Adrienne Allen, author of children’s book, “My Parents Are Addicted To Drugs” (Courtesy photo)

By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO

For many Americans, the pandemic brought certain things full circle. Some people started cooking again, others revisited their long-ago passion for painting or dancing. Some people started working out again. For Maryland native Adrienne Allen, it was something much more painful and closer to home: drug addiction. Specifically Allen, both of whose parents were substance abusers in her childhood, came across a poem she wrote over 10 years ago about the experience.

Allen, owner of IPY Agency, a public relations and event planning firm, told the AFRO in a recent interview, “Something just came on my heart to turn the poem into a book. The beautifully illustrated children’s book is called My Parents Have a Drug Problem, and was written  to be relatable to younger children who can’t yet understand the effects their parent’s addiction has on their lives.

“Especially during the pandemic,” said Allen, “We had more attention being placed on the opioid epidemic.  I felt this could be used to have conversations with children of drug users so I decided to turn it into a children’s book.”

“When I read the poem it brought back a lot of those feelings and made me realize that most of the conversations we have around drugs are not geared toward children who live in homes with addicts.”

The book includes teachable moments that help guide the conversation and ask questions otherwise overlooked or forgotten. The My Parents Have a Drug Problem accompanying guide, A Guide to Talking to Children About Drug Addiction,  takes a closer look at addiction and gives some tips on talking to children about addiction and what their parents may be experiencing.

Allen recalls she was about nine or 10 when she realized her parents were behaving differently. Because she had a  relationship with her parents prior to the onset of their addictions, particularly with her father, it was confusing and traumatic. “You could say I was a daddy’s girl,” she stated. “My father  was in a motorcycle club and he would come by and take me on rides.”

Then she started noticing disturbing things. Her dad lost a lot of weight and he couldn’t keep a job. Things started disappearing from their home. “By the time he ‘borrowed’ my Sega Genesis, I had already caught on that borrowing something meant that I would never see it again.”

Still, Allen had no concrete way of processing the changes in her parents. “I was living with my grandparents, and they never talked about it.  It was talked about in the streets, but there was never anyone who had a conversation with me to say, ‘this is what your parents are dealing with.’”

Allen,  who lost her father to an overdose 25  years ago, remembers her foremost emotion during all of it was anger. “I was angry because they would ask me for money or they would try to steal my things.”

She also rebelled, falling in with a bad crowd and skipping classes when she was a teen. “I went to Western High School and did horribly. I had like, four lunch periods. I made lots of friends, but I made them by not going to class.”

She also feels she made a lot of wrong decisions as she entered  adulthood. “I was still angry and rebelling and I knew it hurt my grandparents. They wanted better for me.”

In her late 20s, Allen made the decision to get serious about her life. She went to college and started  her career. She also made a drastic decision to leave Baltimore and settle in Georgia. “I just felt I had to separate from Baltimore and create another path for myself and my children.”

Allen is only now beginning to really process the experience emotionally. “It took a long time to say ‘this is a disease they are dealing with’ and not just be angry with them.” Part of reconciling herself with her childhood has been, ironically, distancing herself from her mother. “About a year ago I had just had to disconnect from my mom, because it was a detriment to me.” Her mother, who is still a heavy drinker, is still unable to accept Adrienne’s attempts to care for her.

Even with all the strides made in raising awareness, Allen believes nothing much has changed. “I don’t feel I see any changes or policies that are making an impact. With the opioid epidemic, it’s being talked about more, especially since it impacts another demographic, but even with that, children are not being spoken to.”

 My Parents Have A Drug Problem is available on Amazon and BN.

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