I was 10 when things went bad.
And by the age of 13 I’m not sure if I was afraid to ask, or if I already knew the answer to why my parents were getting divorced.
“My name is Tina and my father is a heroin addict.”
Yes, I went to a support class and had to say that out loud! What kind of support group identifies you as a daughter of an addict?
That day I learned I was angry—pissed actually. I learned that when you have to say things aloud, it hurts more than just thinking about it in your head. It was the first time I cried about the situation, I felt debilitated. Pain ran through every vein inside my body, instantly numbing me. Little did I know, this monumental event changed my life forever.
I saw much more than most adolescents did in their teens, and I never once told these stories aloud; too painful, too real.
My father would nod off on the bench as he coached my softball team. He’d stumble and fall in a dugout as my friends’ parents watched with horrific sympathy.
I came home from school with my doors padlocked and my dog missing.
I watched my courageous mother wither down to a whopping 98 pounds as she watched her life slip through her fingers.
Two men stole our Jeep from the driveway as I watched through the snowy windows.
I saw bank accounts drained, people constantly turning their backs on us, and strangers leaving needles in my backyard.
All I wanted to do was play on my swing.
I wanted to be normal. Whatever that meant. I was sad, pissed and numb for years, until I realized what I’d gained from this experience, instead of concentrating on what I’d lost.
I value the little things—things no one can take away. No one can take away the moon, the stars and the birds chirping outside. I learned to laugh, even when in pain.
I learned the pain would ease.
I gained a bond with my mother that cannot compare to anyone else.
I gained courage in my decisions.
I gained mental strength and perseverance.
I learned about fear. I sat with it, I made it my friend and when fear did not want to work with me, I learned to ignore it and work through it instead.
I gained hope for better days.
I received faith for my future.
I fought for my happiness even though life tried to steal it away.
I learned about hard work.
Life is hard. It kicked me down when things got rough.
But after all I experienced, I learned to get back up. I didn’t need anyone to help me survive.
Forgiveness is a powerful decision.
I still can’t sit with my thoughts for too long, about all that I have experienced. It’s all still too real, too painful, too dark. But I have become aware of my past and don’t allow it to harm me anymore.
Later in life, My dad and I became close. It has been years since he used drugs, but the fear I have will never go away. Still, to this day, he never said he was sorry. Again, instead of letting that harm me, I let it help me; it must be too hard for him, too real, too painful. We have more in common than I thought.
It is an invigorating task to forgive someone who never said they were sorry.
Sometimes, I wonder who I’d be if I wasn’t “Tina, the drug addict’s daughter.” Would I be smart? Loving? Hopeful? Would I smile bigger or brighter? Would I know what it’s like to not have stability? Would I appreciate life and its wonders? Would I still be a dreamer? Would I love so deeply?
I don’t know.
It took me 29 years to realize we may never learn some things in life. Peacefully accepting that fact has been the most important lesson for me thus far.
It is your choice to learn, to keep living and to drive yourself forward. That is one thing no one can ever take away from you.
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Apprentice Editor: Ffion Jones / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum