The American Dream Delayed by Addiction

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FrankThe perfect American family: a father who worked from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., a mother who worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. A house full of love and affection. As far as I can remember we never needed anything. I’m not sure when it started exactly or how long it went on. All I know is that since I was young, my dad would get these uncontrollable rages. He would scream, things would get thrown and broken, and he would even hit my mother.

I remember one time I was 7 years old and during one of his outbursts, he was about to hit my mother. I jumped in front of her and pushed him away. I yelled at him that he should pick a fight with a man, not a woman. The look in his eyes only showed more fury. As I grew older, these outbursts only got worse. My dad had become an alcoholic and my family didn't even know it. His drinking habits went from an occasional weekend drink to a daily thing.

My father’s addiction led him to using cocaine. From that point on, my father became a monster. Family gatherings and parties turned into large brawls and displays of rage. I feared my father: The thought of him smashing through windows then bleeding out like nothing had happened was disturbing.

[Related: Substance Abuse Prevention Must Move Beyond Health Care Settings]

My parents divorced when I was 9 ½ years old. My father let his addiction take control of him and cheated on my mom. We did not hear from him for the next four years, and my family didn't want anything to do with him. He lost everything he had, but it didn't bother him one bit.

Five years later, he had liver failure that left him hospitalized for a couple of months. It took my father four months to recover from all the years of alcohol he consumed. It was hard to see a man that I once looked up to just barely hanging on.

After everything that had happened, this was once a man that did everything for us. My brother and I would take turns caring for him during the weekends and after school. After everything, I didn't want to be like him. I did not want be controlled by anything.

At the age of 15, I witnessed my mom work three jobs to support her three children. It was hard on the three of us, and believe me when I say we did not make the situation any easier. We found the attention we were lacking at home in the streets. My newfound friends had heavy habits with drinking and smoking, so I soon fell in the same steps. At the age of 16, I had gotten expelled from my school district and was smoking weed and drinking every day. Blinded by everything I was consuming, I followed the wrong footsteps and just threw my life away.

At the age of 16, I was sentenced to five years in prison for a crime I had committed. I was released a month before my 21st birthday. I have now been out for almost four years and I have been pursuing my dreams of opening up my automotive shop. I am also living a sober life to set an example for my 1-year-old son. All of this has been possible thanks to InsideOUT Writers, the supportive family I have had the privilege to acquire.

Frank Jiminez, 24, works as an independent contractor in mobile automotive services. He’s also a father to a 1-year-old son and an active member of InsideOUT Writers.

Click here for more first-person stories by young people.

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