Who are the true victims of the addiction epidemic? Are they the addicts overdosing in their cars while being broadcast live on social media for the entire world to see- or are they the children in the car seats sitting behind them, crying?

Are the truest victims the addicts who are too dope sick to take a shower and eat, or are they the children whose mother or father can’t get out of bed to take them to school or play outside with them?

Are the most vulnerable victims the addicts who no longer have the will to live- or are they the children who don’t hear an “I love you” because mom or dad are too depressed to give positive affirmation?

Who are the true victims of the addiction epidemic?

I fear that they are the children who are being raised in foster care or by their grandparents, because their parents left long ago. They are the children who go to bed hungry because mom spent her last penny on a bag of dope instead of a pack of ramen noodles or a box of macaroni and cheese. They are the children whose feet get cold in the snow because their shoes are riddled with holes and dad couldn’t afford a new pair because he had a transaction to make with his dealer. They are the children who blame themselves for their parents absence, feeling like they’re not good enough and that’s why mommy and daddy don’t love them. They are the children who are emotionally neglected. They are the children who were forgotten.

We see the war in front of our eyes, but often we forget about the carnage left behind.

Addiction destroys communities. Addiction puts countries in crisis. Addiction overwhelms hospitals and prisons. Addiction pummels economies. Addiction leaves friends and loved ones of addicts feeling betrayed and angry. Addiction decimates entire families. But worst of all- addiction ruins children’s lives; children whose only worry should be their grades or their new crush at school. Children who used to enjoy cartoons and playing outside, but now have to take care of their siblings and go out to work because dad is strung out and skipped town for months. Children who used to love ice cream and going to Disney, but now scrape together the last few noodles in the kitchen drawer to cook because mom is in her room nodding out.

There are support groups for over-eating, cancer, depression, anorexia and even support groups for addicts- but what about the children of addicts?

I grew up with my mother and father in active addiction. My father used to beat my mother and brother when he’d drink until blacking out, or smoke meth. I remember my brother having night terrors because my dad would come and pull him out of the bed in the middle of the night to beat him and then lock him in the bathroom with the dog to sleep on the floor. I thank God now that my father left to Colorado when I was 5. But that was only the beginning.

My mother was prescribed fentanyl and Vicodin (as I later found out) for almost the entirety of my life. Mom always cooked, cleaned, would get really irritated, then lie on the couch and read a book in a trance until we went to bed and the next day the cycle would repeat. I used to beg her to come outside and play with me, but never once in my entire childhood did she ever play with me. She not only physically shut me out- but emotionally. I now know that she couldn’t feel much- but I felt everything.

It is cited that children of addicts are 8 times more likely to become addicted and in my case, I did. I had a very hard time processing any emotions I felt because we were not supposed to have emotions in my house. I later grew up to become emotionally dysfunctional, but that’s for another article.

Being the child of an addict is confusing, painful and lonely. Luckily my mother is now in recovery from the opioids, but my father is still a severe alcoholic and addict and lives somewhere in Colorado.

I really want other children of addicts to know that even though there are odds stacked against you- you don’t have to go down the same road as your parents. I know you feel alone, confused, forgotten, abandoned and neglected, but you ARE loved. The world hasn’t been fair to you and you should have never had to experience the things that you have, but I promise you that you WILL be stronger because of it. I know sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but take it from me, it’s true.

We don’t often hear the voices true victims of the addiction epidemic, because many are learning to talk, many are too young to share their stories or many cannot process their own lives enough to be able to be open about it. So it is our job, as adults, to ensure that we protect the next generation by properly dealing with the generation we are facing now that is addicted. The only way to prevent the next generation of children from becoming addicts is to first educate ourselves in order to educate them. It is imperative that we lay down our judgment and condemnation long enough to find the proper solutions to the issue at hand.

The next overdose you see in the newspaper or video of a man/woman you see overdosing in their car- remember that most often, there is a child behind them crying.

We must make a stand against this epidemic and open our hearts to love and understanding in order to end it. The true victims of the addiction epidemic depend on us.

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