2017-05-18 / Opinions

Child of addict disavows despair, embraces hope

Cindy Centofanti Cindy Centofanti As a “child of addiction,” I have learned from firsthand experience that we are who we are for a lot of reasons, and maybe we will never know most of them. Most importantly, even if we do not have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from here.

Being a child of addiction means that I am one of many whose entire childhood was swathed in chaos due to my mother’s alcoholism and narcotic substance abuse. Over the years, the stigma associated with addiction was one that has always puzzled me.

Recently, I have attended Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings throughout the Upper Thumb, not being an addict myself but attending to seek knowledge about what battle this community is facing in hopes I can help to make a difference and spread awareness.

Perhaps one of the most difficult things for people who are facing the demon of substance abuse is understanding how their addiction directly affects the ones they are the closest to.

Under a haze of alcohol and drugs, it is nearly impossible to understand the impact drug and alcohol abuse makes on loved-ones, which is most prevalent when parents are the abusers and are unable to understand how their use of drugs impairs the growth and development of their children.

The fact is, this addiction is due 50 percent to genetic predisposition and 50 percent to poor coping skills.

So, essentially, due to the genetic makeup that lies beneath the skin of children of addiction, they unwillingly enter a battle and must fight, handicapped by their past, with genes that make them eight times more likely to develop an addiction. These children have to contend with having a predisposition to becoming addicted - due to their DNA. I’m writing this to tell the community and those who are struggling that your genes are not your destiny.

The 50 percent of addiction that is caused by poor coping skills is where those who have an inherited predisposition for addiction can make a difference. Many people have come from addicted families, but managed to overcome their family history and live happy lives. Children of addicts can use this opportunity to change their lives.

I can comfortably say that addiction has always been a part of my life starting from a very young age. The irrational and impulsive behavior splayed over into my childhood, where I had to witness many experiences no child ever should.

My mother took on a different form when alcohol and opioids coursed through her veins. From what I can recall past the smell of booze on her breath and the haze over her once bright blue eyes, I remember the two distinctly different personality types - a mother trying to gain stability and find her footing and a mother who was consumed by her addiction.

I cling to the memories that resonate with feelings of terror because I have very few positive memories of my mother when she was trying to better herself and ward off her addiction.

When people are asked about their favorite memory, most recall something to do with happiness and joy. As a child of addiction, my memories only bring feelings of resentment and sadness toward the addiction that consumed my mother’s life.

Addiction is not a disease, addiction is a part of life as we know it today. I see it on our streets, often as I am driving past a slumped over man clinging to a bottle disguised in a brown paper bag. If addiction can touch our small community, it can do anything - which it will if it goes unnoticed. In all honesty, I will admit that when the tragedy of losing my mom occurred three years ago, I was going down a very dark path. My once 3.86 GPA as a freshman in college started slipping and threatened my lifelong dreams of becoming a journalist to tell other people’s stories, much as my own.

Everything went black for a period of time before God gave me the strength to stand up and start over in the City of Harbor Beach. It was a rocky road, and I stumbled from time to time, but in the murky waters was a reflection I could see that was far better than taking on the identity of my mother.

God allowed me the strength to turn to Him with my broken and heavy heart, which I thought would always feel like a bottomless pit. God replaced my once shattered heart with something amazing. He gave me a gift, a gift of love, compassion and empathy for those who have encountered a similar fate. My voice became louder than the pain I felt and my intuition was clarified, allowing me to set out on a path back toward the goals I had once set for myself.

My involvement with the substance abuse community has strengthened and empowered me to take action towards the epidemic the community is facing. With the voice God gave me and from what I have encountered in the past, I feel a sense of obligation to shine a light on substance abuse and the people whose lives have been shattered by addiction. The battles people encounter certainly will include anguish and heartbreak, but their stories will also contain astounding courage and a desire to overcome devastating obstacles.

My most recent action has landed me a seat on the newest chapter to be established in Huron County, Families Against Narcotics (FAN).

The mission of FAN is to save lives by empowering individuals and communities to prevent and eradicate addiction. FAN is a community-based program for those seeking recovery, those in recovery, family members affected by addiction and community supporters. Much like myself, FAN seeks to change the face of addiction, dispel the stigma of addiction and educate the community as well as those affected by addiction.

I have high hopes for this community to be able to change the fate that many battle or have encountered. It may be a far cry from eradicating the problem, but the truth is that if only one life is saved, then that is one life worth living for.

I have one question that remains for the community: “Will you help me help others who have been affected by addiction?”

It’s in your backyard now, and this is our chance to make a difference working together.

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