Growing up, my life lacked two things, emotional availability and structure. I was the daughter of an alcoholic and an emotional unavailable mother who spent evenings on the phone with her friends talking over trivial matters than worrying over me, her youngest child who at the time was the only one who was living at home.
When she died unexpectedly when I was sixteen, and my father died from alcoholism and diabetes complications eight months after that, I had a lot of unresolved questions and unsaid words that I had not come to terms with.
My older sister legally adopted me so I would not go into foster care since my father was not able to take care of me because of his addictive habits and tendencies, and that was when I began to feel the beginnings of the real world set in.
When I was with my parents, I was often in my room, staying quiet and often invisible. With my sister and her husband, I was given chores and a sense of structure, something that was foreign to me for most of my life. I was not a fan of this new set of rules, but I was a fan of how I had “parents” who gave their attention to me and spent time focusing on my activities. I was able to focus on my studies more since people were invested in my educational success.
When I went to college I began to feel the first twinge of freedom from my hometown, family, and past life. No one knew that I was an orphan, an epileptic, or that I was forced to live with my sister because no one else in my family bothered to file for custody of me. The freedom hit me hard.
I began to visit parties and found that, just like my father, I could drink a lot and for long periods of time. Unfortunately in my small college town, parties were few and far between since the cops always patrolled around and few people were of drinking age however, I found a way to keep my addiction in full supply.
I majored in English in my undergrad years, something that many people despised and that they hated writing papers for. In order for a paper, I would exchange it for a bottle of alcohol, something that many people were happy to do.
The word spread around the tiny college campus that you could get an A paper from an English major for a bottle of alcohol. I had many requests that were soon flowing in. I found myself staying up late and missing my own classes to fill the requests of other people to feed my own addiction. Through a discussion, I learned about the benefits of Adderall and how it gave you unlimited energy to perform your tasks. My “friend” told me how it was legalized cocaine.
I took my first pill and stayed up for three days. I completed all of my requests, went to my own classes, and my own homework. To me, this pill was the best thing in the world. I got so much alcohol, finished my homework and the work of others, and was never tired. The downside was that I never got tired.
In order to get sleep, I had to drink in order to pass out to make my body relax and actually sleep. Another downside was that I never ate. I began to lose copious amounts of weight at an alarming rate. The biggest downside to all of this was that I began to neglect my own classes over time and began to take Adderall to wake up, and drink to fall asleep, and knew that I would never have to pay for any of it as long as I would use my skills to write a paper for someone else.
My friend James was the only one who stood up to me and told me the unlikable truth to my face. He told me that I had been drinking and taking the legal pills illegally for some time now, which made me an addict. I was performing an act to get them, which was just a different way of selling myself and was no different than a woman selling her body. It was then that I realized how thin that I was, how I neglected my appearance and how I knew that he was right.
He made sure that I stopped writing papers for other people, focusing on own studies, and that I stopped taking the Adderall. It took an extra year, but I graduated with my BA in English. Now, I am a month and a half away from having a master’s degree in Addiction and Recovery Counseling in order to help others who have had the same struggle with addiction that I have had.
Not everyone has a strong friend who will tell them uncomfortable truths and follow them around campus to make sure that their sobriety sticks, deleting toxic phone numbers out of their cell phone so they can never contact certain people. I am up to a healthy weight, no longer around eighty-five pounds and don’t struggle with alcoholism or an addiction to legal pills.
Not everyone is as lucky or as strong willed as I am now. Knowing and learning to help those when they have fallen is the best step to a better world.
Written By: Guest Blogger Erin Conyers Tierney
If you liked this article, check out our Beyond Addiction Collection.