To some, "addict" is a dictionary definition. To me, an addict is so much more.
I struggled growing up not quite understanding jail, but certain my daddy had a choice about going there. It angered me knowing that he wasn't like the other daddies. I vaguely remember writing him the letter beginning "Dear Brat," - it was the worst word my young mind could come up with to describe what I thought of him.
After his release, when I was about 9, I agreed to meet him, although I was still bitter about the past.
My attitude quickly changed as I finally had the father that I had been longing for. We did everything together - rode the East Broad Top train, went to antique car shows and visited Hersheypark.
I remember how proud he was when I won the D.A.R.E. essay contest. He knew then that I had the strength that he didn't. Our relationship was great for as long as it lasted.
About two years and a million memories later, the phone rang. My mother's tone still sounds in my ears. "Hannah, we need to have a talk."
This was the day I learned the true meaning of addiction. Addiction was when nothing else mattered, when love was just a word and coke was just another habit. The anger I had harbored as a child turned to disappointment, something far less easy to handle.
My next letter to him read, "Regardless of what you may believe, no one becomes accustomed to hearing of another failed attempt to help you."
I wondered for so long, "Why aren't I enough for him to change?"
Years later, I'm able to answer that question with confidence. Sometimes you have to save yourself from yourself. That was his problem. He no longer had the willpower. The drugs had destroyed it.
About 6:30 one morning, I heard the phone ringing, sharp and cruel. My mother walked into my room to tell me what I was already well aware she was about to say.
A while later, numb, I stood by his bedside in the hospital watching the guards - as if his weak, broken body could have possibly escaped.
I was repulsed by what I perceived to be the ill-equipped doctors trying in vain to save him. I watched my father die right in front of me.
Even at 12, I was unaware of what had killed him other than his drug habit. The fact is, he had contracted HIV through the needles, and the medication he was taking to control it had shut down his liver.
As part of one of my dad's release programs, he had decided to travel from high school to high school sharing the story of his addiction and struggle. Addict or not, the truth is there was nothing that my dad hated more than those drugs. He knew exactly what those high school kids were thinking because at one time he thought he knew everything, too.
If his story stopped one misguided teenager from sticking a needle in his arm or doing that line, he felt his efforts had been worth it. That meant one fewer person was going to become a slave to one of the worst dictators imaginable.
I recall him asking me once whether I would be OK with him telling his story publicly. He thought maybe I would be ashamed for other kids to know exactly what my father was. The truth is, maybe I was back then. I am not ashamed anymore.
As I've grown up, I have come to realize that his goal has become just as important to me. I could never be ashamed of someone who fought such a hard battle up until the very end, someone who taught me so much about life.
What I wrote earlier proved to be true in ways I hadn't considered before - he wasn't like the other daddies, and now I am so grateful for that. His personality, mistakes and struggles taught me everything about who I want to be.
My mother once told me that my dad often said that I was the only thing he ever did right. As far as I'm concerned, his life and death will have been in vain if I disappoint his expectations of me.
Not only was he a man of great intellect but also of reason. Why, then, had he let drugs take over his life? Perhaps, when he was my age, he just didn't have the knowledge that I have; he didn't know what the word "addict" really means.