Breaking the cycle of addiction is greatly helped when a person understands two key things: 1) addiction is a chronic, often relapsing, developmental brain disease, and 2) there are five key risk factors for developing this disease: genetics, social environment, early use, mental illness and childhood trauma. It is not uncommon for children who grow up with one or more parents with untreated addiction or an untreated mental illness or any one of these key risk factors to develop addiction, themselves. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to be contacted by Jennifer Hunt about the memoir she is writing, titled: Smoke Rings Rising: The Triumph of a Drug-Endangered Child.
When I spoke with Jennifer, she said the reason for writing her memoir was to break the cycle of addiction – not only in her family with four generations having this disease (the genetic risk factor) and being raised by her mom who had an untreated co-occurring disorder [bipolar and meth addiction] (the childhood trauma, social environment risk factors) – but for others who find themselves living in families similar to her own.
I invited Jennifer to share some of her memoir in this post. She welcomes your feedback or comments and can be reached via email at smokeringsrising@Gmail.com or on Facebook at Smoke.Rings.Rising
THE APPLE DOESN’T BRUISE FAR FROM THE TREE [OF ADDICTION] by Jennifer Hunt
“When you were five years old, someone wanted to buy you from me, but I said no.” – my mother (addicted since her early twenties) 1984.
Our family of origin doesn’t have to determine our family of creation, and our past choices don’t have to define who we are today. SMOKE RINGS RISING: The Triumph of a Drug- Endangered Child is about my journey – not unscathed — through a world of addiction and dysfunction. Now, I am a happily married mother of two, plus stepmother of three, who lives in Oroville, CA, where I have been employed as a court reporter for 20 years. The memoir is due out in fall/winter 2015 and below you’ll find an excerpt.
Since my parents moved me up in the sticks and I was starting my freshman year in a different high school district than Danniel, I had hoped I would at least get to see him a little more since I’d be in town every day, and maybe even get to meet up at lunch sometimes like normal boyfriends and girlfriends did. It didn’t happen. Except for my 15th birthday in October he showed up on lunch break with flowers and a long kiss. Then he was gone again.
As the distance between us grew, he called me at home one night and told me that he was going to Iowa to take care of a friend of his, a female friend, who was sick.
I asked, “Iowa?”
He laughed because I had pronounced it “ahy-OH-uh,” then corrected me and said, “You say it “AHY-uh-wuh.”
However you say it, I took it as his way out of our relationship. I had no choice but to say, “Okay.”
Even though I was described once as her “sidekick,” I started hanging out more and more with Brooke and some new friends. And since it looked like it was over between Danniel and me, I started seeing other guys. I became involved with someone whom I thought I really liked, Eric. He was 19, and I was only 15. He was tall, had blond hair past his shoulders, was from L.A., and said he loved me. I’d sit and listen to him practice his acoustic guitar sometimes when we were together as he tried to write music about “the girl with the long brown hair” – yours truly. We lasted almost three months together, but then someone new came into his life, someone more appropriate for him. In the middle of carving a “J” for Jennifer out of a piece of wood, he couldn’t decide whether or not to turn it into a “T” for the first letter of the name of the new person. He eventually chose to sever the hook. Even though he was up front with me about everything, that one still hurt.
Danniel must have found out that I had a boyfriend after the fact because he showed up on my lunch break at school one day and laid a long kiss on me in front of everybody to let them know that I was his. I didn’t hear from him again until Mom had him call me to try and talk some sense into me:
“Mom says you’re doing some really bad, bad things.” Then, in a tone of surprise, “I waited for you for a long, long time.”
I didn’t respond to him.
After feeling burned and abandoned by my own mother and fathers, plural, as well as every other male in my life, I did pretty much anything and everything I wanted to without regard for anyone else, or myself for that matter. It was easy to do what I wanted. I would buy my mom out:
“Mom, can I go to Brooke’s?”
“You’ve been there for three days straight.”
“I’ll bring you a joint.”
After Eric and by the end of freshman year, I had gone through a couple of boyfriends, as did Brooke. She and I partied with pot and booze a lot during that summer. It was rare to hear someone speak about coke up in Concow, but crank was everywhere. I came dangerously close to testing my resolve against the power of the almighty meth, my greatest nemesis, but I knew it wouldn’t be worth it. And, while at a party, I did find out what acid looked like. I watched while the adult handed out vitamins to those who had fried as she explained, “It takes a lot out of a body.”
It wasn’t long after our sophomore year started that Brooke began dating a guy a little older than she was. Her new guy had a friend that was a little older than he was. That friend was Rick, a “surfer-hippie-jock,” as he’d often refer to himself. He was a good looking man, well-built but slender, six foot tall, had a Tom Selleck mustache going on, and was always drinking. He would tear the tabs off his beer cans because he said they got caught in his scarred nostril that at one time had been torn by a cleat from Kurt Russell during a high school football game.
Brooke, her boyfriend, Rick, and I spent a lot of time together. Rick was nearly 20 years older than I was, but often would make advances toward me. I was not interested. He’d say, “When I’m 90, you’ll be 70.” “I’ll put your face on a magazine.” “I’ll treat you like a queen.” He talked about us leaving Concow and going down to southern California where he could show me how normal, civilized people lived. And since I told him I had never eaten a good steak, he wanted to take me to a place where I could get a killer one.
I had a boyfriend at the time. “No, I don’t think so,” I’d tell him.
He’d write poetry for me. One was something about a dove and him, Rick, shedding a tear, for he would have to wait another year. He assured me he’d come back to Concow every year until I turned 18.
My life had veered off in such the opposite direction of where I once intended it to go. All of my childhood dreams of becoming a lawyer or doctor – Lord knows we needed either one or the other in my family – or the once-asserted courtroom stenographer that “made the bucks” seemed no longer viable options. As to my chance at ever being loved by someone? It was obvious, I wasn’t loveable. I had a boyfriend, but that’s all he was, “just a boyfriend,” so I didn’t have to be alone. I found myself exactly where I had said I would never be: seeded right alongside my mother.
Back at home, needles hidden in the bathroom medicine cabinet, a canister of some form of liquid meth in my closet, and a spoon on my dresser, all of which were never mine, Mom was impatiently pacing the house waiting for my sister Lori to come by. I assumed, as was usually the case, it was so she could get wired. Lori was late.
Then, desperate, Mom delivered her very own coup de grace: “Jenny, do you have any?”
Additional Information on Breaking The Cycles of Addiction
In closing this post by Jennifer, I’d like to share a few key resources for people who may find themselves in similar families.