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“My Mother’s Keeper “

A winning essay from our Brighter Future Scholarship contest

Anyone who has grown up around family or loved ones with addiction knows that even the witnesses sometimes have no idea what is truly going on. This was true in my case, especially in my younger & child-like years. Alcohol was a substance I saw essentially every day of my young life, so I had no idea there could be a life without its presence. My mother is a kind and loving person, but this didn’t stop alcohol from consuming her life. It was only when I became older that I realized I didn’t really know the person my mom was when she was sober. My mother stayed at home to take care of the family during the day with my father being at work. For this reason, as the daytime passed, I felt like I had more and more responsibilities as a child and especially as an oldest sibling. 

I have always been the type of person that can persevere, and I don’t like to think about what would have happened if I wasn’t able to take control of some of the responsibilities that I felt obligated to see through at a young age. Addiction affects everyone in the family unit in different ways. In my situation, it bred a need to help others especially when they ask for it. I find it extremely difficult to say no to people even when I have some kind of personal issue with what is being asked of me. I get this pit in my stomach and I feel like I’m a child again that must do what they are told. I may not have been, however I definitely felt as if I were my mother’s keeper. The “side effect” mentioned was not one intended on the parts of my very loving but no less imperfect set of parents. 

Going through childhood with a parent afflicted with addiction can greatly alter both one’s perspective, as well as their life experiences. I have no doubt, without the second-hand influence of my mother’s addiction to alcohol, I would be nowhere near the person I am today. This isn’t to say that my early childhood experiences weren’t some of the most difficult in my life because they most definitely were. I have no doubt that my entire collection of thought processes would be entirely different if not for my life experience with addiction. Witnessing addiction fester in a person I love also allows me to more easily show empathy to those who suffer from addiction, as well as their family members. Addiction is a disease with both physical and mental components. For some, this fact is difficult to recognize, especially in the instances where people haven’t experienced addiction and its ramifications first-hand. Addiction is a chameleon. It can be very difficult to detect, especially at first glance, however “chameleon” can destroy your relationships and life altogether. Something else to note about chameleons though; once you learn to how to look for them, identifying them correctly becomes much easier. 

In regards to my own situation with addiction, my mother is getting the help and support needed to stay sober that cannot be provided by myself or my father. This help and support, of course, costs a substantial amount. In the recent 2 years, my father has been paying a lot towards the medical and mental health services my mother needs. Even previously, without the expectation of medical bills, my father knew he would not be able to put forth the amount of money he truly wants toward my college fund. We have come to an understanding that my college and loan payments are my complete responsibility. I heartily agreed to this arrangement, because I have seen first-hand all that my father does for this family. Moving jobs frequently and to drastically different areas allowed him to “climb the ladder” when it comes to salary after he lost his job many years ago. Our family’s financial situation is now better than it ever has been. However, renting over the years became our largest expense until we bought our current home. Because of this, our savings are nowhere near what they should be to send any of the children to college. My father’s more than decent salary only hurts my situation when it comes to financial aid, and without my mother to contribute, it only becomes more difficult of a financial situation to make it through. My education is of utmost importance in my life, and I will not let something as simple as money prevent me from achieving my goals for my career in the future. 

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