An Open Letter to My Addicted Father

An open letter to my addicted father,  


I like to pretend we had a normal relationship. That when we went to things, you were actually there with me. I like to pretend that you were okay, that there was nothing wrong. Thinking maybe if I pretend that I don’t know what’s going on - it's not happening. But I can’t, because it is. 


It took me a while to understand what was going on. When I finally understood, I began to live my life completely differently. I lived on edge, I lived in anger, I lived in fear. Fear of what could happen to you, fear of what you would do, fear of me ending up like you.  


There is fear every time you call. That it could be the last call. That the last words I said to you, could be the last words I ever say to you. Crying myself to sleep when you disappear for days at a time. Questioning whether you are actually asleep or something much worse. Some days there is hope. The little voice in my head telling me that there is a possibility of change. That maybe everything is okay. A voice telling me I should not be angry, that this is family. There must be a reason you are choosing addiction over anything else.


I spent years training my siblings to understand what was happening - without actually telling them what was happening. Portraying you to be a bad person - because of the consistent bad choices you made. Having to tell them that you just aren’t a reliable person, that you’re just tired, or that the money that was missing was probably just lost. But we all knew. We all knew that we couldn’t depend on you because you were in and out of reality. We all knew that you weren’t tired, you just wouldn’t stay awake. And we all knew who the money went to and where it was going. We spent time telling ourselves that you were going to show up to our concerts, sports games, school events, our graduation. But we know you won’t - and even if you did, we knew that you weren’t really there. 


I wish addiction didn’t touch every part of my life. But it does. I wish it only impacted my relationship with you, but it impacts my relationships with everyone. I trust no one -I know not to depend on anyone. It controls the whole family. Other people have to step up, other people try to compensate for everything you cannot be. The house is always intense, there is always an elephant in the room. We all know what’s wrong, and none of us know what more we can do. We take it out on each other, but we know what the problem is. Addiction impacts my schooling. I cannot do anything without hoping I am nothing like you. I try hiding the fact that this is the way I grew up. Everything that required a parent, I did alone. Addiction touched every single day I was late, every day I had to skip, every day I had to wake up hours earlier because we were dragged hours away from home the night before. Addiction touched every day you called me out of school for no reason and every day I was broken and worn down because of the responsibility you put on my shoulders. Addiction touches everything, and as much as I wish it didn’t, its touch is more powerful than anything I could have worked for. 


I like to pretend that I knew what was going on from the start. But I didn’t. I never knew what was wrong with you. I thought that everyone grew up this way. That everyone had to lie to the people they knew all the time. Telling teachers I just slept in again, not that me and my brother couldn’t wake you to bring us to school. That everyone my age had to step up and be the parent you never would be. I wish I didn’t have to. That I could have had a normal childhood. But I couldn’t, and it’s because of you. Instead I spent my childhood compensating for your mistakes. I should not have been worrying about whether we would have food, how we would get to school, if we would have heat or electricity, if you would make it through the night.  I thought that everyone’s parents would disappear for days, weeks, months. I wish I knew what was going on from the start. I wish I could have connected that addiction was what made you this way. But I didn’t. I thought maybe if I behaved better, if I pushed you harder, if I tried harder, we would have a better relationship. But we didn’t - and it wasn’t on me. It was on you. 


You consistently chose addiction over us. You always had the opportunity to stop, or to stay clean after you stopped. You had the support system, you had the family. You had something to be proud of, people to love. But it was never enough. Everything was never important enough for you to care. Our games, our education, our well being, was always inferior to addiction. You chose your addiction every time. I wish it was a fair game, but it isn’t. The odds were always stacked for addiction, and I was stuck playing a game I was never meant to win. 


I was there for you. I always will be. That doesn’t make me any less angry, less hurt, less disappointed. My siblings and I didn’t miss out on anything. You did. We enjoyed monumental parts of our lives, without you there. We remember the people who were there, and the hurt we felt of you not being there. We had people step up, creating relationships with us that should have been with you. Other people helped us become the people who we are today. We may not have had a role model, but we have a model of what we do not want to be. I can only dream that my life wasn’t the way it was - that everything I’ve been through was just an exaggeration, that I lived a normal life. But I didn’t. I spent my childhood being your parent, making sure that you were on top of everything. Sometimes I think it’s better - but now I know with every high comes a low. One day everything can be perfect, and the next it’s worse than we’ve ever imagined. We created lives for ourselves despite the conditions we suffered through because of you and I can only hope that you push yourself to be a part of it.