THE ADDICTS IN MY LIFE: PART 1
Research shows that nearly 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet unfortunately only 10% of them will receive treatment ¹ . In 2016 the Surgeon General stated that 1 in 7 will face substance addiction ². The economic impact of this epidemic is stifling. Sadly over 70,000 Americans lost their lives to an overdose in 2017 ³ . The numbers are increasing every year. I myself have had the unfortunate privilege of sitting in the front row to watch so many of my loved ones go through the ugliness of addiction. As a child it was alcohol that had taken up real estate in my life. Daily after work beers for my father. I would help him pull off his boots every night after work and I would grab him his Budweiser out of the fridge. Every weekend card parties with the heavier drinks flowing freely for all the adults in my life— the ones who should be showing us kids guidance, responsibilities, and values. Beers at all the softball games. And the skating rink. Pitchers of foamy beer at the Pizza Hut. Taking us into bars while they played darts or shot pool. They always ordered fancy Shirley Temple's for us kids. You name it, it was always there. Even many of my friends dad's were drinking while driving us kids to our weekend games or girl scout meetings. I remember one dad who had a cooler set up in his center console of his Blazer. This was the friend who’s house was our go to for raiding their cupboards or fridge for alcohol when we were in high school. Their parents had so much and were consuming so much of it that they never noticed if they were missing any. Here in this small Catholic community in Kansas I grew up in, drinking has always been the norm. Starting back in late elementary school and junior high it all began with the boys carrying around their cans of chew thinking they were cool. I can still vividly see and hear the sound of them tapping their cans of Skoal with their index fingers. Funny what the mind will hold on to after all these years. Soon in junior high we began our weekend dance parties in someone's barn or basement. I hosted several of these myself in our basement or back deck. My parents were divorced when I was 12 and I am not proud to say that I took advantage of my mom during this transitional period of her becoming a single mom. There would inevitably always be someone with an older sibling who provided some alcohol filled party favors for us children to consume. Our only saving grace back in the beginning was none of us were driving yet. That is until everyone started getting the farmers permits. Then the fun really began. In high school the weekend entertainment was a country road where the cool kids would meet up. Well, at least until the weather didn't permit that. On the cold nights there were several cool” and “edgy parents who would love to have the kids over to hang out. Drinking, dreaming, laughing, experimenting sexually, and of course playing music was the ritual. I attended one of these house parties and just didn't feel at home with all the jocks. Those of us that didn't fit into that vibe found our own ways to get in trouble. We started venturing into Wichita. The big city for us small town kids. The more we went to town the more we found our own ways to party. We wound up meeting different groups of people here and there whether it be at the mall or the movie theater. That may be a foreign concept for a lot of you as life was so different before technology. You actually had to get out there and talk to people. Our new acquaintances were doing way more than drinking (not that they weren't drinking plenty too). My small town crew was then introduced to marijuana as we developed friendships with this new group of friends. I was really scared to try the marijuana so out of our group of friends I was one of the last ones to truly partake. I was spending my time drinking, drinking way too much, letting my ambitions go. We were having the time of our lives, just starting to realize how much bigger the world was compared to our tiny little town with no street lights. It was during this time frame that my low self-esteem lead to me losing my virginity to a one night stand, which in turn lead me to just wanting to party more. We even found a small live music bar that we could get into on the weekends. It was dark, dank, reeking of old beer and vomit. It was so inviting to us kids. It made us feel like we were part of something. The live music scene was happening in the 90's with the influence of the Grunge genre. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone, and Temple of the Dog are just a few I was obsessed with during that time. The door of this small bar was ran by the owners 14 year old son. He had a piece of paper on an oh so official clipboard where if you conveniently forgot your ID you could just write down your information. Well, we sure abused that along with half of Wichita. I had a different identity every weekend on that piece of paper. It was so much fun fighting through the adrenaline rush we would get as we were waiting in line to fill out that paper with our fake identity for the weekend. We felt so grown-up ordering and drinking our own pitchers of beer, Kamikazes, and of course Sex on the Beach’s. We had jumped into this new lifestyle with all we had. Eventually I even wound up with my older sister's ID when she turned 21. Of course I would take her ID and of course I would happily use it knowing I would never again have to fill out that piece of paper for Paul at the bar. Life was made. Nothing like a 17 year old with a fake ID. The next progression from hanging out at the bar every weekend or at people's houses drinking and smoking their weed was us wanting to score our own pot over the weekends. Us girls would all chip in and buy a $20 or $40 bag. We would then smoke it all up over the weekend so we wouldn't get caught by our parents. They would never expect that from us as we really were good kids. We didn't own any paraphernalia so we were making our own pipes out of aluminum foil or soda pop cans thinking we were cool. Sitting in cul-de-sacs of new and upcoming neighborhoods in west Wichita smoking pot all while drinking our bottles of Boone's Farm out of QuikTrip cups. We were definitely young and dumb, not making the best decisions but we still pretty much had our acts together. I believe that is because out of this group of friends of mine we didn't carry the addictive gene in our brains. We were doing what typical teenagers do. Soon one of the girls in our group introduced us to a lady where we could get pot. We would go over to her house to get our weekly weekend stash. During that time we wound up bonding with her handsome teenage sons who were also dealing. We were all so naive to the drug world. They didn't disclose they were dealing more than pot but over time it became more than obvious. It was at this house I first witnessed someone preparing to shoot up. My graduation night. After some struggle to actually get my diploma with a school change under my belt I finally had done it to then just be disappointed by really nobody showing up for the ceremony. I went to score a bag of weed to bury my sorrows after the ceremony. Walking into the house I go to the kitchen to make the transaction. All is good and I am ready to get out of there and go meet up with some buddies. I go to walk through the living room when I turn my head to see a gentleman with a belt wrapped tight around his arm with a lighter and spoon in his hand in a dark and dingy room. Heart racing. Sheer terror! Scariest thing I had ever seen in my 18 years. I hightailed it out if there at what felt like 100 miles an hour. What in the actual hell did I just witness? What path had I found myself on? I never dreamed I would see anything like this outside of the movies. To be continued.... Stay tuned for part two of this new compelling series. ¹ “Addiction Statistics - Facts on Drug and Alcohol Use - Addiction Center.” AddictionCenter, www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/addiction-statistics/. ² “General Facts and Recommendations.” Facing Addiction In America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, file:///C:/Users/13164/Downloads/fact-sheet-general.pdf. ³ National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Overdose Death Rates.” NIDA, 29 Jan. 2019, www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates.