Words by Brooke Papp
My first memory of my mom’s drug usage was when I was 10. I was taking a shower in her bathroom when I pulled a perfectly folded towel off the rack and a mirror, knife, and small white baggie came with it. I was confused by the knife, ignorant to the white powder. My memory? Clear as day.
That same year, we became homeless for the first time. My first day of 6th grade, I woke up in the local Motel6 - just blocks from my elementary school. Child Protective Services were called that day from an anonymous source, and I never made it to school. Instead, my mother packed myself and our two cats into our old car and drove us to Oklahoma to live with my grandparents. She 'couldn't bear the thought of her baby being taken away'. We lived there for a month, tops, and left once she could find a place back in California, close to her addiction and group of ‘friends’. This was the instability that was my childhood.
As children, both my sister and I were very socially active, busy with friends and after-school activities – we were distracted, which kept our mother free to use drug after drug.
We were homeless, broke, and hungry off and on for years and it wasn't until I was visiting my sister during the summer before my junior year of high school, when I was fully explained the severity of her addiction. I felt sick and duped. During my visit, my mom had once again become homeless and my sister didn't want to send me back. Legally and emotionally, my sister couldn’t keep me away from California so I returned.
Being 6 and a half years older than me and born with a very sound mind, my sister had gotten out as early as she could - at just 15 - and had her life more together than anyone else around me. She became the person who watched over me, even from afar.
I moved out upon my return and for the most part lived on my own from that day forward. I was 16. My mother continued to use. I was enabling, I didn't want to deal with the issue so I pretended everything was okay and she was ‘normal’. I started paying her bills, when I could barely pay my own. I would lay awake at night for hours wondering how I was going to keep a roof over both of our heads. She started coming to my place of work on payday to collect my paycheck to cash because she ‘needed it’.
In February of 2005, she called me when she was high. I was young, barely 20, babysitting for my boss. I was working multiple jobs, I was stressed, sleep deprived, and drained. And I literally could not take anymore and I told her to not call me until she was clean.
That year and those words changed my life. It wasn’t overnight. It wasn’t perfect. I didn’t do it alone. But in 2005, I took a loan out for college. I worked four jobs at one time. I had amazing friends who had a balanced social / work life. My sister and our relationship flourished because we understood each other. It was my turning point. My mom continued to call on the first of each month asking for money, but slowly the calls dissipated. And I survived. That was over 12 years ago.
You may judge me. Many people over the years have asked me if I will ever talk to my mother again or if I will feel bad if something happens to her and I haven’t spoken with her in so long. Will I feel guilt? I have no idea. I can’t prepare myself for that, or know what feelings to expect. I know that my life has improved without the presence of my mother. That may be hard for many to read - but that is my truth.
By statistical standards, my sister and I should be using and addicted to either alcohol or drugs. That’s not us. Today, I am aspiring to be the best I can be. I aspire to be a role model for youth who feel like they have no way out from underneath their parents' addiction. I have a solid marriage, a loving support system, and a career. I look ahead and although my past does make me who I am, it does not define myself or my future. I choose to defy the statistics.
Brooke grew up in Southern California in a family of addiction - although her childhood does not define her, it has made her whom she is today. She broke free, and strives to inspire youth close to addiction to create their own successful path for an exceptional life.
Today she lives with her husband and fur child, Helmut in Los Angeles. She is an Account Representative by day and a creative entrepreneur by night.