I believe I was fortunate in my upbringing. I believe that all the negativity I witnessed—the drugs, alcohol, prison time, fist fights, arguments, divorces, and teen pregnancies—actually helped me because I saw what life would be like if I decided to make the same choices that people around me had made. Just as importantly, my stepfather proved to me that I had the power of choice.
I was born in Dearborn Heights, Michigan and raised by parents who never married. From the time I was born, my mom and dad never lived together. My brother used to steal my bike to go buy drugs, and my mother was hardly ever home (she worked three different jobs at a time, all as a waitress).
My brother went to prison at the age of 17 and has already spent twenty plus years of his life behind bars on charges that range from breaking and entering to accessory to murder. He’s been in and out of prison since his first sentence. My parents both have issues with alcohol and my mom is drug-addicted as well. In eighth grade, I attended three schools in three different states in one month. My aunt spent time in prison for murdering her husband.
My brother would take me to the store to show me how he stole gum and other things so he could take them to school and make money. He’d then turn around and use the money to buy drugs. In seventh grade, I would come home to my mom passed out on the couch from a combination of pills and alcohol. She would occasionally wake up to swear at me and tell me I was worthless, a liar, and that I’d be nothing in life—that I’d turn out just like my brother. She used the f-word as an adjective, noun, and verb—in just about every sentence that came out of her mouth.
I spent summers with my dad, but he wasn’t there to protect me during the school year. He was a carpet layer and worked long hours, and at points in his life has mentioned he was a functioning alcoholic. The difference between my Dad and Mom was substantial. My Dad, although he would drink a lot and sometimes pass out on the couch was always there. He was always supportive. I always felt like he was my biggest fan. He was at games, and he spoke to me like a human being. He is not perfect, neither am I, but to me he is wonderful. I love my Father and everything he is.
I think it is extremely important to look at your entire life and see the challenges you faced are actually your best friend. The negativity is a reminder of what things will be like if you decide to not make a change. Make no mistake, you get to decide. Some people would rather make excuses as to why their past held them back, and others would rather show how their past catapulted them forward. Whatever you choose, just know it was YOUR choice.