Taking a Different Path
I was born in an inner city area in the Midwest. You could say I grew up in the ghetto. For the first part of my childhood, I lived in a housing project with my grandmother, my two brothers, and some of my cousins. It was very crowded in our small house and we didn't have much, but I was happy. I didn't realize that we were poor. When I lived with my grandmother, I would see my mother sometimes. She lived with us too, but she wasn't there very much. I would only see her a couple times a year. She spent most of her time on the streets, doing drugs. That was her home. My mom was addicted to crack cocaine and wasn't very involved with me or my brothers. She never saw me grow up because she was never around.
When I was seven, I had to go live with my father. My grandmother was blind and had very little money. It was too hard for her to take care of everyone, so I had to move out. My father was able to take me in, so I went to live with him, his wife, and her two daughters. My father sold drugs for a living. I was around drugs and alcohol all the time. I tried to have a relationship with my stepmother and she told me that she didn't do drugs, but I found out that she was doing crack too. She was very sneaky about it and I never knew when I could trust her. She would lie to me and steal from me. My dad smoked pot and drank a lot. Sometimes he would pass out and I would find him sprawled out somewhere when I got up in the morning. My stepsisters started doing drugs too. I think they started doing drugs because of what they saw their mom doing. My dad and stepmom started having problems in their marriage as they both got more involved with drugs and alcohol. My dad could get very mean when he was drunk. He hit people when he was drinking. Eventually my stepmother moved out and I was left alone with my dad. With her gone, my father would get drunk and try to treat me like his wife. He tried to sexually abuse me. When I told people about what he had tried to do, my stepsisters stopped talking to me because they didn't think he would do that and they were mad that I told. My father went to jail when I was 16. After that I moved in with one of my brothers, then a cousin, but that didn't work out. They put me out and at that point, I went into foster care.
I don't really have much contact with my family now. I don't want any bad influences in my life anymore. I never did drugs or drank even though it was all around me. I saw what it did to my family and the path that they went down. I didn't want to end up like them, so I went a different direction. Since I was in third grade, I have gotten myself up for school in the morning; I've cooked for myself, and cleaned up after myself. I'm a lot more independent than most kids my age. I wish I hadn't needed to learn to take care of myself the way that I did, but I'm glad I learned how to be independent. I think growing up the way I did has made me a leader.
I always got good grades in school. That was never a problem. I just got accepted to college and I plan to study criminal justice and eventually go to law school. I might be one in a million, but it wasn't hard for me to do what I did. I didn't want to be anything like my family, so I never considered doing drugs. I think anybody who uses any amount of drugs has a problem and they need to get help. Drugs might ease a person's pain in that moment, but all they really do is make people angry and cause more trouble than they're worth. Drugs ruin people's lives, plain and simple. What I really want people in my situation to know is that your life can be different. Just because you saw people all around you going nowhere, it doesn't mean that's what you have to do. You can have a better life. You need to have high expectations for yourself and not let the people around you pull you down.
Recently, my mom got clean. I think maybe she saw me doing something good with my life and it made her want to make her life better. I don't know how she did it, but she's off drugs and she has a job. We get together and talk sometimes now. We are trying to have a relationship like a mother and a daughter. I hope that other members of my family will try to change too, but no one can do it for them. You have to want to change in order to make a change. My biggest fear growing up was to end up like them. I think people need to try to break that generational curse in their families.