What is addiction?
Technically, addiction is when someone becomes physically and psychologically dependent on some mood altering substance. However, for me addiction has been so much more than technical terminology.
My experience with addiction began with my mother use of drugs the earliest experience I can remember was when I was about five or six. I had my hand slapped out of my mother's hand by an officer arresting her. I did not know at the time, but I later learned, it had to do with her involvement with drugs and other crimes. She went to prison for a few years. She came home when I was about 10 years old.
However, when we reunited with her she had already married a man she met in a halfway house. The transition was not so smooth and now I was old enough to understand things. My mom and this man were trying to get their life together but they were struggling, still using drugs. I witnessed them fighting over drugs over and over. I seen my mom get hit during some of these arguments. I tried to intervene, but I ended up being the problem. I didn’t understand why my mom would live like this. But, it wasn’t her. It was her addiction that allowed her to stay in this abusive relationship. As a result of it I was also sent away to an institution named Saint Joseph’s in Wyoming.
While I was away I do not know what transpired but out of nowhere I was brought back home and my grandmother, mother, brother and I set back out to California. I was happy to be coming home with the rest of my family. Also, because my stepdad was no longer in the picture, I thought my mother was going to be a mom. Most importantly, I thought she was going to kick her drug habit. This wasn’t the case. It only got worse.
It was my mother who first introduced me to marijuana. She acted like it was nothing. When I got caught with some her response was “I don’t care if you smoke just don’t get caught again“ I was about 12 years old. I didn’t want to smoke or do any other drugs. I didn’t want to be like her. This was how drugs were normalized for me.
A year went by and I stayed away from drugs personally but they were still all around me constantly. Back in California, my mother had connections everywhere. She used to take me on late night runs with her to get dope. I guess a kid with her was a security blanket. So she didn’t get robbed. A sense I preferred this to what came next because I knew she was “safe”.
There was a breaking point. It came when my family was basically having an intervention with my mom. There was a lot said. They told her if she didn’t straighten up they would take my brother and I from her. Her response to that was ushering us to the car, draining all the money out of the bank, and getting a hotel room. She also purchased a lot of crack and heroin.
I was 13 years old now, and I was more aware of my reality. I hated being cooped up in that hotel room. I wanted to leave but I didn’t want to leave my brother behind he was only three years old. I began to resent my mom for putting us through this. I watched her to smoke crack and slam heroin. I beg and pleaded for her to stop as she confused paint chips from the freshly painted room for crack on the floor.
I couldn’t get through to her so I called home. I told my aunt and grandmother where we were. My brother and I went home, but my mom went MIA for what felt like a few months. When I finally saw her again, her first words to me were “I’m sorry, how can I make it up to you“. I told her to go to rehab. Surprisingly she went. It was sort of my birthday present.
I would go visit her in rehab. I was young but I could tell my mom was putting in the work. Knowing this, gave me hope that I’d have my mom.
After rehab she was doing good. However, while in rehab she had met a man. I was really skeptical about that relationship being positive in the long run. I ended up joining a gang around this time as well. In part because I thought if my mom would say I am throwing my life away to then she straighten up and stay straight. I ended up getting shot. My mom moved me and my brother with her and her boyfriend to Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Everything seem to be going well. My skepticism wore off gradually. It felt good to introduce my mom to my friends back in California I did not, I was too embarrassed to.
Unfortunately, Justice thinks felt good I slowly started to notice some signs of drug use again. I would hear my mom and her boyfriend arguing in the other room a lot more. Then, one time I decided to be nosy put my ear to the door and my suspicions were confirmed. They were arguing about who’s hit it was. I confronted her about this but she said I heard wrong. I braced myself for the worst.
I was out here all alone, no grandma, or any other family member to run to. I knew it was getting worse when my mom started to call off work. More frequently. Also when she leaves the house late at night, I knew from the past that it was to get dope. Despite my pleas her addiction allowed her to ignore me. This time was worse than before. I had to put a jack or steering wheel lock so that she could take off with the car and go get dope. It didn’t stop her she just walked. To try to stop that I put the couch in front of the door and slept there and all she did was go out her bedroom window.
One night and many nights after I get in the car to follow her and make sure she was safe. I even tried to talk to the people slamming. I asked them not to sell to her. They asked me to help them sell.
I ended up getting a job at a mom and pop restaurant. Where I got paid under the table weekly. I was only 14 but I did this so that I could help with bills. Mostly through mostly though I did it so that my little brother and I could always have something to eat. Thankfully the manager knew my story and helped me out. I would take my brother to school go to school myself pick him up after school and take him to work with me. This was almost an everyday thing.
It wasn’t until my mom started vanishing for days at a time that I called my grandmother begging to let me come home with her. I couldn’t handle it anymore but, I didn’t want to leave my brother. My grandma and aunt came to New Mexico. I took the Greyhound bus back to my grandmothers house. My brother eventually returned to.
I was finally able to be a teenager. I still worked at Food 4 Less and JCPenney. I went to school and did good. I learned that my mom struggled with depression and felt like a failure. This is what kept her cycle of addiction going. So it 15 a decided I wanted to become a psychologist to help people who struggle like her. I enrolled in LA mission college and completed my first college course with an a in psychology 101. I started early while in high school because I wanted to get a jumpstart. My future was bright but I still had the baggage of being a gang member. I was living a double life while trying to leave the gang.
I ended up getting arrested at age of 16. I’ve been incarcerated for 14 years. During this time my mother passed away. Her addiction took her life at the young age of 37. My little brother found her lying in bed with foam in her mouth, dad. He was only 10 years old. It haunts me every day since then.
Up until a year after my mom passed away I never really did drugs. I have experimented with weed in a couple other drugs once or twice. I didn’t want to turn out like my mom. I was already in prison but I had left the gang life and was doing good. I still had a chance to redeem myself.
However, her passing triggered a lot of resentment. That has been building up for years. I became depressed. I turned to drugs because that was what my mom did. It was normal.
I started off using heroin only on days I felt down. It eventually progress to multiple days in a row and when I tried to stop I started to experience withdrawal symptoms. I didn’t want to feel that pain either, so I kept using. I became addicted, I became my mother.
My addiction almost killed me three times. Still no one can tell me anything. I just didn’t want to feel the pain of not being there for my daughters, my baby brother to idolizes me, my family, and friends, who are believed in me and the pain of throw my life away. This is why my mom got high too. I was living her life now.
It wasn’t until my wife sat down with me one day that I opened my eyes. She told me that she knew all I’ve been through, but that I didn’t have to carry that burden alone anymore. As my wife, she was not going to allow me to destroy my life, her life, and our kids lives. She told me she help me every step of the way and she has. Gradually, I am proved. I put in the work and got sober. Now it’s a blessing to say I am not abusing drugs anymore.
I do not say that I am not addicted anymore, because I believe this is a lifelong battle. Whether it’s genetic or because it was normalized for so long I am not certain. I just know that I must continue to do the work daily to ensure I do not relapse. I still have a future. I cannot let my wife and kids down or put them through the same cycle I went through. Addiction does not just cause damage to the person poisoning them self, it’s traumatizes and brands those you love and care for that witness and go through the addiction with you for life.
This has been my experience with addiction. It’s the short version. Everyone’s experience is a little different, but it’s never too late to overcome it. There’s help out there and there’s so much more to life than our addiction allows us to experience and understand.
Ramses E Mayorga Junior