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9 more things people don't tell you about loving an alcoholic.

We're all in this fight together. You are not alone.

9 more things people don't tell you about loving an alcoholic.

It seems like almost everyone has had some experience navigating the complicated waters of loving an addict.

Previously, I shared my story about growing up with an alcoholic parent. I confessed that I grew up as a child of an addict, and I shared a lot of honest and raw details about my life.


Me and my dad.

And when we shared the story with Upworthy readers, my inbox flooded with messages of people saying, “Me too.”

I couldn’t believe how many people related to my story. It’s like we gave people permission to start talking about secrets they’ve held in for years.

So I reached out to the daughters, sons, husbands, wives, and people who boldly shared their stories with me. I asked these people to share their truths — mostly unspoken before now — and to tell their stories about loving an addict.

Here's what they told me:

1. “I always felt [like] finding love outside my home would fix what was broken inside of it ... and it never did.”

Samantha told me about the time her mom tried to put a ponytail in her hair when she was in fifth grade. But her mom was too hungover to make it work. On that day, Samantha decided she didn’t need her mom anymore, and she clung to this mentality until she was 19 years old.

Instead, Samantha turned to friends and boyfriends to try to fix her broken idea of home. But they could never replace the love she needed from her mom. Samantha’s mom eventually decided to get help, but Samantha had to work through a lot of the anger she harbored toward her mom too.

Today, Samantha said: “I’ve since turned my relationship with my mom into something worth holding onto.”

2. “I’m still stuck in the ‘Don’t tell anyone’ phase.”

One reader, who asked to remain anonymous, said her family is still in the phase where they hide the dark secrets in their home. She said there’s only one place where she can talk about the truth: her diary.

As a "highly functional drunk,” her dad has held the same job for more than 45 years without anyone knowing his struggles. The disease has also been passed down, and now her siblings are racking up violations for driving while intoxicated. She desperately wants to understand how alcohol has so much power and control over her family.

3. Some people don't make it out of addiction.

I can’t give credit to just one person for sharing this devastating story because so many people shared this with me. I heard about many parents who battled for years with alcoholism and never recovered, leaving behind sons and daughters. It isn’t fair, that’s for sure.

Many of these courageous people are now trying to forgive their parents, even after they've passed away. These children are walking their own paths of recovery.

4. “I went to prison because of my addiction.”

Summer is an addict who is proud to share that she is now in recovery. At the age of 27, Summer went to prison for two and a half years after more than a decade of battling addiction. Once released, a caring probation officer helped her enter a treatment program.


Summer as a child. She started struggling with addiction when she was 14. Photo used with permission.

“I still have fears and doubts that I can make it through recovery and not relapse,” said Summer. “It’s a lifelong process that I’m learning each day.”

Summer is now a working mother, also studying to be a substance abuse counselor. New friends in recovery became family too, helping Summer find a new way of life. “They loved me until I learned to love myself.”

5. “I’m afraid that I’ll become an alcoholic and ruin my kids’ lives.”

As a 10-year-old little girl, Melissa thought her parents' drinking was all her fault. Then, she became a parent herself and felt all of the “what ifs” piling on.

Melissa said she often asks herself: “What if I drink? What if I can't control it? What if I end up making my kids feel like I used to?”

For Melissa, this is an ongoing battle. She has found support through therapy, which is helping her realize she isn’t to blame for her parents’ behaviors.

6. “My dad was an abusive alcoholic for years and it's still difficult.”

Rachel and her dad. Photo used with permission.

After years of living with an abusive alcoholic father, Rachel was left burdened with many issues. She told me she wants to find the words to explain how she feels after all these years, but it’s a struggle every day.

7. “My family’s recovery feels far away.”

“My mom is an alcoholic, but sadly is a long way from any sort of recovery,” said Dave.

Dave has loved his mother through all the difficult steps, like visiting many counselors and therapists for help. And as of today, as with many people I heard from, he says nothing has worked. He’s still waiting for the day when his mom will find her way to sobriety.

8. “I’m getting ready to marry into a family with addiction that keeps repeating itself through many generations, and it’s scary.”

Grace’s fiancé’s family struggles with generations of addiction. Her fiancé’s mother grew up with a violent alcoholic father, and Grace has had a hard time accepting how she can still love a man after he’s caused so much pain.

The disease has now been passed down to her fiancé’s immediate siblings. Grace said she’s still trying to grasp the depths of the impacts on a family for so many generations.

“We just have to try our best and accept that people will make mistakes,” said Grace.

9. “I became the recipient of my dad’s rage. For years, I felt like I was always walking on eggshells.”

Ashley’s father made numbing his pain a priority, causing Ashley to view the world through a very dark, untrusting lens. And now, although Ashley’s father has been in recovery for 10 years, she has had to come face-to-face with her own lifelong journey toward recovery too.


Ashley and her dad. Photo provided by Ashley, used with permission.

“I have to work a strong recovery program of my own so I do not continue to pass on the dysfunction and trauma to future generations of my family.”

Ashley recognizes that she learned to cope in dysfunctional ways, as she desperately fought for years for the love and approval of her father. But she says she’s bouncing back, learning to set boundaries and gain back her confidence.

The next time you think you’re alone in learning to love an addict, think again.

We’re all in this fight together. You are not alone.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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