Primed for Abuse and Addiction

By Toshia C. Humphries, M.Ed., M.A.

Fall consists of such joy for most of us. Football games, Halloween, pumpkin everything and festive family holidays. However, it also encompasses Suicide Awareness in September, Domestic Violence Awareness, World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Awareness Week in October. This reality gives those of us in recovery cause to reflect on lives lost to addiction, as well as domestic violence, suicide or undiagnosed mental illness and those currently in the throes of Hell.

As we know, these very serious issues are not necessarily exclusive. In fact, a great deal of active addicts report experiences with domestic violence, instances and patterns of mental illness in the home—including but not limited to addiction, alcoholism and depression—co-occurring mental illnesses and suicidal thoughts or even attempts. Additionally, given the negative effects of active addiction on the family, the vast majority of us are all too aware of the cycle of addiction and abuse.

Many of us—prior to entering recovery—found ourselves the product of one or both cycles. Taking accountability and claiming responsibility for our own lives, we courageously took the first step, erasing our victim mentality and empowering ourselves through active healing. But some of us have only cracked the surface. There will always be another layer to uncover. As an adult child of an addict, raised in an abusive home and co-parented by an untreated adult child of an alcoholic with clinical depression, I can personally attest to that fact, and in honor of those who share a similar experience, I am openly sharing my story.

As a child, I witnessed active addiction; a confusing and scary experience for anyone too young to grasp the explanation. But untreated depression was no less damaging. I felt abandoned, emotionally neglected, lonely, fearful, distorted and burdensome. Both illnesses spurred a great deal of anger, frustration, irritability, shifts in mood, negativity, neglect, verbal and psychological abuse. More importantly, neither depression nor addiction offered a safe place for me to be me, and coupled together, they resulted in suicide attempts and domestic violence.