Tag Archives: substance abuse

Resentments:Are You Drinking Your Own Poison?

   By Amy M. Voltero

Are you someone who carries the weight of hurt and resentment on your back? Have people wronged or crossed you? Do you blame others for why you have become the person you are?

“Damn my ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, father, mother, sister, brother, boss, coworker…I can’t believe he/she did this to me….”

Have you ever heard the expression, “Hurt people hurt people?”

This type of behavior is a vicious cycle. I’ll give you an example, figuratively speaking.

Lisa’s father, Bob, was an alcoholic and addict. In other words, he was a “hurt” person. Bob’s father, Joe, was a substance abuser, another “hurt” person.  .

Dan was never there for his son, Bob. He abandoned Bob and his family when Bob was a little boy. He was never there to guide his son, love him. Bob grew up, got married and Lisa was born. Bob cheated on Lisa’s mother, leaving Lisa abandoned as well.

Lisa is now, 18 years old. She is also a substance abuser. Her low self- esteem, anger (blanket emotion by the way), and need to be loved, prompts her promiscuity. She is well known amongst the kids her age, as a junky and a “skank.”

She has never known what it feels like to be loved by a man, especially her father. After many years of abuse to her body by using drugs, promiscuity, crime, seeking love and attention where ever she could get it, Lisa enters treatment for substance abuse.

After many months of treatment and progress in therapy, Lisa begins to open up about her past. She tells her therapist about the awful treatment from her father, and blames him for turning out the way she had. “If my father was only there for me when I was growing up, and didn’t treat me like crap, I would’ve never been an addict.”

That sounds logical, right? Let me enlighten you. We are not responsible for what has happened to us as children; however, we are responsible for what we do with it later on in life. Sexual abuse, verbal, physical, mental or emotional abuse,  parents leaving, getting put into the care of others, such as foster care or a grandparent raising you, are some of the examples of growing up with dysfunction.

As children, we learn behavior from these unfortunate situations, such as, people pleasing, manipulation, and acting out, to only name a few. If any of us have grown up in a dysfunctional home, most of us have not learned how to express feelings. How could we ever know how to do these things, if we had never been taught? The rule of silence is the most prominent in a dysfunctional household. What happens here stays here. We tell no one of our family secrets, such as infidelity, substance abuse, illegal activity, sexual orientation or abuse.

Anger is the most commonly used emotion, to “blanket” or mask true feelings. We were never taught how to identify feelings such as, hurt, disappointment, sadness, etc.  Using anger and blaming others for our actions is the easiest way to avoid looking at ourselves.

I have learned in my years of self-exploration and recreation that, the answers of healing, lie within you. True, others may have crossed you, whether it be a family member spouse, significant other or boss, however, if we take a more intimate look inside ourselves, we find that we also have played a part. I will use myself as an example.

My daughter’s father is also an addict. He cheated on me when I got pregnant, so I was now left to my own devices to raise a child. I hated him for having to be a struggling single parent. As the baby got older, I would use this anger toward him, when the baby was sick and I had to take time off of work. It was his fault.  He has only met our daughter a handful of times, and continues to lead his life, as if she had never been born. Hate him right?

Once I looked beyond the hurt and resentment, I was able to pinpoint my part of the situation. Had I had self-esteem, I would have never been in a relationship with this man in the first place. When I got pregnant, he was in a sober house, and I was running the streets as an active addict. He had begun his journey, and I was not healthy. I had cheated on him when he was in jail, and told him of my infidelity when he got out. I hurt him then, had expectations that he would stay in a relationship with me, and be a father to our daughter. I have learned that having expectations on another person are premeditated resentments.

After years of therapy, meetings and step work, I am able to accept him as is. Sometimes, it hurts that he doesn’t pay child support, or bother to call or see her, but I now know that he is not healthy. I would rather my daughter grow up without a father who isn’t healthy, than to damage her by exposing her to this type of behavior.

Bottom line is, pointing the finger at someone else is easier than looking at yourself. Some are sicker than others. If you are on a path of change, you must remember, just because you are getting well, does not mean the people around you are. Having acceptance regarding other people’s actions is key. We cannot control, or change others, as much as we would like to. The important thing is to know, that we can only control our reaction to people or events.

Life is too short and unpredictable to be at odds with others. If you have wronged someone, they will forgive you, once you have forgiven yourself. I believe that. If someone has wronged you, take an honest look at your motives and take responsibility for your actions. I promise you, being accountable and self-aware are the greatest gifts you can give yourself.


Unhealthy Relationships: Are You A Victim Or a Volunteer

By Amy M. Voltero

Being unaware of unhealthy relationship is very common amongst us. The dynamic can exist between family members, significant others, bosses, co-workers, schoolmates and friends.  My experience on the subject has surrounded mostly relationships with significant others.

As an addict in recovery, I have become educated on the reasons why I thrived off of such relationships. I am not only recovering from addiction to substances but from codependency, low self- esteem and people pleasing.

When I was not in recovery from these issues, I found myself attracted to the bad boy. Oh yes, the bad boy is mysterious, sexy, somewhat controlling, great in bed, fearless, ego driven and my least favorite, emotionally detached. Instant gratification! Presto!!!!

Let’s admit ladies, the regular guy can seem boring, right? I have now learned that the “regular” guy is the safest route to go, if you are a woman like me.

Seeking a man with this type of façade, has been my biggest downfall. I always say, my first addiction is a man, then substances. In my experience, I have learned that we mostly want what we can’t have. I believe that dynamic exists with both sexes. If you are stubborn like I am, then, you probably won’t give up until you get what you want, OR you will give up when you have had enough pain.

What we don’t realize, or even care about when we are consumed with this relationship, is the consequences that follow the game of cat and mouse.

My therapist has educated me on this type of dynamic. It’s called, “The Pursuer and The Distancer.”  You think he’ll solve your self-esteem, body image, family, and work problems – not to mention your financial woes and spiritual blockages. You believe the “right relationship” or the “perfect man” will make everything better. As we pursue, in order to compensate for some inconsistency in our lives, the distancer will pull away.

The need to feel loved or wanted is a natural. When you have any type of insecurities, or have been exposed to an unhealthy environment, you are more likely to seek relationships which have been modeled in your past.

You find yourself lowering your standards, going to what we call all-time lows. Hitting the lowest point depends on how much pain we can handle before our actual breaking point. It starts off small, like cancelling appointments or other obligations to compensate spending time with the other person. You will make sweet gestures like bringing them a coffee, when you grab one for yourself. Show up at important events, just to show your support. Harmless, right?

Our all-time lows rear their ugly heads when we choose to ignore the warning signs. He or she becomes expectant of past gestures, demand the unthinkable, and manipulate using guilt trips in order to get what they want. They will use the adoration we have for them in order to feed their ego and to maintain control of us. By this point, our insecurities and low self-esteem are allowing this type of abuse to exist.  We think, we cannot do any better, and that the more we do for someone, the more they will like us.

In the end, we end up getting hurt. We have rearranged our lives, emptied our bank accounts, and ran in circles chasing our tails, hoping for returned love and affection.  How could this have happened? I did everything that person asked? The only way to break this pattern is by getting help. Taking a look at yourself and becoming educated about unhealthy relationships is the first step. Becoming aware on the signs of abuse is the key. Abuse comes in many forms, physical, verbal, mental and emotional. Once you can identify these warning signs, you will be giving yourself the gift of self-awareness.

Feeling less than, unwanted, unattractive and unloved are just a few of the reasons that prompted me to add some spice to my life, by chasing the bad boy. My bad boy is all of the above characteristics, and also an addict. Loving an addict, can be the most painful. Reality says, as long as someone is in full blown, active addiction, I will never be number one. There is no way to differentiate between the good guy, and the bad guy, because I made excuses for the unacceptable behavior. I made excuses because I remembered that underneath the addiction, I was a good person.  I didn’t know how to put the shoe on the other foot, without jumping in with both feet. My life became their lives. I can’t say I lost myself, because at that point in time, I never had myself.

Today, I am educated on my personal issues, addiction, self-esteem, and healthy relationships. Just because I have these tools, doesn’t always mean I use them 100% of the time. Recently, more often than not, I have found my toolbox in the basement rather than easily accessible, on my tool belt. Luckily, something greater than me intervened, and saw I had endured enough pain. I didn’t jump in with both feet, but was beginning to try the other shoe on. I am grateful for the pain I went through because it has allowed me to bring myself back to reality. I am writing this for all of you to see, because I am freeing myself from the pain I allowed. Having been educated on the above, I’m aware I took a step backwards and have named myself a volunteer, not victim for the most recent hurt.

I am not ashamed to admit, my all-time lows. If anything, admitting my faults and insecurities on paper, for all to read, makes me a stronger woman.  I hope some of you who read this will identify and take the time to reevaluate your current relationships and your lives. If I have helped just one person, then my work here is done. “ Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail”- Ralph Waldo Emerson




DCF: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare

By Amy M. Voltero

How many of you are familiar with the Department of Children and Families? Not all, but most parents struggling from substance abuse, I know have had their children placed into DCF custody, or have had a case opened,  at one point or another. Some have even lost their children to adoptive families, because they just couldn’t stay sober.

I am one of those recovering substance abusers, whom shared a short period of my and my daughter’s life, having a case. When I found out I was pregnant, I was around 3 weeks into my pregnancy. I was homeless and actively using drugs. That was enough for me to enter treatment in May of 2010. I realized it wasn’t just about me anymore, but now an innocent child. My daughter didn’t ask to be born, nor did she deserve to suffer the consequences of an uneducated, self-centered addict, I had become.

I was on methadone during my pregnancy, which meant the possibility of my daughter having to be weaned off the methadone, by small doses of morphine, until she would be free of withdrawal symptoms. This was indeed my biggest fear. How would I forgive myself for what I had done?

I worked hard on changing the person who walked through the doors, day after day. I surrendered, and took an honest look at the damage my using had caused, and the painful lives of loved ones, whom I had hurt. I held on, without any family support, and continued my journey.

My mother was there for me the day I delivered a healthy baby girl, on January 13, 2011. My daughter, stayed in the hospital for three days for observation. Miraculously, she never had to be treated for methadone withdrawal.

DCF interviewed me, and due to my honesty, as a substance abuser with an extensive history, opened a case on my daughter’s behalf, for neglect.  My worker visited the program regularly, spoke to my counselors, and program staff to ensure progress in my recovery. I truly was changing.

I moved in August, 2011 to a sober living program, for women and children called, Dennis McLaughlin House, in Charlestown,MA. The visits with my worker continued, until the department felt secure enough to close the case.

Having DCF in my life, was truly a blessing at that point in time. They supported me through my transition, to ensure the safety and security of myself and my daughter.

Not all stories are like mine, however. A very close friend of mine, has a two and a half-year old son, whom she has not had custody of since he was two months old. She was sober during her pregnancy, and had also had a long battle using substances. He was admitted to the Neonatal ICU, due to needing surgery on his rectal area. That meant she could not take him home, which is every mother’s fear.

To sum up the story, she was overwhelmed and had post partum depression, and eventually relapsed. She was not going to probation due to her long days and nights, spent at the hospital, and from her slip.

We, as substance abusers, use to avoid having to deal with life, and not to deal with feelings. When we use, it numbs us temporarily. Having education now on the scientific part of addiction, we now can see that using only creates a band-aid effect. Our problems will still exist, whether or not we mask them.

DCF entered her life and took custody of her newborn son. My friend was arrested for not complying with probation, and was sentenced to seven months in MCI Framingham. She had plenty of time to think, get educated on how she could change her life, and be reunited with her son.

She went to a residential program and graduated, then went to a sober living home to continue treatment. Her son was placed into a white-collar home, with two young parents, in the medical field, who also had another child. My friend’s visits continued, once per week, only with DCF supervision. The visits were held at the mutual meeting place, the DCF office. Leaving him was never easy. He called her mum and the foster-mother mum as well. She would leave the visits, crying, and isolate herself. Although she was deeply saddened and depressed, she refused to allow the system to get to her.

A trial was conducted for her to regain custody of her son. After months of grueling testimony, the judge came back with the decision. My friend was deemed an unfit mother, and her rights to her son were revoked. They would only allow her two more visits, and that would be all. She was in shock!

How could a judge, deem her an unfit mother, as she had now, over a year of clean time, was committing to therapy once per week, at one time, even had two therapists, attending school to get her GED, voluntarily attended classes for self-help, could provide a home, love, emotional and mental support, and had truly changed? I’ll tell you. Rumor has it that the DCF worker assigned to the case had a personal relationship with the now adoptive foster family.

My friend, along with her mother’s support, contacted almost every political office in Massachusetts, looking for support. John Kerry’s office went to bat with her, only to find that DCF painted a deceiving picture of her in a letter addressed to the senator.

She would now have to appeal the judge’s decision, which could take possibly two years or more. That’s a great idea!! Let’s revoke her visits, so this foster family can strengthen their relationship with her son! I’m sorry, a mother’s natural place is with her child, UNLESS, they pose a current danger to herself or others. My friend DOES NOT fall under that category!!!

She is now fighting for visits with her son, during this appeal process. She is a woman I have watched complete a one hundred and eighty degree turn around. She has established herself, became educated, and continues to do the right thing on a daily basis.  Despite her current situation, she continues to hold on,  to prove the members of the judicial system wrong and to her son, she will not go down with out a fight.

I sincerely hope the judge can sleep soundly at night, knowing she is biased, and has no idea, what it’s like to be on a journey of self discovery. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes lady. You are denying her, a woman, of her God-given right, to be a mother. Try a little empathy, Lady!! People are capable of change; however, it takes a real person to have the ability to see that!!

I ask you, from the bottom of your hearts, to please help me, help her fight for her child! If anyone knows of an advocate, politician, or even someone whom has been through a similar situation, please comment on this article on this page.

Thank you for all your support!




A Day In The Life Of The “Single” Working Mother & Its Rewards

By Amy M. Voltero

I roll out of bed each morning around 6:30AM. I stare at the ceiling briefly, then proceed to my kitchen area. The coffee pot has been set the night previously, which makes it ever so simple to flick the orange switch. I sit at my desk, read my meditation for the day check my email, Facebook, and enjoy the remainder of seaside lullabies, courtesy of Parents magazine. If you are like me and find the mind racing, and meditation difficult, I strongly suggest giving it a whirl. I finish dressing, and complete my daily routine.  I then choose Mia’s clothes for the day, set out a single diaper and 4 wipes on the bed. I pack her lunch, also prepared the night previously, and prepare her breakfast.  She could wake anytime starting at 7AM, and could sleep as late as 8:30AM.

Today, she sleeps until 8AM….crap, LET THE RUSH BEGIN!!!! Thursday’s are my worst day of the week. I quickly change her diaper, serve her breakfast, can’t forget the Wiggles DVD. Style her hair while she is eating her breakfast in her highchair, laugh at her silly jokes, and encourage her new vocabulary.

It is now 8:23AM; you’ve got to be kidding!  I quickly wash her hands, she brushes her teeth with my help of course, and I dress her. She’s at an age where she HAS to do everything herself. Yes, yes, we are approaching the terrible two’s and finding your independence is definitely included in this stage.  Here comes the mental checklist: lunches, shoes, diapers, wipes, blanket, clothes, keys, cell phone, dinner, carriage, lights. Oh wait; it usually makes it easier if you remember to put the baby in the carriage.

Load the car, baby and all, seatbelts, rear view mirror, side mirrors, Michael Jackson cd; yes my child loves Michael Jackson. Michael was one of her first words, oddly. AAAAnd we’re off to daycare. I have the pleasure of traveling over he Tobin Bridge 4 times a day. Another kicker!!

Quick drop at daycare, off to Dunkin Donuts for yet, another cup of Joe, then rush back to Charlestown to get my head shrunk at 9AM.Thank God for therapy!!!  Session‘s done, then off to work.

Rush, Rush, Rush!!!

That’s just an example of my life day in and day out. I am a single working mother, which makes my job three times as hard. Yes, I made the choice to have a child, but not to raise her alone.  I never wanted to be a single parent. I thought I would have the white picket fence, house on the hill, caravan, dog…then I remembered who her father was. It took a lot of acceptance and personal growth to realize that just because I’ve changed, doesn’t mean the people around me have. Any man can make a child, but only a real man can raise one.  The only consistent male role model she has in her life is my brother, which I’m truly grateful for. He has been a godsend, loving my daughter, as if she were his, spoiling her, we’re currently working on that, lol and meeting her basic needs. Yes diaper changes too!!

I am her mother, and her father. I have to play good cop, bad cop, and I don’t enjoy it. Parenting is hard, without all the added stresses of life happening, just taking its natural course. Now add, mother recovering from substance abuse, learning how to live life’s on life’s terms, having to deal with feelings, confronting issues head on, conflict resolution, balance, work, meetings, social life and being accountable for anything and everything in my past, creeping up to haunt me, years later.  Whew!!

That may not appear to be a lot of work, but it holds its ground when you never knew how to take care of yourself. Now I’m taking care of my eighteen month old daughter as well.

Although being a single parent has its challenges, I would not have rewritten this chapter of my life. Everything I have been through up to this point of my story has made me into the woman I am today. It’s so funny, because I feel as though I can actually step outside my body, and look at how much my past and present has shaped my life.

I’m not saying that you have to be a single mother/ parent to have experienced any of the above. Heck, I know married couples, who are single parents. One parent goes off to play mother or father of the year at work, while the other minds their children.

Parenting is a controversial topic in any household.  Bottom line is, the phrase, single working mother/ parent, is redundant. We are always working, whether it is paid by an employer, or to be given the gift to watch the child you created, grow and develop into a carbon copy of yourself.  If we stop and think about it, getting paid, sometimes doesn’t ever really involve a paycheck, does it?


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!!!