• Telling Your Kids About Your Addiction
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    Telling Your Kids About Your Addiction

    I may be an addict in recovery, but as a mother, I still fear the same things as other parents. I fear the day my child may fall off her bicycle and break her arm or the day she goes to school and the principal tells me she has drawn on the walls with permanent marker. However, as a recovering addict, one thing that differentiates me from “normal” parents is the fear that I will one day need to explain drugs and alcohol abuse to my child. Do I tell them the theoretical situations of where drug use can land them or do I place myself in the vulnerable position of being open and honest about my drug history?

    How Your Addiction Could Affect Your Kids

    When I was about 15 or 16, I often made jokes with my parents about taking drugs. They had never really admitted to taking drugs but I kind of assumed they did by the way they quickly changed the subject every time a question about it came around. On the other hand, their supposed lack of knowledge and experience only made me more interested in experiencing drugs for myself. Unfortunately, I had friends who had heroin addicts and alcoholics for parents and they were in the same position as I was. For me, I don’t know what to expect from my daughter. While there are consistent studies regarding addiction and genetics, environmental factors and other variables, there really is no way of knowing. I figure the reaction may go as follows:

    • “Well, you did drugs so I can too!”
    • “I don’t want to end up like my mom so I will avoid drugs and alcohol.”
    • “Since my mom was a heroin addict, maybe I can just drink and smoke.”

    To Tell or Not to Tell

    While the hypothetical reactions seem more realistic than anything else, factoring in all of the other variables is also important in your decision-making. One of the biggest concerns I have with not being honest with my daughter is that she will eventually find out. Not only that, but she will also be extremely distrusting of my advice and possibly even betrayed if I hold something so important and personal from her. While some people may think it will be more harmful than helpful, I think the best way to see it is from the opposing side. I certainly would want my daughter to be honest in telling me if she had a substance abuse problem, so why wouldn’t I give her the same courtesy? After all, I would hate to be in a future position where I find out about her drug use and she, as a typical teenager, is saying things like, “You never told me you used drugs, so why would I tell you?” Placing yourself in your children’s shoes can be the deciding factor you need to proceed.

    Drug Use and Its Popularity

    All in all, we have to be honest with ourselves. While there are many teens and young adults who do not experiment with drugs, there are also many who do–even if it is only alcohol. As recovering addicts, we are aware of the dangers of even minimal drug use such as smoking marijuana and social drinking. While our children may or may not try drugs regardless of the stories we share, it would be naïve to believe that the opportunity will not arise. Even for people who choose not to use drugs, it’s almost guaranteed that they will be presented with the option, what with the popularity of drugs, illegal and legal on the rise.

    Keeping Them Informed

    When it comes time to make your decision, keep in mind a few factors if you choose not to disclose your drug history with your children. A good alternative for introducing them to the consequences of drug use may be bringing someone you know to talk with them about how negatively drugs and alcohol can affect their lives. Another way to be honest about your drug use is to avoid the vivid details and glorification of drugs to your little ones. Explain instead what you lost during drug use, how it started out as only drinking a few and what steps you had to take to come back from your downfall. That alone may be enough to help your children make better decisions when it comes to using substances.

    While I still battle with myself on choosing to tell my daughter about my drug history, I still have a long road of recovery ahead as well as a good amount of time to prepare before I do. Though I understand why many parents choose to keep those aspects of their lives a secret, I myself have decided that informing my daughter of how serious addiction is by the real-life consequences of my experience is the best way of keeping her from experiencing them herself.

    Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

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