"MY CHILDHOOD WAS A BLACK HOLE" - STEPHEN'S STORY
I was born into a family of addiction. Like his father before him, my dad drank a lot, wandering in and out of our family home before leaving for good when I was nine. My older sister took after him, smoking shocking amounts of pot and who knows what else at the parties she was either on her way to or sleeping off. My mother was relatively stable, but the dysfunction around her made her anxious and brittle, and as a result she became harder and harder for me to communicate with. I didn’t ever want to feel like I was adding to her burden.
My reluctance to make waves led to me becoming more and more isolated as I entered my teens. Every family interaction seemed like it was an explosion waiting to happen, so I stayed in my room as much as I could, playing video games later and later into the night.
Gaming became my entire reward system. I got more satisfaction out of it than anything else, and things I used to enjoy, like hanging out with friends, faded into the background. Eventually, I came to experience anything that would cut into my gaming time as a source of real irritation. My normally solid grades suffered as I spent the bare minimum of time on homework, and would wake up in a fog after playing until 3 am.
Thankfully, my mom took notice once my grades slipped. She was overwhelmed with everything else she had to deal with, but realized that the kid she never had to worry about had a real problem. One day, she came home from work, took me aside, and said we were going to look for help.
When she called Chabad Lifeline, she was told I could be seen by a youth counsellor right away. She also told them about my sister and my father, and they offered my mother counselling for herself. The idea was that she needed support too in order to handle the burden she had been carrying.
That was a couple of years ago. I’ve since cut way down on my screen time, pulled my grades up and started being more social again. The benefits of continuing my treatment and becoming a part of a supportive community became crystal-clear when COVID hit; I didn’t become isolated and backslide into old habits even when I could barely leave the house. My mom is still trying to get my sister into counselling, but she is also taking better care of herself with the guidance she’s received. We talk more now, and that’s maybe been the most important part as we try to heal ourselves and our family.
*Names and details have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved. Additionally, we would note that the reason we were able to attend to Stephen immediately is because we are regularly expanding our staff in order to meet the growing demand for our services. As Chabad Lifeline is sustained through private donations, this entails significant fundraising efforts. Making a donation can help ensure that we can continue to provide timely care that can ultimately save a life or set a family on a better course, creating a positive ripple effect on future generations.