“Wow, I never would have guessed that happened to you!” is the first thing I hear every single time someone finds out about my childhood. I’ve accepted my past to such an extent that I’m surprised by people’s reactions, because my recollection of the past feels nearly pragmatic at this point. On paper, I’m about as normal as the next guy. When you first meet me, I’m also about as normal as the next guy. Blending in is a defense mechanism I have cultivated over the years.
I was 6 years old when I first had to visit my mother at a drug rehabilitation center, and it was then I was first told, “No one needs to know about this,” from my father. My mother’s drug and alcohol addiction—and subsequent overdoses—became a secret I had to bear every single day. I not only carried the weight of being witness to addiction in my home but also the weight of trying to uphold an image of a “perfect family”—reputation being a concept I didn’t comprehend as a child. It has taken me years into my adult life to unravel the damage that has been done. As a child, I had an incredibly warped sense of illness—physical and mental—because my father tried to normalize my mother’s addiction and overdose suicide attempts.
It’s usually at this point in my story where I’m met with pity, and frankly, it’s the pity that usually prevents me from eagerly divulging this story to any passerby on the street. I don’t feel pity or contempt or anger when I look back on my life. I thank the challenges I went through, because without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today—and I like who I am. I am empathetic, driven, and confident. Surviving my childhood has empowered me to face any challenges in life head-on.
It wasn’t until middle school health class that my father’s irrationalities were exposed to me. It was the first time I learned what addiction and drug abuse truly was. Once I understood the truth about addiction, I became obsessed with studying all that I could about medicine: physiology, anatomy, biology, and anything else in the realm of science. That was when I decided to one day become a physician.
When I was a child, I remember wishing I had answers for what was happening inside my home. Understandably, children should be protected from the travesties of life, but that’s a privilege provided to children who aren’t already face to face with those realities every day. Learning about medicine and how the human body works has given me an incredible sense of comfort and security. It has given me answers for the things I used to think were unanswerable. Learning the truth is what drives my love for science and medicine. I want to become a physician to be able to provide life-saving care—the same care I needed—to others.
My mom falling victim to the opioid crisis of the early 2000s affected everything in my family’s lives. Ultimately, my mother was never able to recover from her drug and alcohol addictions. It not only impacted me but impacted my father so negatively that he became neglectful of my older sister and me. After my father remarried, it became clear that he wanted to forget the past and all that came with it—including my sister and me.
But my story has a happy ending. My extended family, aunts, uncles, and grandparents took in my sister and me and helped us pick up the pieces. They gave us a safe home for the first time in our lives. They were the ones who sent me to college when my father refused to financially support me anymore. They celebrated birthdays, holidays, and graduations. I may have lost two parents, but I gained an entire village. Because of my family, I continue to strive to surround myself in a supportive, healthy, and goal-oriented environment. I believe that fostering an environment like this is what makes being a good physician just as much a lifestyle as it is a profession.
Overcoming the childhood trauma of addiction and abandonment has been one of my proudest accomplishments. And while I will always live with the scars of what has happened, I found the silver lining in my experiences. Being forced to deal with addiction and abuse at a young age has shaped me into the person I am today. Without a doubt, it has been my main motivation to become a physician.
My motivation, along with a strong work ethic, has carried me through achieving an undergraduate degree, master’s degree, and my first year of medical school with a convincing academic record. I'm a first-generation college graduate and a first-generation student physician. The WCI Scholarship would further allow me to continue to achieve my goals while lessening the financial burden that medical school places on a student.