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How To Explain Your Addiction To Your Child

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The time will come for every parent.  The time when a parent has to have one of those “heart to heart” talks with their child.  Some talks are easier than others.  Even though they are all conversations parents dread having with their child.  These talks include such topics as explaining the difference between boys and girls, then there’s the birds and the bees.  Let’s not forget the classic, where do babies come from? Although, the “talk” I am referring to is the time when a parent must discuss drugs with their child.  It’s as easy as “Just Say No”, right?  I wish.  Here’s where it becomes a bit more difficult for parents.  It’s not as simple as explaining why drugs are bad.  It’s much greater because the time will come for you to explain your addiction to your child.  How do you explain  YOUR OWN ADDICTION?  This is the situation I have dreaded with absolute fear since the day my children were born.

The Deciding Factors

Parents do not like having to explain drug use to their child.  Depending on their age and the situation, it may be rather difficult. You must understand that explaining your own addiction to your child can be a life-altering moment for the both of you.  It must be implemented with care and ease.  It is not a conversation that can be taken lightly or that you can jump right into.

As a parent, you must plan the “drug talk” accordingly.  There are numerous factors that MUST be taken into consideration as you are contemplating exactly how to go about this.

Child’s Age

How old is your child?  Use common sense, you can not explain drug addiction to a toddler but, you can start young.  If you start explaining what drugs are and how they are bad at a young age.  Then as they get older, you can elaborate on addiction.  It will establish an open and trusting relationship between you and your child.  So when that monumental moment arrives for you to tell your child that you were a drug addict.  Hopefully, your child will understand, be sympathetic, and forgive you.

Phase of Addiction

This post is focused on mothers or guardians that are recovering addicts.  If you are still in active addiction, the older your child gets the clearer your addiction will become.  From one parent to another, please don’t let your addiction ruin your child’s life.  Ultimately, that is what it will come to.  Child Protective Services can get involved and take your child (ren) from you.  The effects this will have on your children can harm them for life.  Please stop now.

If you need help with addiction, if you live in the United States you can call 1-800-662-HELP.

If you do not feel comfortable calling a helpline, feel free to email me at and I will find a way to help you.  People in recovery support each other.  I have been through it and I will help in every way I can.

Child’s Behavior

Many children are extremely emotional.  The younger the child is, the harder it is for them to deal with their emotions.  Most children act out when they are upset or angry, not knowing any other way to control how they are feeling.  Keep this in mind.

That being said, actively talking to your child about drug use and building up to that moment when you explain your addiction is for the best. This way your child will be used to these conversations.  It will not be perceived as weird or awkward.  Honestly, when you tell your child about your addiction, it could be as simple as another “heart to heart” talk.  Building on it over time has the potential to possibly eliminate an outburst from occurring.

Other People

The one thing you do not want is for someone else to tell your child that you used to be a drug addict.  This can be a relative, a friend’s parent, or even your significant other.  It is your duty as a mom to tell your child yourself.  It will always sound better coming from you. You will gain more respect if it comes straight from the horse’s mouth.

If someone else tells your child first, you won’t be there for him to ask questions or to tell you how he feels.  You have to keep this in mind depending on the people you are around.

Extent of Your Addiction

Another factor that can severely affect your child is the extent of your addiction.  While, us adults know that addiction can affect everybody regardless of age, race, lifestyle, etc.  It can still be different to your children.

What I mean by this is that your child will react differently from knowing his mother smoked a joint every night to his mother sold her body as a prostitute to get money for drugs.

There might be certain aspects of your addiction that your child simply isn’t ready to hear.  That’s fine, you’re not having an NA meeting with your kid.  You don’t have to tell him or her what it was like, how bad it got, what caused you to change, and what it’s like now.  Tell your child what you want to tell them.

Do not sugar coat your drug addiction but, you don’t have to lay it all out for him to see right now.  Stay age appropriate.  Once you begin telling your kid your past, the words will come and you will know how must of your past to unveil at that particular moment.

As a parent, I don’t believe that you need to put yourself out there like that where it can negatively affect your child or emotionally scar them.  Too much is too much.  Enough is enough, it’s understandable.

Why Now?

It is time to explain your addiction to your child but, why?  Why did you decide that it is time?  Is your kid using drugs?  Did a loved one die of a drug overdose or get killed by someone under the influence?  What is your reasoning for telling your child now?

Maybe, you just feel it’s finally the right time.  As I said, it is better to occasionally talk to your child about drugs so when the time comes to explain YOUR  addiction to YOUR child, they will not be overwhelmed.  In a moment, you will know why I say this.

 Explain your addiction to your child, How to tell your own kids you are a recovering addict

Explaining My Addiction To My Children

My significant other and I met on the streets of Pittsburgh.  I was in active addiction.  When I decided to get clean, we left the city.  Now, we live where I grew up.  Yes, we live close to my parents and my grandparents.  This is also where my addiction began.  I see the first people I got high with.  We visit places that I stole from and got high at.

Yet, it’s not my old drug acquaintances that I fear.  It’s my children going to school.  I am awaiting the day my daughter asks for a friend to spend the night.  I say yes so she asks her little friend.  The friend’s parents say no.  Taking it a step further, they do not allow their daughter to talk to mine anymore.  Why?  My past.  The fact that I was a junkie, a prostitute, a criminal, a fucking mess.  That’s what was keeping me awake at night.

One day I chose to discuss my fears with my children’s father.  This is what he told me:

You have come a long way.  Anyone that knows you and these people do.  They know that you are a strong, successful woman who has overcome numerous obstacles.  I have never seen or heard anyone disgrace you because of your accomplishments.

You know what?  He was right.  I am not the person I once was.  Anyone can see how much I have changed?  I see those people who I got high with and we don’t even look at one another because I’m not in the game anymore and they know it.

If I see someone else I knew, they smile and say hi.  No one screams and runs away!  Or hides their children like I’m a walking disease.  My fears are gone.  I know that it is ok.  My daughter has friends.  I have friends.  Life is better. Life does get better.

Waiting Too Long To Explain Your Addiction To Your Child

Can you wait too long?  Yes, haven’t you been listening? The fact of the matter is that to a certain degree, addiction is genetic.  What?  It is true. Addiction does not discriminate, it can capture and pull in anyone that lets it get a grasp.  The fact is that a child has a higher chance of becoming an addict if addiction runs in his bloodline.

Does that mean since I was an addict that my child is destined to be a drug addict as well?  No, of course not.

Yet, that is one reason you must talk to your child about drugs.  Explain your addiction to your child before it’s too late.

Too late, you ask?  Do not wait until you find out your kid is using drugs to explain your addiction.  If you decide to tell your child the horrors you had to face and the hell you went through, then you are doing so for a reason.  If you wait till you catch your kid using drugs and then tell them your story.

The chances are they are going to throw it in your face and say you were a junkie so am I.  Think back on when you were a teen, would you have listened to reasoning?  Not likely.

Reach Your Goal

Your goal as a parent is to prevent drug addiction in your child.  You don’t want your child to face the same obstacles that you had to.  Any parent I know wants their child to have a better life than they did.  Am I right?

So what are you waiting for?  Start the campaign against drugs in your home today.  As I said, a 2-year-old does not understand drug use. That doesn’t mean you can’t throw in a few “Just Say No’s” when you’re talking to your baby. You need to talk to your little one telling them exactly how much you love them and how you want them to have a better life from the start.

Tell them how you are going to be there to love and support them throughout their entire life.  A good life.  A drug-free life because using drugs is not good for them or their future.

The Steps to Explain Your Addiction To Your Child

  • Develop A Plan of Action
  •  Build Up To The Exact Conversation
    • Be sure your child is old enough to understand.
    • Explain how addiction will destroy a person’s life, and it’s a downward spiral.
    • Explain how hard you have worked to change your life and become a better person.
  • Always tell your kid how much you love them and how they affected your decision to obtain sobriety.

Remember you do not have to get into the specific details unless you feel it is appropriate.

Personally, I tell my daughter she is my guardian angel because she saved my life and made mommy a good person. My son is my blessing for staying clean and loving sobriety.

It does not have to be stressful or hard to explain your addiction to your child.  Take it with ease, build on the drug talk through time until your child is ready for the news.  If you have an open relationship with your child and you have had “heart to heart” talks then this will be no different.  Don’t make explaining your drug use an unthinkable thing.  Make it simple and easy.  Let your child know that you unconditionally love them and do not want them to experience what you had to.

How to explain your own drug addiction to your kids, explain your addiction to your child

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I am NOT a licensed therapist. For immediate help call the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Adminstration’s 1-800-662-HELP. It's a free 24/7 service for ppl facing mental +/or substance use disorders.Or you can use the online treatment locator HERE.



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