Mary Frances Flanders Blog, People Facing Addiction

 

As a child, I didn’t quite understand addiction. I didn’t understand what it meant to have an “alcoholic” parent, even though I had one. I would see my dad stumbling around, hear my parents arguing, or witness tears streaming down my dad’s face, but I didn’t understand what was going on. As I aged, I began to piece things together and eventually began to wrap my mind around the term “alcoholic”.

Every day was the same, my dad would drink and my parents would argue. When I was in elementary school I would have friends over, but eventually, I quit inviting them. The days of me inviting friends to come over and play or spend the night dissipated. I started secluding myself because I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to see what was going on at home.

Mary Frances FlandersMy dad would show up to various events for my brother or myself and he would be intoxicated and I would see other kids laughing. Eventually, I just started shutting down, keeping to myself a lot, and eventually using my dad’s drinking as a crutch and a burden. I became resentful and angry towards him because I felt like he cared more about drinking than getting to know me.

I felt lonely, helpless, and lost. He didn’t know how I was doing in school, what I wanted to go to college for, or even my favorite color. When I went off to school, I finally felt like I could be myself. No one knew what my family situation was and I felt free. Fast-forward years later, a move to Oklahoma and back to Georgia, and I started to realize how much anger I had been harboring towards my father.

I recognized just how much his addiction had shaped me into the woman I had become. I had been getting involved in toxic relationships that were reminiscent of how my father and his drinking made me feel…not good enough. I kept trying to fix…everyone. It was upon my return to Georgia that I decided to really delve into addiction and how it shapes the addict along with family members. It was through this research that I was able to sit down with my father and explain how his actions molded me.

His marriage with my mother unraveled after 31 years, his children had been foreigners and I wanted him to understand that even though things had fallen apart, that didn’t mean we couldn’t rebuild in a better way. I was able to explain how embarrassing it was for me as a child and that I was planning to take this year as Miss Southeast International to devote my platform to addiction.

My platform is Addressing Addiction: Prevention, Recuperation, and Restoration of Families, because I want to build a better relationship with my father, I want to help those who feel just as lonely as I did growing up, and I want to show people that addiction in your family doesn’t have to be a hindrance, rather a stepping stone to a better future. I’ve learned that instead of being angry, I can be empathetic and understanding. Opening the lines of communication is a step in the right direction, not just for my relationship with my father, but also for him as a person. We all need someone sometimes and it’s important to let those in your life know that they have your support.