The Lost Children of Addiction

There’s this song from the 80’s that’s permanently stuck in my head:

“When no one listens anymore, what are words for?…When no one listens
There’s no use talking at all – Missing Persons “Words”

When nobody listens, it’s hard to feel like you even have a voice. Too many of us got used to holding everything in. We appear quiet and shy, but in our minds we’re crying out and screaming.

“Sometimes quiet is violent. I find it hard to hide it” – 21 Pilots “Car Radio”

Music is how we cope.

I spoke with an amazing young woman recently about the hell she survived in the form of her parent’s addictions and mental illness. She shared how much Pink’s music meant to her growing up, “For a long time it felt like she was singing my life, and having someone to connect to, knowing that I wasn’t alone with this, was empowering and comforting. I think it saved me from a lot, from running away, from self-harm. It taught me that there were other ways of coping with pain, and to this day that is what I do. I turn up my radio [real high] and sing along.”

“In our family portrait
(Can we work it out?)
We look pretty happy
(Can we be a family?)
Let’s play pretend
(I promise I’ll be better)
Act like it goes naturally” – Pink “Family Portrait”

The scared little girl who tried to be perfect and take care of everyone grew up to be a strong young woman who sees herself as “shattered.” Hers is the untold story of what addictions professionals call being an “affected other.”

She acknowledges it’s wonderful that people do recover but refers to the kids like herself as the “aftermath and loose ends” whose stories go untold.

“All my life, I’ve tried
to make everyone happy
while I just hurt and hide
waiting for someone to tell me
it’s my turn to decide.” – Sara Bareilles “King of Anything”

The young lady broke my heart by asking, “What happens to the children that no one wants to play with anymore?” Oh, man… Well, the ones who cross my path most often become my adopted children. The rest?

We pretend that we know what we’re doing while faced with the daunting proposition of figuring out how to get a life. Deep down, we’re waiting for someone to give us permission to come out of the shadows and into the light:

“Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
and they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave” – Sara Bareilles “Brave”

We’re drowning on the inside – burdened by the stories we’ve never spoken. Subconsciously searching for kindred spirits, we desperately need someone who gets us. The fantasy we never cop to is that we’ll find that person and fall in love and that’ll make everything okay.

But if you’re a 20 year old woman and you feel like a scared little old girl, love is something that feels more like a dad holding you while you cry than the happily ever after of a romantic comedy.

I want to meet this young woman face to face. I want to give her a huge hug and the reassuring feeling of Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle”:

“It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be alright.”

I’d tell her that of course it takes more than time. Time doesn’t do anything in and of itself. It just goes by. It’s what she does with it that matters. It’s about what she invests in herself and what she lets go of. It’s in what she cries out, lets in and gets right with.

All she needs to do to find her voice is to use it. She has important things to say/write. Hers is the soul of a poet. As she shares her story, she opens doors for others to do the same. This will allow her to connect with kindred spirits. She will find as so many of us have that we can do together is infinitely greater than what any of us can do alone.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.