hand handcuffed to shot glass

“The Wrong Choice”

A winning essay from our Brighter Future Scholarship contest

Addiction was never something I feared growing up, I didn’t watch anti-smoking commercials and cringe in disgust: mostly because I grew up surrounded by them or their stories. My entire life has been tied to addiction, every family event or any story my mom tells me has something to do with addiction in any direct or indirect way. I grew up with a smoke-infested kitchen at my dad’s house and a whisky-smelling bedroom at my mom’s. Not only did I grow up with addiction but, addiction stole the relationships I could have had with either of my grandfathers, both left, and both turned to the thing they love most: booze. All I had left of them, any memory that would remind me of them would come from nothing but a story my mother or father chose to tell me, and whether that story would make me think highly of them or not was left for them to decide. Due to my grandfathers’ addictions, I never got to talk to them, and I never got to hug either of them, because they had made their decision, and they didn’t choose family, they chose alcohol. 

My mom was raised by an alcoholic until she turned 14 and he left, my grandmother couldn’t take the lies and betrayal anymore. Although it might seem like the obvious choice for my mom to not fall in love with the same kind of person my grandfather was, she did the opposite; she fell in love with an alcoholic who is the funniest and kindest person on the planet, my stepfather. My stepfather raised me as his own since I was seven years old, and throughout my mother and his relationship he had claimed to be sober, but what do addicts do? They lie. All they do is lie, and if you want to go through the painful and difficult process of having an addict in your life then that is the first thing you need to learn and accept. I learned this when I was thirteen years old, watching my stepfather pack his bags and call relatives to find a place to stay, he had been lying about being sober for three years and my mother had just found out. For three years this man who I called my father had been lying to our faces, he had been lying to us when we celebrated his “sobriety” each year and he had been lying to us when he claimed so often that alcohol was “his past”, that he would never “turn back to it”. The only reason why he wasn’t kicked out that night was because my younger brother and I had gotten on our knees, begged, and cried, doing anything we could to try and persuade her into giving him another chance, thankfully it worked. 

Addiction has always been looked down upon, people have gone to drastic measures to prevent their kids from falling in love with a substance that they will give everything to but receive nothing in return, a substance that will just consume them until nothing is left, and in turn, it will consume whoever sticks with them as well. We all have our own versions of what we think a drug addict or alcoholic looks like, some will refer to them as homeless and others, as celebrities, but I have always referred to them as family. In our culture, we are conditioned to believe that addicts are “bad people”, that they are “dangerous” or “low lives”, but most of the time this isn’t true. All addicts are, are sick, they have an illness with no cure, an illness just like cancer, something that will consume their entire life, but beyond their illness, they are still people; they are people with feelings and emotions and basic needs just like everyone else. 

Addiction has laughed in my face and given me trust issues almost impossible to overcome, it has taken loved ones from me while I watch helplessly, and it has made me watch as someone I love dearly destroys their life with no way of stopping it. But beyond all of this, addiction has given me the chance to love beautiful people, people who are stronger than most people ever will be, and people who can make you laugh more than any comedian; addiction has taught me who my true family is and who isn’t. With the money from this scholarship, I would be able to go to college and study nursing, I would be able to help people like my family and attest to their needs, and most importantly I wouldn’t be helpless anymore and I would finally be able to step in and save beautiful, beautiful lives. 

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