I come from a family of addicts. I learned of this fact at age 9, when my missing-in-action father sent me a letter on my birthday explaining his "sickness". I remember crying into my mother's arms for a long time that night. For some reason, my young, impressionable brain decided that since my father was an addict, I must be too. So I began raiding my mother's medicine cabinet, finding narcotic painkillers and anti-anxiety medicine. To this day, my mother has never asked where all the pills went. I think she's still in denial, over a decade later. Over the next few years I grew more and more dependent on the pills, eventually hooking up with the "bad crowd" in school to feed my addiction. I remember it felt so glamorous, so exclusive.. My father came back into my life when I was 13. He moved into these apartments in a nearby town, and I made sure to move in with him, thinking liver disease might not give me much more time to get to know him. My mother was devastated, but I was ecstatic. Living in town opened up many new doors for my addiction, as my father did not enforce many rules and even smoked and drank with me on several occasions. I met other young people on that bleak path. We were lucky to survive some of our endeavors. I know that now. It all came to a head when I was 16. I had recently gotten involved with a tattooed, pierced, "punk" 20 year old who was more than happy to provide me with pills. It came at a price, though, and that price was my virginity. Looking back, I am appalled and disgusted. At the time, it seemed only fair. He was abusive, manipulative, and isolated me from my family and friends. By that point, though, I was so doped up that I didn't care. Fortunately for me, it was only a month after I lost my virginity that I discovered I was pregnant. I wept in the floor of a local grocery store bathroom, stolen pregnancy test clutched in my hands. He was waiting for me outside the door. Reality hit me hard in that moment. 16 and pregnant, in an extremely toxic relationship, high as a kite. The father of my baby didn't stick around. I called my mother, and she came to pick me up and drag me back to her house to live and attend church. I suffered withdrawals in silence, told my mother it was pregnancy symptoms, newly determined to get my act together and be a good parent to my baby. No one really believed I would, but over the next several years, I proved them wrong. I haven't touched a pill since that day in the dirty floor of the bathroom. My baby is no longer a baby, but a beautiful young lady, and her mother is present, self aware, healthy, and happy. We added to the family when I married a wonderful, patient, kind man, and now my daughter has a baby sister. I realize now what a twisted relationship I had with my father. He is still struggling with drug abuse, but that is another story for another day. I am so thankful for my first daughter. If it weren't for her, I have no doubt I would be dead. Instead we are a functional, thriving family. If you've made it this far, thanks for listening. This isn't a story I tell many people, but it is one I don't dare forget.