JESSICA HESTER

I was only seven when I realized my father had a drug addiction.  I knew because my mom found a pill on the floor and kept asking my father why he had it.  I saw a few more on the carpet and picked them up and hid them in my pants.  I wanted the fighting to stop.

I was the hero. It was my job to keep us safe. That is, of course, the role I assigned myself, and at least half my family believed that of me. I did too for some time. But the truth of it is, I was a kid who wanted to feel safe as well, but couldn't, because my family was not safe. Addiction was strangling us, my dad couldn't work, my mom was stressed and tired, and appointed herself, just like me, the woman who was going to save the family. I wish it worked that way. Life is about the every day; the relationships we build, and our purpose for being on this earth.

I wish someone had told me addiction was a disease as a child. Maybe then I would have had more compassion for myself and my family. When you grow up and your family is suffering from addiction, you spend a lot of time hiding. If I had known that it was a disease, that it wasn't a flaw my family had to hide, it may have saved me from the shame that has eaten at me, and I know has hurt my family too. 

Now as an adult I can see beyond the addiction, the members of my family it has hurt, and I am proud of them. My entire family actually, because they have taken steps toward recovery. My family today is very loving, and generous in spirit, beyond all that we have gone through. We don't completely understand the disease, but we have found the courage to take a deeper look at ourselves and each other with love and compassion.