By: Yujia Ding
I never saw myself as an addict. I grew up seeing my uncle’s alcoholism take over his life. I was there when he went into a rage and started yelling, shouting, throwing things at the young child I was. I must have been 10 or 11-years-old at the time.
He was the addict in the family. So, how could I become one too?
Addiction comes in all shapes and forms. It can be to drugs, alcohol, food, sex... and self-harm. It's taken me over 10 years to come to accept that I, too, am an addict.
Awhile back, I had just gone for a run with short-sleeves on. Usually, I don't run with a t-shirt or I run with a t-shirt, but also arm cover-ups. I'm self-conscious of my arms because of my visible, shocking, striking self-harm scars.
The worker at the café I was at looked at me, looked at my forearms, and looked back at me. She gave me an understanding look and instantly made me feel seen. I felt as if I was finally seen for who I am, for who I can be, rather than who my illness made me.
Since the time I was 14, when I first picked up the tool and brought the blade to wrists, I have always covered up my scars out of fear of judgement. This has led to numerous missed beach trips, overheating in the humid Chicago summer while wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, and not wearing anything but jeans and a sweatshirt year-round to avoid having to show my scars.
I’m overly cautious of my surroundings. I’m hypersensitive to any individual who looks at me. I hide in fear of what others may think of me and out of shame for what I do to myself. I decline invitations with new acquaintances, new potential friends, and school events.
Addiction has consumed me for the past 10+ years of my life. Addiction has led me to become recluse, hidden from society, and lie about how I’m doing to prevent people close to me to finding out my real situation.
I always thought that addiction didn’t happen to kids like myself: studious, overachieving, athlete, musician, and actively involved in high school extracurricular activities. I was wrong. Addiction can happen to anybody. Addiction has no boundaries.
I never thought I’d say this but, I am an addict, and as an addict, I continually go back to the one thing that gives me a physical sensation- a feeling, any feeling. When you see my scars, though, I don’t want your pity, I don’t want your judgement. I want you to see me, the me that is hurting, that is in pain, that is quietly suffering from the darkness that has consumed her. My scars tell a story. They tell my story.
This is only the beginning of my story, not the end. I am so much more than an addict. I am a marathon runner, a service dog handler, a rescue dog mom, a friend, a sister, a baseball fanatic, snowboarder, and scientist. I may not identify as all of them, in any given moment, but I am more than an addict.