On Tuesday, September 15th, staff at Victory Bay Recovery Center in Laurel Springs, New Jersey announced a winner for their Victory Bay Recovery Center college scholarship essay. The scholarship essay was created for undergraduate and postgraduate college students to further Victory Bay’s message of helping people find their way back to health and happiness so that they can become contributing members of society.
Students were asked to submit a 1,000-2,000 word essay based off of one of the three topics below:
- How has addiction affected your life?
- How has addiction affected the lives of people you know and/or your community?
- What is the importance and the impact of breaking down the stigmas around addiction and substance abuse treatment?
The winner of the scholarship essay was Domenique D. from North Kingstown, Rhode Island. She will receive $500 for the scholarship award. Domenique is currently attending Pepperdine University. Read her essay below:
For as long as I can remember my life has been greatly affected by addiction. I would even go as far as to say that addiction has shaped who I am. From a young age, I have been exposed to this topic, and it has affected not only my life but the lives of those around me.
I never truly understood what addiction was, in fact, my family had even gone as far as to tell me my mom was away at college while she was at rehab and in prison. From her letters, I knew that she was fighting some sort of battle, and even though I did not fully understand, what I did know is she loved me. As with any kind of illness, addiction, etc., it is easy to label someone as other. For example, oftentimes when someone is diagnosed they become that diagnosis, and their identity falls to the side. So quickly that person is no longer seen as a human, but merely as an addict. It isn’t until you are faced with something such as this so personally that you truly understand this. The stigma that exists around addiction is a disease within itself.
It wasn’t really until my cousin overdosed and died that I began to understand addiction. At that point, the family had been talking about my cousin and my mom in the same sort of context and I began to ask questions. I learned my mom was not at college, but getting a different kind of education. One that would help her heal herself, and clean herself. I still didn’t fully understand but I was under the impression she was sick and trying to get better. Again I was reminded of the love she had for me, for my brothers and I knew that her being away was for the better. As I got older and older I began to piece together the confusing situation my mom was in. I had always been told as I got older I would understand more, but the reality was that as I came to understand more, I had more questions than ever.
I refused to accept that my mom was only an addict. As I came into high school and was able to grasp my own reality a bit more I immersed myself in Psychology courses. I knew I had to educate myself, and so I did. If it meant being able to understand my mom who I knew struggled to truly understand herself, I had to do it. I understood that although it was my mom’s choice to use, it was not necessarily her choice to become addicted. Her situation, the factors in her life that pushed her to use I could reason with. I refused to accept that my mom would choose drugs over her children and her own self. While that may have been the reality, I tried to reason with her choices and empathize with her to some extent.
From a young age, my mom was taught unhealthy coping mechanisms. Her main method of coping ultimately became to use. Being an individual with Bi-Polar disorder as well as suffering from addiction my mom began to spiral. My mom’s manic episodes were when I knew her to be her best self as scary as it is to say. As a kid, to have your mom take you for happy meals, splurge at Chuck E. Cheese and not require a bed-time but rather take home all the movies from BlockBuster to binge-watch movies with didn’t seem so bad. It was the depressive lows that she felt like she had to get through with pills, base, or whatever it really was she could get her hands on. When the lows hit, they were bad, and even as a little girl I knew something wasn’t right. She wouldn’t let anyone help her. She has support from everyone around her but it wasn’t enough for her. It wasn’t until she went to prison it seemed she was getting better.
I have watched my mom’s entire life be affected by addiction. I see the guilt she suffers from having lost her kids, from having been in and out of rehab facilities. I see how it has shaped who she is today. I watch my mom cry as her teeth fall out and the other affects her addiction has had on her. She has to live with her own guilt as well as the guilt others put on her for the role she has or otherwise hasn’t played in their life. I would be lying if I said my mom was clean today. My mom still uses, and I find myself on the phone with her sponsor looking for support, and in constant contact with my family to assure she is okay. It is incredibly difficult to be going to school, caring for a father with cancer and a mother with addiction. I oftentimes feel as though I am spread entirely too thin but at the same time, it all has made me who I am today. My family has always said life is a hand of cards; you never know the cards you are going to be dealt with. However, like a game of cards you have to play. It is up to you how you play your cards, and while there may be things you can’t control along the way your power lies in how you respond to such matters. Life is what you make of it, and I am doing everything in my power to do just that.
Addiction has indeed affected my life and continues to do so, but I choose how I let it define me. I have devoted my life to understanding others. I have chosen a career path to help others and help them thrive in a society that otherwise does not understand them. While it is our responsibility to understand those around us, we can’t expect that. We have to be prepared for those who will stand in our way, and use our knowledge to educate the ignorant.