Living with an addicted parent: 11 years old, going on 30


Living with a loved one who is plagued by a mental disorder or a substance addiction can be one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome. Most people in their lifetime have one or two bad roommates either in college or after college. However, rarely do they have to learn to cope with living with an addict or someone with a mental health disorder. It is frustrating enough to live with someone who makes a mess in the house or eats all the food, but imagine living with someone who will go to extreme measures to obtain drugs or alcohol, or someone who has a mental health disorder that is not managed. At any moment, this person can harm another human being, or even himself or herself. Living with a parent who is mentally ill or addicted re-defines the phrase “walking on egg shells.”

This is How I Find Her,” by Sara Polsky, is a riveting novel about a young girl named Sophie who returns home from school to find her mother unconscious with a half-emptied bottle of pills by her side. Sophie has lived her life working to hide her mother’s bipolar disorder and pill addiction. She was embarrassed for herself and for her mother about her mother’s mental illness and did everything she could to cover up this dark side of addiction. After her mother’s attempted suicide, Sophie moved in with her estranged aunt, uncle and cousin. During this transitional period, Sophie learned to live and appreciate a normal teenage life, one that did not entail paying the rent, acting as a caretaker or hiding dark secrets. Throughout this book, Sophie, a once-depressed and scared teenager, learns to accept when to walk away from negative and harmful situations.

One reader review describes this thoughtful and inspirational literary piece: A 16-year-old “Sophie is artistic, smart, and easygoing — a perfect daughter in an imperfect home. When she comes home from school to find her mother unconscious and sprawled out in their shared bedroom, a near-empty bottle of pills spilled nearby, Sophie’s well-orchestrated world tips as she calls 911, and her difficult road to admission, acceptance, and looking for help begins. Sophie has been caring for Amy, who battles bipolar disorder, since she was 11. … Sophie’s voice is unflinchingly honest and convincing. Amy is the catalyst but the story is all Sophie’s. She is astute and courageous, daring to effect a satisfying and compassionate resolution. A difficult topic made approachable by well-crafted writing.”

A journalist who lives in New York City, Sara Polsky has published poetry and short fiction in magazines like Strange Horizons.

The teenage and high school years are a time for learning, self-awareness and discovering who you are; having to take on an adult role at the young age of 11 is anything but fair. Unfortunately, many children in America are raised in single-family homes with absent adult role models, and these kids are left to find food and support themselves. This stressful lifestyle can often lead to violence, drug addiction and criminal activity. If you or a teenager you know is involved in substance abuse, social struggles, mood disorders and/or co-occurring conditions, many treatment centers focus on adolescents. White River Academy is a boarding school for troubled boys, which specializes in these and many other developmental issues for males aged 12 to 17.

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