Despite her new fame, O'Neal said by the time she entered her teen years, her bond with her father was unraveling.
"I don't think he had any idea what to do with me, at all," she said. "I think he was fine when I was a little kid and he could take me around and we went everywhere together."
"I think as I grew breasts and kind of became a young woman, I think he just got weirded out and kind of started to struggle with me, it seemed, a lot," O'Neal continued. "I started to get unbalanced and I started to feel insecure, and I started to not know where to turn."
Through this time, Ryan O'Neal dated a series of high-profile Hollywood women, including actresses Anjelica Huston, Bianca Jagger and eventually the blonde bombshell, Farrah Fawcett, who he was with until 1997. Tatum O'Neal was just 15 when her father moved out of their house to be with Fawcett, two years after she had tried to commit suicide.
"It's a memory that I have of a very, very, very toxic life, of a very difficult life," she said.
Seeking out love for herself, O'Neal met and married tennis champion John McEnroe in 1986 when she was just 22. The couple had three kids together, but divorced nine years later. O'Neal said it was at that point that she became addicted to heroin.
"The drugs that I liked to do, not painkillers, that's not what I'd like to do. I'd rather do heroin or crack, something of that nature," she said. "Something really illegal, something really destructive."
After stints in and out of rehab, O'Neal's downward spiral with drugs eventually landed her in jail. She described the moment in June 2008 when she tried to illegally buy crack cocaine off the streets near her Manhattan apartment and was arrested.
"Men came out of everywhere and said, you know, 'what's in your hands,' and I showed them," O'Neal said. "They said, 'you're under arrest.' I was like, you know, 'you don't understand, like this is not what you think.' And he was like, 'yeah right, Tatum O'Neal.' You know, 'you idiot...I'll make an example out of you.'"
O'Neal was charged with a misdemeanor criminal possession of a controlled substance. In July 2008, she pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in connection with the arrest and agreed to attend a drug-treatment program.
Through her two books, O'Neal has been candid for years about her drug abuse and dysfunctional family life, including the estranged relationship with her father. She is launching a new documentary series on her attempt to reconcile with Ryan O'Neal, who she says she has seen only sporadically over the past 25 years. "The O'Neals: Ryan and Tatum" debuts on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
"I sort of took a journey with my dad with this show to see what would happen," O'Neal said. "It didn't necessarily -- make us together. It didn't necessarily push us to this happy ending."
The documentary opens up some old wounds and in one emotional scene, Ryan O'Neal finally talks about moving out of the house where he lived with his daughter to move in with Farrah Fawcett.
"[Tatum] felt I had abandoned her and gone on off with Farrah which is somewhat true," O'Neal is shown saying in the OWN documentary. "I was so in love with Farrah that I was blind, and so yeah, she got left at the curb but I always said just stay at the curb, I'll be back."
In the past, O'Neal had called his daughter's claims of neglect "malicious lies." Despite it all, Tatum O'Neal told Cynthia McFadden she forgives her father and wants to take care of him as he gets older.
"He can say whatever he wants...he can make up stuff or say stuff," she said. "This is about forgiveness...this is about trying to shut a door and open another one. I don't know if it's going to work. It may or it may not, but I'm going to try."