News Flash!! Parents, You Could Save Your Child’s Life

By Amy M. Voltero

I wrote this piece in June, 2012, for a local photographer and dear friend’s self- esteem gallery. The subject of bullying, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide and violence, has been more visible over time. Where does education start? How does self-help play a role amongst the children of our future? How does our upbringing shape our identity as adults?

I can’t stress how important it is today to begin education on the dangers of drugs and alcohol, inappropriate touching, safe sex, strangers and depression. Giving children positive reinforcement and affirmations shapes a child’s self image. Education on the above, starts at home, not in the classroom. Parents, please, please, please, get educated! Learn to talk to your children, and have an open relationship. Most people my age grew up in a home, where the rule of silence was that of the white elephant comparison, and fueled the saying, “The less I know, the better off I am.”

Not true!! Parents, the more you know, regarding proper education and warning signs of depression, low self esteem, substance abuse, ect, the better the odds are, in preventing these issues. Warning signs are, in my opinion are  apparent. The problem is, parents don’t quite know what they are looking for.

Just a little history on how substance abuse and low self esteem has affected my life.Figured it was appropriate to tell you I do  not hold a college degree on these subjects, but I do have life experience! Professors can’t teach my life in a classroom.

Merriam-Webster defines self-esteem as, “A confidence and satisfaction in one’s self.”

As a young child, I struggled with having any self- esteem. I grew up in an alcoholic and dysfunctional household. My father was the best father he knew how to be, considering his upbringing. He was extremely materialistic and superficial. He was absent, emotionally and mentally as early as age five. He wanted his children to be the most attractive, athletic and popular. That meant, pushing me beyond my limits. When he wanted me to go jogging with him, to avoid other children  making fun of me for being slightly overweight.  When dinner was served, he would comment saying, “Are you going to eat ALL that?” In lieu of his comments, I would not eat dinner then proceed to sneak food. I hid my secret eating habits from him, to avoid a conflict and make him happy.

Those learned behaviors carried into my teenage years and into my adulthood. I actually believed that I was unattractive and undesirable by everyone.  So, I picked up drugs and alcohol so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of my poor self- image. I was co-dependent, which I didn’t learn until many years later. I was attracted to the “bad boy,” and began acting like a caretaker. I was used by every man I dated. These men I dated were criminals, alcoholics and addicts, and had what I thought, more issues than I did. I was attracted to this type of man because of the way I felt about myself. I thought I could save them, in an effort to avoid looking at myself and my own issues.

What I learned after many years of trying to achieve recovery from drugs and alcohol, and therapy is that, I didn’t feel complete without a man. I needed somebody by my side 24 hours a day, because I couldn’t stand the person I had become.

Being over two years clean and having been blessed with open-mindedness, honesty and willingness, I was able to understand that my father was just as sick as I was. Accepting that my childhood was unchangeable, was the beginning of my healing process.  I chose to listen to the voices in my head. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I also learned that body image has nothing to do with self esteem, unless you allow it to shape your thoughts, feelings and actions.  When you make the choice to listen to negative self talk, you are saying, “I am not worth being happy, and embracing life to the fullest.” You are denying yourself the opportunity to grow as a woman, to your full potential.

My self- esteem today is defined by my accomplishments in recovery, being a single mother of an eighteen month old daughter, Mia, and being accountable and responsible. Today, I am not defined by a man, but defined by my ability to take a stand in carrying the message for women struggling with self -esteem issues and drug addiction. I chose to carry the message of hope to ensure that loving yourself is possible. I love myself, flaws and all. Accepting that there is no such thing as perfection, is a true weight lifter.  I never thought I could ever look in the mirror and like the reflection staring back at me. Today I do. I live an honest life and pay it forward whenever possible.

I am a firm believer that our stories have been written for us. There are signs everywhere and detours along the way.  It lies within our strength, knowledge and desire to choose the right path. Usually, it isn’t until we have had enough pain that we make the decision to change our lives and get educated regarding self-esteem, substance abuse and the negative effects it can have on our lives.  As human beings, we are our biggest critics and worst enemy.  I will end with this, “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Get out of your own way, be yourself and love the skin you are in!!!

 

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