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Black History Month: Growing Up Black In A White Town
Black History Month is important to me. Being black is part of who I am, it’s not something that’s going away. I’m proud to be black. Growing up, my family never really talked about things like that. I didn’t even learn anything about it until I was old enough to go to school.
For those of you who don’t know me, I grew up in Salem, CT. The easiest way to describe Salem to you is by calling it a farm town because that’s what it was, at least to me. One of the other things that is most noticeable to people about Salem is that the population is mostly white. Now, I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but can you imagine growing up in a place where there was nobody that looked like you?
The only other people of color I knew in town were my own relatives and a boy named Michael. I was young when we first moved to Salem, so it never really seemed like a big deal to me. When I got to middle school, I began to ask questions. Why were there no other kids that looked like me? I didn’t really have the answer for that, I still don’t. I didn’t know what it really meant to be black or white but I knew I had to “act white” to fit in.
There were so many things I did in middle school that I wish I hadn’t. I wish I had just been myself and loved me for who I was. I straightened my hair everyday. Honestly, I even tried to dress like the girls I went to school with. I thought it might make them like me more but that was never the case. Still, I continued to straighten my hair and wear clothes I didn’t like just to fit in.
Being black in a mostly white town came with more than just physical identity issues. Middle school was around when my parents split up. This now unfortunately put me in the “all black dads leave” category, and I hated it. Some of the kids in my grade at the time actually gave me a really hard time about it. I was miserable. Being black came with so many stereotypes like that. Kids asked me all the time if I liked fried chicken or Kool-Aid because that’s what black people like, according to them. I did love those things but not because of my skin color, just because I liked them.
Growing up in a mostly white town really made me hate the black part of my identity. It made me feel outcasted and different. I wish my parents had taught me to love all of myself. If only they had taught me more about black history and what it meant to be black. That those stereotypes aren’t who I am. I am proud to be black and I am even more proud of the history that comes with it.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” and I have that same dream for all the colored children and young adults in this world.
Its so easy to go to bed every night thinking of what you did wrong, or what you wish you did better or different. Things you wished never happened. I think we’ve all been there. Up for hours thinking and thinking. Guilty, angry, depressed, anxious. Sometimes these feelings help us make change. But a lot of the time they just hurt us.
So, what are you proud of yourself for today?
Today I’m proud of myself for being a mom. I might feel guilty a lot about being a mom… working, losing my temper, not taking advantage of every moment the way I feel like I should. But I know that I’m a good mom. I know my daughter loves me, and that I love her. Being a mom is scary and hard and exhausting and it never ends. And every day I wake up and do the best I can. I don’t act selfishly just because it’s easier. I don’t run away from my responsibilities. I try to do better all the time and I will never leave her side. So I’m proud of myself for that. I proud of myself for stepping up, being selfless, and pushing aside my wants for her sake.
Often in recovery and sobriety, addicts experience something called a “drug dream”. It’s a dream that involves using, being high, and/or getting the drug. I’ve experienced many different versions of these dreams and often wake up in a panic, wondering if it had really happened or not. I remember one time it took me over an hour to figure out if I had relapsed or not and my anxiety was intense. After I’ve realized that it was only a dream, the feeling of relief would take over me. The gratitude of realizing that it was in fact “only a dream” would keep me humble in my recovery, too.
Although I would be relieved that it was a dream, I sometimes would be feeling “off” throughout the next day or two. The scene of the dream replays in my mind over and over. Unfortunately, drug dreams also can cause urges to get high and be a huge trigger. I’m grateful that when I first experienced a drug dream, I had a ton of resources to help me get through it. My best coping mechanism is prayer. I would hit my knees and pray for God to remove the unwelcomed desire. Sometimes I would struggle throughout the day and maybe not be as cheery as I normally am, but I didn’t use which was the most important thing. After praying, I would call someone in my support network and be honest about the dream and how it was making me feel. That honesty would be a great help because I was avoiding suppressing the emotions that the dream made me feel.
I recently had a drug dream, but this time the dream went different. It wasn’t me getting high. Instead, I was in the city that I used to get my drugs from and I ran into an old dealer. Even after telling the dealer how my life is different now and that I no longer use, he placed a few bags of heroin in my hand discreetly and said to me, “Here, take these. Just in case you change your mind.”
I held the bags in my hand and walked away. I put them in my pocket as I walked down the busy street. The Monkey came to me in my dream and was trying to convince me to get high. I battled with The Monkey and was refusing to get high, but I kept the bags in my pocket. I started to think that maybe just one time I can use.
Then my dream went a direction a drug dream rarely ever goes. I gained some courage and grabbed the bags out of my pocket and walked over to the closest storm drain. With so much anger, I threw the bags down the drain and walked away. I was so mad at myself that I kept the bags for the short amount of time that I did. I woke up shortly after destroying the bags.
I couldn’t believe that even in a dream, I resisted the temptation of getting high and ultimately didn’t use. I was so relieved when I woke up and I felt empowered. I felt a sense of confidence in my recovery because I could remain sober, even in that state of mind.
That dream made me reflect on my progress of recovery. I was so thankful to God for staying so faithful to His promises and always being there for me. I’m still in shock that I fought the temptation in my dream.
TurningPointCT.org was developed by young people in Connecticut who are in recovery from mental health and substance use issues. We know what it’s like to feel alone, stressed, worried, sad, and angry. We’ve lived through the ups and downs of self-harm, drugs and alcohol, and the struggle to find help.
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