I am a 30-year-old woman. A wife, mother, sister, and daughter.
I have an amazing family, career, and home on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.
And I have spent almost half of my entire life living at least 3,000 miles away from everyone I grew up knowing and loving.
You see, I was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and subsequently “raised” in Wallingford and North Haven, Connecticut.
I love my family and I loved my childhood. I loved so many parts of Connecticut that it is hard to recount them all. But I ran away from them and that place as fast as my legs could carry me and, for the most part, with hardly a backward glance.
Now don’t get me wrong. I grew up in a pretty normal way, with a pretty normal life, a pretty normal house, and family. School was normal. Friends were normal. It was all “normal”.
Which is exactly what Connecticut is supposed to be, right? Normal?
Upper middle-class suburbia? Nice schools, manicured lawns. Everyone has a flag flying from their door, and their pool open in the summer. Everyone likes to have a few drinks and chat about all the accomplishments that their children have made, and what their next step is on their perfectly chosen path through life.
Well, I never exactly fit into those plans. I was never exactly the perfect conversation piece for my parents. I also never intended on staying there. And I didn’t.
In so many ways Wallingford, Connecticut is anything but “normal”.
Like I said, it’s a nice town. The kind of town where I went to the same high school as my mother, lived only miles away from most of our family members, and could imagine marrying someone I had known since grade school. And for some reason, that terrified me.
I didn’t want my children to also go to Sheehan High School. Or to have teachers that said things to them like;
“Ah yes, I knew your mother. Has she stopped that silly drawing yet?”
“Still wearing those darn overalls is she?”
”Did you know she once smoked a cigarette right in the middle of senior court?”
or possibly in later years
“Oh, yes I saw your mother at the bar again last night.”
“How is your family doing? We heard about the problems your mother is having…”
I didn’t want them to learn from the parents of a friend about all the terrible things their mother did as a teenager, or possibly as an adult.
Or for them to have to sit in a basement in the middle of winter getting too drunk to walk, or taking any pill that was handed to them because they were bored, and thought that this was normal behavior.
I wanted to escape people who pretended that things were constantly perfect and turned blind eyes to alcoholic and drug addicted children.
I desperately needed to flee from alcoholic and drug addicted adults who tried to hide the things they were doing from their families.
I yearned to see the world and everything in it.
And I decided to get away from the dead-end path I saw myself sprinting down at an alarming rate.
Because the truth is, I was all too familiar with addiction.
Not the kind of addiction that leaves someone homeless in a gutter with a needle in their arm. Not the kind of addiction that is clear to everyone in the world around them.
The kind that is quiet and sneaky. That looks happy, and normal, and productive.
The kind of addiction that you ALMOST don’t see coming, until it becomes all you can see about a person.
So, when I graduated high school at 17 years old, I decided I would leave.
I would take my silly art and draw my way through life! So I applied to an art college as far away as I could think to go at the time, California.
And that’s where things got a little difficult.
Because it turns out, no matter what your reasons, it’s pretty hard to abandon everyone you’ve ever loved.
But I did it. I left my friends, my parents, grandparents, and my baby brother.
I just left.
And a lot of heartbreak has happened since that day.
Three of my grandparents have died. The number of friends I’ve had has dwindled. My parents have gone through highs and lows. And my baby brother was furious with me for years on end. Since he is the one person I truly regret leaving, that was probably the most difficult for me to deal with. (I am still to this day trying to convince him to move out here.)
But I thought if I could just get away, I could be different. I would be different. Maybe the people I love would be too.
And fortunately for me, I can say, I definitely was different.
I may have abandoned the people I loved, but I did it for a very good reason.
I never did drugs again. And I know from the bottom of my heart, I can say that I never will.
I did have a serious issue with alcohol, however. Because let’s face it, 98% of the people I grew up with have a serious issue with alcohol. (Again, it’s something that doesn’t often get talked about.)
There were days when I didn’t think I could do it. Days when I called everyone I knew and cried (always drunk) about how I wouldn’t be able to make it. I used alcohol to hide the pain I felt for what was happening to the people I loved so many miles away. I drank and drank and drank and it only fueled my feelings that I had to give up and go back.
But at the end of the day it turns out I could make it, I did succeed, and it only got easier as time went on.
I met and married an amazing man who helped me to become the person I am today. He helped me get a handle on why I drank the way that I did. (It took him some time to help me make this breakthrough because let’s face it, NO ONE wants to be told they have a problem, least of all stubborn-as-nails Mal.)
He also helped me to realize that when drinking, I didn’t have to keep ingesting alcohol until I passed out. I could have a few drinks, have fun, and then stop! (What a concept?!)
I had a boyfriend once who came back to Connecticut with me from California and I will never forget it. He said to me, “All you people do is try and get as f**ked up as you possibly can… I’ve never seen anything like it.”
My husband helped me to see that just because that was how I grew up, that wasn’t how my life had to be.
And now I am proud of the person I have become and the life that I lead.
I have a beautiful baby boy who is absolutely everything that I could ever want or need in this world.
I have a marriage that is never perfect, but is strong, and open, and loving.
I have a career that I love and can be proud of.
I have lots of new friends and new family that I don’t have to worry about lying, or trying to borrow money, or winding up dead of an overdose.
My life is not without flaws of course. Moments from my past still kick around here and there. For example, I have over one-hundred-thousand dollars in student loan debt. But it is a debt that I pay every month diligently and with purpose, that has caused my credit score to go from around 400 to 700! (NEVER thought that would happen)
But the main thing is, I don’t lie about who I am and I do not lie about my shortcomings.
I would have never known any of these things about myself if I hadn’t abandoned Connecticut.
And there will always be things that go on in Connecticut that I wish that I could alter.
I still get heartbreaking phone calls talking about the pain and the lies, the drugs and the money.
There are still people that I love with all of my heart that I desperately wish I could change.
But I know I can’t.
There are people that I wish would take it upon themselves to change.
But know they won’t.
And I know that.
The only way a person will be different is by wanting to be, and that is something I learned by leaving.
And I know that at some point, you need to reevaluate what you want your life to be. And you may need to “abandon” some of those people and places in order to get it.
It has also finally become very clear to me, that when it comes right down to it, I never actually “abandoned” anywhere or anyone.
I had to make a decision to do what was right for me. It hurt, and it was difficult, but I had to do it.
And it is something I will never look back on with regret, because right here is exactly where I want to be.
Are there any people or places you felt that you have had to “abandon” in your life to lead a happier and healthier one? Please let me know in the comments below.
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