When your parent and sibling are addicted to drugs and alcohol, there is no normal. No normal behavior, no normal schedules, and certainly no normal habits of consumption. The concept of a single glass of wine with dinner? Almost unthinkable. With time, however, away from the family functioning on abnormality, semblances of normalcy grow on your own.
College Provides Food Security
For me, college has become the place where I could find out what a regular life is like. I’m away from home, on my own schedule, using my own money, and building my own life. It’s a far different picture from coming home from school as a child wondering if anyone would be awake to cook me dinner. Dinner is something I don’t really have to worry about anymore. But socializing is a bit more challenging. Developing my own sense of normalcy hasn’t been easy, and college isn’t exactly the most fruitful environment to do this. In particular, it’s been difficult to come to some type of middle ground with the ubiquitous use of drugs and alcohol. I don't want to hide in my room. But I don't want to see it every day, either.
Substance Use Doesn't Begin In College
I imagine that most people have their first experiences with drugs and alcohol -- whether their own use or others -- around high school. Someone’s parents are out of town, the liquor stash gets raided, someone offers you a hit of a joint, etc. Usually, teenagers are able to deal with these early experiences in a healthy way, whether they enjoy them or not. Ultimately, these experiences are often a defining memory of youth. Every teen movie stereotype is indicative of the perceived importance of this.
Children Of Addicts Have A Special Challenge
That’s all well and good, but for me things were a bit different. I was exposed to the use of drugs and alcohol by my immediate family members who were suffering from addictions. I saw it all in its messy tragic fire that seemed to burn down my childhood. By junior high, I was witness to the mysterious behavior, the missing money and valuables, countless rehab stays, and even overdoses. Luckily, I’ve also been witness to the long process of recovery.
My Family Experience Taught Me Substance Use is Not Fun
Because of this, when high school came around, I didn’t want the stereotypical teenage experience. I had no desire to do anything that I could possibly associate with the problems my family dealt with, primarily in fear that I, too, would develop an addiction. In doing so, I turned myself into a pretty uptight girl.
College Life Is Filled With Substance Use
But upon entering college, I couldn’t exactly avoid it any longer: drugs and alcohol were a piece of the social life whether one used them or not. Having spent so much of my youth in a fearful frenzy, I didn’t get to have much fun. Now finally in college, I wasn’t about to let myself miss out any longer. Coming to terms with normal alcohol consumption has been a part of this.
Seeing Normal Consumption Of Alcohol Has Been Helpful
It’s been a challenge not to feel fearful all the time. I’ve certainly seen some drug use in college that has made me run for the hills. The change now is that I can see my friends around me partaking in moderate alcohol consumption, without bingeing and without any habitual problems forming. I’m learning that this, too, is part of the societal now, and my own kind of normal, too.