If you’ve got kids, you always want them to think the best of you. Many times, our children will do something we would’ve done at their age, and—depending on what it is—we either laugh in recognition or run over with the fire extinguisher and have a terrified glimpse into the future. At the end of the day, we should be as transparent as we can with our kids (in a way they can understand where they’re at developmentally) while shielding them from excusing future bad behavior as “well, you did it too!”
On the other hand, sometimes our kids don’t remember us at our worst; for whatever reason (e.g., they were too young to remember our addiction, they’re our stepchildren from after sobriety, etc.) They might not have a clue in the world about our struggles with addiction and our own recovery process. That being said, what we can tell them about our struggles to help them make better choices?
Believe us when we say you are not alone. Sure, there are plenty of stories about families ripped apart and (hopefully) coming together at the end in a nice tidy package. But what about this scenario: You’ve been sober for three years. Your 8-year-old just found out about alcoholism. He asks, “Dad, have you ever been an alcoholic?”
There are plenty of ways to guide the conversation. One of the best ways is to check out sites like The National Association for Children of Addiction at nacoa.org. You’ll find lots of tips on talking to kids about your addiction—what it meant for you, your partner, your family. Then you can answer their questions in a more informed and interactive way, with you and your children being equal participants.
A great way to start the conversation is through NACOA’s “Seven Cs” infographic1:
I didn’t CAUSE it.
I can’t CONTROL it.
I can’t CURE it, BUT I can help take CARE of myself by:
COMMUNICATING my feelings
Making healthy CHOICES
And CELEBRATING me
The rest is up to you and the comfort of your kids. They may pepper you with questions that you’re not quite ready to answer. Or, they may be content to know just that and might even disappoint you with their rapid disinterest! Either one of these outcomes is fine. Just don’t take for granted that your children won’t have any questions. If you’ve ever taken a car ride longer than five minutes with a kid, you know that’s nearly impossible.
At Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon we use cutting-edge techniques and individualized programs to help men and their families achieve freedom from addiction and triggering behaviors. Taking a sustainable approach to the inner and outer effects of addiction ensures you or your loved one will emerge with the confidence and skills to manage your addiction independently. No one is beyond help; our Admissions Counselors are available 24/7 at (503) 850-2474