Tough Love & Tender Mercy

by Katherine Compton

Thirty-two year old Rebecca Thompson grew up in a small home in Steep Falls, Maine where life wasn’t always what it should have been. Having grown up around multiple addicts and a lot of poor choices, Rebecca has grown to be a truly remarkable person and has made the best out of many situations that she calls her life. Now she lives with her husband Brian, Mark (who is Brian’s son from a previous marriage), four dogs, and two cats. As you could imagine this is quite the full house, but this house is filled with smiles, laughs, and an overwhelming feeling of love and support. Those things don’t always come as easy for some people, for some this love and support actually comes from a place of great pain. Experiencing this pain helped Rebecca shape her life and end the toxic cycle of drug habits and abuse that she grew up in.

Rebecca’s mother and her new boyfriend ended up having me, Rebecca’s little sister. Shortly after that her mother started going to school to better herself for us. This left Rebecca a lot of responsibility taking care of me and taking care of herself at an age where she shouldn’t have had to, and under the pressures of these responsibilities she too turned to drugs. 

“Our mother was going to school full time and working full time and your dad was a full blown heroin addict. So, mom wasn’t home a lot, you were just a baby,  I mean you couldn’t have been more than maybe 18 months old. So I was trying to go to high school and trying to make sure that you were being taken care of and making sure that you were having all the things that you needed because mom and your dad weren’t paying attention. And making sure that I was still doing good in school and I too turned to drugs to try to deal with what was going on,” Rebecca said.

Though she turned to drugs to cope with the stress she was experiencing, Rebecca ended up getting caught. But that turned her life around. “I got busted with drugs. A hard, but probably important time for me. I think that’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was a hard, hard, hard road. But looking at it now I’m like, you know, if I hadn’t. If that hadn’t happened where the hell would I be? Would I still be escaping, chasing the high, chasing that feeling because I felt better when I did drugs,” she said.

At some point drugs became a very normal part of Rebecca’s household, as a young lady this became her normal. “My parents were drug addicts, my mom was a drug addict. Her boyfriend, who was your dad and the only male figure in my life, he was also a drug addict with an awful temper,” she said. Growing up in this toxic environment, Rebecca never had the support from her parents that she deserved as a child. With both parents being addicted to drugs, things very easily spiraled out of control very often, chaos was very normal for her. When asked about her mother boyfriend’s temper, Rebecca said “I watched him try to kill our mom, a temper and a drug problem wasn’t a good mix for raising children.” 

Rebecca’s grandmother jumped through great lengths to maintain a normal connection with her as often as she could. Her grandmother knew that Rebecca’s mother wasn’t being the best she could have been. “ I was mostly brought up by my grandmother because my parents weren’t ready to be parents when they had me”. Although her grandmother did the best she could Rebecca’s mother wasn’t appreciative.  “I think she was too proud to let somebody else raise her baby.” Her grandmother did everything she could. Rebecca described her as “the break” she needed from life growing up.

Going through such a toxic childhood can heavily impact someone’s life. Through it all Rebecca chose to take a positive outlook on life. “I feel like my background helped me appreciate things most people don’t. Now, I’m like well, if it hadn’t happened, what kind of person would I be now?”

Even though she started life with such struggles, Rebecca saw positives in what she had to go through. When asked if the toxic cycle ended with her, Rebecca said, “I put all of my effort into making sure that my stepson will never have to deal with what I did. My parents used to openly argue and fight, or you know be angry at each other like you could feel the tension. You can cut a knife with it, and that’s something that we (now) strive not to do. If we’re not getting along and he is here, we do everything in our power to make sure that he doesn’t feel that tension, because I don’t want him to grow up in a house where he doesn’t want to go home because he doesn’t know what the hell he’s going to go home to that day.” 

Maintaining healthy connections became very important to Rebecca as a result of not having many growing up. “I feel like I value family in a way that I wasn’t brought up in. So like, you are very important to me. My relationship with my husband is very important to me. My personal relationships and reconnecting with the family that we had are important to me. Grammy was very important to me and making sure that everybody around me knows that no matter what they could always pick up the phone and I would be there, or my husband could always pick up the phone and I would always be there because I don’t feel like that was something that I ever had.” 

Though many people with a similar backgrounds choose to pity themselves and use their upbringings as excuses to continue this toxic cycle. Some, like Rebecca, become the change the world needs. Rebecca may not have changed the world as a whole, but she changed the whole world for me and for that I will always be grateful to have her.

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