By Abigail J Soares
I believe you are who you choose to be. Opioids are a class of highly addictive drugs that are derived from the opium in poppy plants. I remember learning about opioids in 5th grade through the drug abuse program (D.A.R.E) offered at my school, but my young mind did not yet know how a topic that seemed so unfamiliar and irrelevant would completely alter my life as I grew older. Drug abuse seemed to be something surreal to an eleven year old. I refused to believe something like addiction would ever pertain to my life or that it could not only interrupt, but steal the life of someone so profoundly important to me.
I was twelve when I lost my mother to the unforgiving grasp of opioid addiction. I was angry, astounded, and rattled to the core about how something that once seemed so foreign and impossible could cause not only my mother’s life to crumble, but mine and my sisters’ as well. I wasn’t only trying to comprehend what addiction was, but how I could change my life in a positive way from this experience.
My mother’s choices hurt in a way I didn’t know was possible, and I was resentful towards my own oblivion. How could I have been so ignorant to what was going on right in front of me? She spent her days high and absent from our lives. Prescription painkillers were her drug of choice, something I never realized could be so dangerous until it was too late. I picked up her slack and helped my sisters through anything and everything I could. Despite the overwhelming sadness and disappointment that swallowed our lives, having to cope with her addiction at a very young age strengthened me to overcome any obstacles and in turn gave me wisdom beyond many of the children I was surrounded with.
Some days, it was as if we had switched roles. I would spend my time cooking, cleaning, and cleaning her up after her binges. I had no choice but to grow up at an accelerated rate. I had to not only take on the role of my own mother, but I had to guide my sisters as well. Because of this, I was able to gain a very strong sense of responsibility at an early age. This strong sense of responsibility has stayed with me and is evident in numerous aspects of my life. I am grateful for the way this horrible situation has pushed me to be dedicated and succeed in school, sports, and life in general.
I knew my mother’s drug addiction and absence from our lives didn’t mean her children had to be steered off the path of success. I felt it was now clear that I was meant to dedicate my life to helping others and recognizing red flags of people who need help. After realizing my purpose, I became absolutely dedicated to my education in hopes of one day entering the medical field and fulfilling my dreams of using the life I was given to impact the lives of others. I immersed myself in subjects such as drug addiction, psychology, and anatomy. I know I can’t change the past or my mother’s decisions, but I hope to change the lives of others who still have a future ahead of them.
The good experiences in my life have helped shape me into who I am as a person, but the bad ones also have made me compassionate, strong, and dedicated to everything I do. I hope to one day help others and spread the message that everyone is absolutely capable of success no matter what their background is. I will never let anything hold me back, and most importantly, I will pursue what I love and put meaning into everything I do. You are who you decide to be, regardless of any influence from others.