Melissa and Chuck, my biological parents, divorced when I was a toddler. After they both gave up their rights, my older brother Danny and I moved in with our maternal grandma and great-grandma. Grandma adopted us.
We somehow managed, but it wasn’t easy. My grandma worked a lot and my great-grandma was in her mid-80s trying to care for two little kids. The job got even more challenging after Melissa gave birth to Brandon and then Cristen. Both had ADHD and were hard to manage.
When I started grade school, I missed a lot of days. If Grandma or Great-grandma were sick, I would stay home to help take care of them. I also helped out when it came to taking care of my siblings. These kids, now 14, 16, and 20, kept me going and mean the world to me!
Unfortunately, Grandma went along with whatever her daughter said. Melissa moved in and out of the house like it was a revolving door. Then she, Michael (a guy she met on the Internet), and his son moved back in. There were nine of us in a three-bedroom house with 10 animals. Melissa and Michael lied to Grandma about paying rent and the owner kept threatening to kick us out. Though Grandma and Michael worked, there was never enough money.
Great-grandma died in 2001, and the family was never the same. We had even less money and there were more arguments, so I started using drugs and alcohol to escape the madness.
After I started middle school, I met Ashley, an older girl who quickly became my best friend. Ashley’s family was as crazy as mine, but they took care of me and I looked up to them. Even so, Ashley and I got into a lot of trouble. We did drugs and made other bad choices. Before long, I was selling Grandma’s pain pills to buy drugs and get supplies (food, clothes, etc.) for my siblings.
Though I didn’t know it until much later, sixth grade was also a positive turning point in my life. Like Danny, I had Mrs. Mackey for science and she was the greatest. I LOVED HER! For the first time I could talk to an adult about anything and everything. She was always there, and though I knew she didn’t know what to say sometimes, Mrs. Mackey always seemed to find the right words. We grew very close.
The next year I started working for a carnival with Melissa. I loved the work and that I could make and save my own money. But during eighth grade, Melissa took me out of school and brought me to live with her and Michael. Instead of enrolling me in a new school, Melissa had me work at the carnival and I failed eighth grade. Melissa also stole all the money I had been saving up for my brothers’ and sister’s Christmas presents.
Mrs. Mackey went on medical leave at the end of eighth grade, and gave me her home phone number. She told me to call if I ever needed anything. A few days later I did. Mrs. Mackey and I talked often from then on, sometimes for hours, about stuff at home or nothing in particular. The fact that she took time out of her day for me showed me that, unlike Melissa, she genuinely cared about me and didn’t expect anything in return.
When she learned that I was behind in school, Mrs. Mackey offered to be my personal tutor. I went to her house twice a week or more so she could help me finish eighth grade. She helped with homework and my science project, and even worked with me to help me get into a charter high school rather than the public school.
In my personal life, however, things were falling apart. The summer before ninth grade was blur of running around with Ashley and her older sister. I don’t remember much more than that because we were always high. I even started taking Grandma’s pain medication in secret.
By the time I started ninth grade, I was addicted to pain pills. I had been staying with Mrs. Mackey and her husband for a little while, but they left for a month-long trip to Europe just a week after school began. While they were away, I stayed with Ashley, avoided school, and did drugs. Every couple of days Mrs. Mackey called to check in. She could sense that everything wasn’t really “fine.”
Shortly before the Mackeys got home, I came close to dying. I had no idea that pain pills mixed with antibiotics could make me so sick, but after taking two pain pills and my antibiotic, I kept passing out and ended up in the hospital. The doctor told me that if I had taken any more pills, I could have overdosed.
After Mr. and Mrs. Mackey got home, I confessed everything that had happened. Mrs. Mackey gave me no choice and told me to move in with her. Not knowing what to do, I agreed. After living with the Mackeys for more than three years, I decided to let them adopt me. I waited until I was 18 so my grandma wouldn’t have to sign papers. The adoption was finalized on June 5, 2008.
The Mackeys are Mom and Dad, and I couldn’t have asked for better parents. They alone supported me through all the ups and downs. Mom and I spend a lot of time together and I tell her everything. Dad is my protector. He’s extremely funny and can always make me laugh. They are the only people I trust and I know they will be there for me no matter what.
The downside is that I have lost contact with my little brother and sister. Melissa won’t let me see Brandon or Cristen, and she plans to move away with them. Still, I know that no matter how far away they are or how often we meet, my siblings will always be my motivation to better myself. Fortunately, I still see Danny and his son once in a while, and have hope that my other siblings will someday come back into my life.
Because I went through so much and am now so happy with Mom and Dad, I want to help other youth. For my high school graduation project, I created an online support group (http://sites.google.com/site/adoptedteens/) for teens who were or are about to be adopted, as well as youth in foster care. In my experience, it’s much easier to get through tough times knowing that you’re not the only one in the world who has to go through it. END
North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
970 Raymond Avenue, Suite 106
St. Paul, MN 55114