“Uncle Monster”

A winning essay from our Brighter Future Scholarship contest

After my grandfather died, my family tried to let my uncle back into our lives despite all of the pain he had caused us. We felt for him during this time because, for his entire life, my grandfather had been his only constant, providing him with empathy, unwavering love, a home, and basic necessities despite his cocaine addiction. I was never too fond of this loyalty because of his poor track record; I was also biased by the potent cigarette smell he emitted that made me nauseous. Nonetheless, I complied, knowing he was my dad’s brother after all.

After some time, I could physically see the wear that this was causing on my parents. Their eyes drooped in anticipation that my uncle might show up at the house unannounced and became hesitant to answer the phone because it was most likely him calling to ask for money . . . again. The more we gave to him, the more he took advantage, using every dollar to buy crack cocaine.

Living in a small rural area, it was unusual for us to lock the door to our house. It had never been an issue until we started noticing items slowly disappearing every couple of days. It was a dead giveaway who had manipulated and been stealing from us. This discovery robbed us not only of physical items that we knew were being sold in the pursuit of drugs but of any trust we had left for my uncle.

We were forced to call the police and place a restraining order on our family member. It was a seeming end to our grief surrounding him. He could not legally contact us, but for a long time after this, he was an enormous source of fear and anxiety for me. Every time I heard a car go down my street, my tear ducts would swell, my body would go tense, and I would run to the window to make sure it was not his car. I always got scared thinking about what I would do if I was ever confronted by him, and thoughts of what I would say will forever run through my mind. Addiction was his monster, but he had become mine.

Although this memory of my uncle shows who he has become through addiction to me, it is nowhere near the hardships that my father and grandfather faced. Addiction is not a solitary disease. It is like a stone thrown in a pond, causing a ripple effect that disturbs any and all surrounding calm. Friends, family, and the community also take on the burden of one’s addiction because of how devastating a disease it is. No matter how much support one can receive, whether it be familial or rehabilitation, sometimes, it takes even more than a mountain.

Until my experience with my uncle, I did not fully grasp the concepts taught in D.A.R.E. or health classes. It seemed like I was just going through the motions because of the social constructs surrounding drug use. After seeing the effects of addiction with my own eyes and knowing how it affected the people I love, I fully understood.

My uncle most likely started using drugs in his teenage years to escape adversities, including mental health issues and being sexually assaulted at a very young age. I do not believe that back then he ever would have intended that first cigarette drag to turn into what his life is now. I do not believe that when he took his first sip of beer, he wanted to overdose multiple times down the road. I do not believe that he hoped his first high would eventually cause him to lose his family. The disease of addiction had a snowball effect that took him down, never letting him back up. Understanding this now, I feel sadder for him than anything else.

Unfortunately, it came at my uncle’s expense, but I have several positive takeaways from this. I first learned about the consequences of my actions, and how though they might appear minute in the beginning, there are many unintended effects on both myself and others. It is a lesson that I will model my own life with and teach to friends and family. I also gained a new appreciation for my dad and grandfather, knowing the strength that they had to overcome this battle.

Receiving the Mountainside Brighter Future Scholarship would be a great help in my future studies. I have ambitious goals and want to become an architect. Architects have to go through much schooling, and although I have an intrinsic desire for this knowledge, it comes at a cost. This scholarship would help alleviate financial burdens on a family who has borne financial burdens of addiction, so that I can make my dreams a reality.

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