Tatum O'Neal Starts New Chapter, Sober, Sans Dad

Actress reveals that she and Ryan O'Neal do not talk.

June 14, 2012, 4:48 PM

June 15, 2012 — -- For Tatum O'Neal, Father's Day will be a Sunday just like any other. Though she attempted to reconcile with Ryan O'Neal through an OWN reality series that aired last year, they currently are not speaking, and she's come to terms with that.

"That's what turned out to be the best thing for me," she told ABCNews.com. "I've just kind of had enough. The amount of therapy I've been through, you start to understand that certain types of people really don't change."

The O'Neals have talked recently. He asked her to read his book about his life with longtime partner Farrah Fawcett, which came out in May. Tatum O'Neal has a book of her own, "Found," now in paperback, that chronicles her fraught history with her father, who left her to move in with Fawcett when O'Neal was 16. Even after reading about how he failed to recognize her at Fawcett's funeral in 2009, hearing how he told her he had early stage prostate cancer in April is unsettling.

"He texted me in all caps," O'Neal said. "'GOT CANCER. HAVING PROSTATE REMOVED.' Luckily, I knew his oncologist, so I could call him and find out what was really going on."

Instead of trying to fix their relationship, O'Neal has shifted her attention elsewhere, like finding a way to cure her recurring pain while staying sober. In February, rumors swirled that the actress was back in rehab. She has struggled with addiction for years, most recently when she was arrested for buying crack cocaine on a New York City street corner in 2008. But this time, she was under supervised treatment following back surgery. In her conversation with ABCNews.com, her first interview since those reports, O'Neal shot down the notion that she had relapsed.

"At the end of the day, medication doesn't work," she said. "You don't want to take painkillers. Maybe it works for a day or two or a week, but ultimately, you can't rely on it. Meds have been around forever, but it's just amazing to me, in AA meetings, to see how many people have become severely addicted."

She looks to acupuncturists, massage therapists and chiropractors to help manage her back pain, which she attributes to falling out of a moving car when she was 15 and attempting Madonna's cardio-heavy exercise routine in the '80s. ("I ended up hurting myself," she said. "I don't have the kind of body for that.")

She also wants to smash the stigma surrounding women and addiction, one of her motivations for writing "Found."

"I think there's still so much shame in standing up for yourself a woman and an addict," she said. "I hope by at least bringing it out there and bringing it to the forefront, by being vocal about it, I can show that it isn't any worse to be a woman and an addict than it is to be a man. It's not fair that we look at it differently -- 'Oh, she's a party girl, she's a mess,' when with men it's, 'Oh, he just had a couple drinks and passed out in someone's bed.'"

O'Neal began abusing drugs and alcohol after rocketing to fame at age 9, when she starred in "Paper Moon" alongside her dad and became the youngest actress ever to win an Oscar. Her story -- child star sidelined by addiction and an unsupportive father -- brings to mind a younger actress in a similar situation, Lindsay Lohan. Though O'Neal said she "was never a party girl" and noted she's "never had a no-underwear shot," she feels a kinship with the 25-year-old actress, who's been in and out of prison and court on substance-abuse related charges for the past five years.

"If I were her advisor, I'd say, 'Move away. Do some method [acting] work, live in New York for five years, maybe go to college, and then come back and try your hand because you've made a mess of things,'" she said. "The smartest thing I did was leave L.A. at 21 and move to New York. You kind of have to relearn, as an adult, everything that you know about acting, about this business."

While making sure the demons of her past don't rise again, O'Neal is looking toward the future. She called being a mom to her three children -- Kevin, 26, Sean, 23, and Emily, 21 -- with ex-husband John McEnroe "the thing in my life that I'm happiest about," and she's still very much invested in Hollywood.

"I'm fighting to get a good role," she said. "I look at actors who've had to fight really hard, like Michael Shannon in 'Take Shelter,'" one of the breakout films of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, "and I tell myself that I need to continue to try, that it's not frivolous or embarrassing to do that at my age."

But given that she's spent the better part of her 48 years in the public eye, doesn't she ever yearn to ditch Hollywood and get away from it all?

"I think having a normal life, which I've never had, sounds pretty nice," she said. "Moving to Big Sur or Oregon or upstate New York. But then there's always the case of, I need to make a living. Get enough money to retire. Maybe find a mate that is nice and stable. I wish I could stop, in a way, but there's all that. But sure, maybe I will become a mountain woman and grow my hair out."

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