went beyond who I was to be there for others. My experience with people showing me compassion was truly amazing for me and helped my family when my dad passed, so to be able to give others that experience was life changing.

When my family went from four to three everything we did started to feel incomplete. The next couple months things changed, like by accidently setting four places at the dinner table when we only had three people. Those months seemed like forever but at some point it brought my family closer together. My mom, sister and I became inseparable. For instance my friends beg for their parents to go out of town, while when my moms gone I beg for her to come back, counting down the hours. 

“Check to see if he’s responsive, if not call 911, then call me, got it?” These are words that no child should have to learn, and I strive not to have to teach my kids them ever. I want to find a balance for my kids, giving them the amazing mom and family dynamic I had without all the hurt and pain. I want to teach my kids to be compassionate, independent, and brave. Overall growing up in the presence of an addict, I concluded one thing for my life. I will not and never abuse drugs or alcohol or marry a person that abuses. Seeing what I saw growing up and the effect it had on my mother, I know what I deserve and won’t settle for anything less for me or my kids. 

Charlotte Jamison: “I have never submitted a piece but I’m very proud of this one. I hope this can help someone understand and/or know when it comes to an addict no feeling is wrong. Addiction is so prominent in our world now but I think the stories of the caregivers aren’t shared enough, so that what this is, my story of living and growing up with an addict.”