May is mental health month. In doing some research about addictions and support for addictions in the valley we came across a young person who has thought deeply about the pain of growing up with a parent who is an addict. Her identity won’t be a secret for many, but we hope you respect her courage to share and to some extent, her privacy. Here is her story.

by S.P.

When S. P. met her dad at 13 years old, she had to ask her sister who he was. / S.P. FAMILY PHOTO

Addiction is a trip. One you don’t always buy a ticket for. I had no choice but to be the child of a junkie. I was born one. I had to accept that my parent would rather love a needle.

They’d rather go on that trip, and hit that high and low, than hear about their kid’s day. Or remember something as basic as their own child’s birthday. Being valued less than a drug is a hell of a way to feel. But I’ve felt that way sometimes. Mom tried to make us feel like dad loved us; It’s just hard to feel affection from a ghost, which is what my dad was for most of my life. A ghost. Not quite real enough to touch. I met my dad for the first legit time, in person, when I was 13. I had seen pictures, spoken on the phone. Never anything enough to build a person in my head though.

My sister had to tell me he was our dad in the first place, because he didn’t look like the photos anymore. Honest mistake.

His addiction affected me in the way I react to anything addictive. I don’t ‘try anything once’ at parties. I don’t accept narcotic pain killers or medications if I can refuse them. I don’t even drink all that much. People can usually go have a wild time. I can’t.

Watching and living what inanimate substances can do to a life can make you outrageously careful. I know the second my intake goes from ‘Party’ to ‘Stupid’. And I shut it down.

I don’t want to be for mine what my dad IS to me. Some people do the opposite, they chase that white rabbit. Is it a twisted way of connecting? Or coping? I don’t care to be that way.

I’ve been told addiction breeds addiction. An alcoholic’s kid is going to have a higher chance of being an alcoholic and I don’t want it.

I have no choice but to deal. I’m an adult and it’s over. My dad’s an addict. I really can’t take it away from someone else. Even when I want to.

I accept that. I’d like to help though. You don’t have to have the addiction to be the one it hurts. Being an addict’s child sucks. And you don’t even get anything out of it, except maybe a thicker skin. You sit and you grit your teeth. Surviving a parent’s addiction, to not even get the flesh and blood parent… It’s hurt almost for the sake of hurt. There’s no Band-Aid. To help the child of an addict the best you can do is accept it. Help cushion the blow. Lend an ear.

My mom is a super person. We never went without. We wore the same brands, went on the field trips. But however much my mom did, I still would have liked to know my dad. The other kids did the Father’s Day craft for their dads. Mine said “Happy Father’s Day, Mom.”

I’m happy for the families whose loved ones pull out of addiction. Good for them for pulling it together and earning back their familial status. I used to be jealous and sad. What did I do to not make my Dad want to do that for me, and my sisters? It isn’t right to have that feeling but it’s how it was. It was not me or my sisters that made my dad a junkie. I just would’ve thought that being a dad would maybe elicit the want to act like one.

I’m not gonna go through my day pretending my dad died, or works out of town. Or any other lie an embarrassment like addiction can push a person to. He’s an addict. He could be clean now until he dies and he will always be an addict. An alcoholic will always be an alcoholic. But it doesn’t have to taint the lives around it forever. Dad’s an addict.

I obsessively collect any and all business cards or pens around me. I just do. And equating that on the most base level to my dad helps me cope.

Something will help you manage. You might just have to fight to find it.