When we hear the word addiction, an image comes to mind. Perhaps it’s the homeless person on the street, or the drunk passed out in the back alleyway. Maybe it’s a syringe or a bottle of alcohol. Addiction comes in every color, shape, sex, and form. It also comes – with children. Children, who are often neglected, used, and abandoned.
There are many resources available to help the addicted person recover. There are even some for their adult family members. But the resources for their children are scarce.
The psychological damage to the young person of an addicted parent is complex. They will experience anxiety, loss of trust, and low self-worth. Toxic stress can occur. This happens when a child goes through prolonged adversity such as neglect, parental substance use, and emotional distress.
Children of addicted parents are the highest risk group of children to become alcohol and drug users due to both genetic and family environmental factors – NACoA.
We all know of, or love, someone who struggles with addiction. It’s easy to get wrapped in their sickness. If we’re not careful, their sickness – can become ours. But what about their children? Who will speak for them?
I know of one child, who would like to speak for herself. She’s been having a difficult time lately. She hasn’t seen her father in a long, long time. He doesn’t call. He doesn’t write. He doesn’t stop by. He doesn’t send child support. He doesn’t … do anything. He just disappeared. Oh, he’s not dead. At least not physically, but something inside of him certainly is.
Before he disappeared, he was loved. The sun rose and set on him. He leaves behind ever-lasting memories, at least to his daughter. He was her whole world. And she was, Daddy’s little girl.
She asks, “How could he do that?” Meaning her father having no contact with her. Her face twists in pain and confusion. Her eyes are wide and watering. She is angry. She doesn’t want to care, but she does.
Although this child is eleven years young, her eyes are old. Broken hearts and addiction will do that to you.
I wish the child’s story was unusual. But it isn’t. I see it all the time. Addiction never goes in the same sentence with healthy, happy, children.
This little girl wanted me to share her letter with you. She hopes other Mommies, or Daddies, will take the time to read it.
Of course, what she really hopes is that her letter will make a difference and bring her Dad back.
My hope for her in writing this is that she will find healing.
A child’s letter to her missing father.
Dad, I want to know if you still remember me. Do you? Cuz I sure remember you. I feel like there is a BIG hole in me and it won’t get full EVER unless you come back to me. I think you left me because I’m not good enough, or you think I’m rotten, or just some garbage lying on the road. BUT I’M NOT! It’s been so long since I saw you. I can’t stop thinking about you. I thought you might call at Christmas, but you didn’t. Don’t you miss me??? Cuz I really miss you!!! I see you everywhere, with other children and families, I know it’s not you, but my mind is tricking me. Maybe it was all a dream. Maybe I don’t really have a dad. Were you just a dream dad? Please call me! Dad! PLEASE!!!!! PLEASE!!!!
I still see her face as I write these words, and I sense her urgency. I know her pain, and I know too, the destruction it will reap upon her future.
Abandoning your child to addiction sentences them to a lifetime of approval seeking and fear.
When children can’t make sense of things and there are no logical answers to their questions, they will make them up. This precious child is not rotten, or garbage, but she feels that way.
I reassure her, this isn’t about her. Her Daddy missing in her life, doesn’t mean she’s bad. It means he’s sick.
Yeah right. Not about her. Except it is, she’s missing his goodnight kiss and how safe she felt when he hugged her. She longs to hear his voice and have him tuck her in, just one more time.
I can tell her his addiction isn’t about her, but the words leave a terrible taste in my mouth.
Truth is, I’d like to strangle the SOB.
Of course, I don’t tell her that either. Besides, if I strangled him, I’d have to reach back in time and find my own throat. I might not have abandoned my kids. But I sure as heck wouldn’t have won any parenting awards, either.
So instead, I’ll post this on her behalf and pray that just maybe, someone seeing this, will think twice, before putting substance, or other behaviors, before their children’s needs.
And who knows? Maybe together we really can make a difference. At least, it’s what I tell our kids.
If you or someone you know needs help please call this confidential support line for assistance. 844-451-0263.