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Sober Moms: Talking About Recovery with My Kids

For quite some time now, my life has been literally immersed in recovery. My current hubby is also in recovery, and we both attend meetings on regular basis. We also quite often, bring our kids to many community and fellowship functions that promote recovery. Yet we have never discussed recovery with our kids!

Recently, I have agonized over what to tell our children, or even if to tell them anything at all. Especially since it most likely would involve some clarification about my past drinking behavior. The thought of sharing this information with them has brought up some feelings of shame and guilt, again, and as a parent I often worry that our kids will lose their admiration for us!

Lately, my preteen daughter, has been increasingly curious about life! I believe that she knows much more than I think she does, but I don’t think that she necessarily understand it all. Needless to say, I have been getting ready to explain recovery to her, still a bit worried that I will have to face her questions and feelings about my past actions. At the same time, I believe that being honest about my alcoholism and letting her know that it is okay to talk about it, will help her understand addiction, and show her that people do recover and live normal happy lives.

But… Where do I start? Do I have to tell the entire story? Can I just explain the recovery part? How in the world do I explain addiction/alcoholism? When preparing for the difficult talks with my kids, I always remember the advice that I got from my friend who is a child psychologist. These are the three basics of communicating with children that she suggests:

  • Make sure the time is appropriate for the conversation
  • Give explanations according to your child’s maturity level
  • Do not give more information than necessary unless asked

So one day last week, I was getting ready to go to a meeting and my daughter asked (again) why I go to these meetings and what do I do there. I was ready to throw my usual answer – I go to see my friends and get some hugs!  – but I saw an opportunity and asked her to sit down in the kitchen with me. I took a deep breath, and I am not sure how this all came to me , but I started by telling her that I had an allergy to alcohol, sort of like people who have an allergy to nuts. Then I asked her if she knew anyone that was allergic to nuts and what would happen if they had any. She said yes and that they get very sick and have to go to the hospital. I then explained that this is sort of what happens to mommy; if I drink, I can get very sick, or I fall asleep for a really long time. Then, with a certain understanding, she said – “Like that one time when I was little, and ….” OMG. My heart sunk, she had just described my last drunk!

Scrambling for words I tried to explain the nature of alcoholism, and that some people are able to have some alcohol to drink and be ok, just like some people can eat nuts. But than some people cannot have any alcohol at all because it makes them really sick, just like the people who are allergic to nuts. I also explained how alcohol made me behave in a way that I would not normally behave, and  that it was not my choice, but the alcohol’s effects on my body and mind that made me sick.

I also apologized, profusely! I told her that I was very sorry that she had to see mommy that way, and that I hope that she will never have to see me that way again. I told her that sometimes it is very hard not to drink alcohol and that is why I go to meetings. I told her that I was now sober, which means that I no longer drink alcohol, and that meetings also help me to continue to stay sober.

When it seemed like she seemed satisfied with my explanations, I gave her a hug and went off to my meeting. And thankfully so, because I was feeling pretty lousy and my head was filling with self-hatred. Oh, I didn’t want to hear that she remembered anything! I thought I was hiding it so well! But yet again, I am reminded that people all around me knew, they just knew!

Nevertheless, I do feel proud that I have finally talked to my daughter. I also feel that there will probably be a few more of these talks with her and possibly with my younger sons too. I am still feeling a bit strange about it all. I know that in the old days I would have built up so much anger and shame about this, I would have gotten drunk for sure. But today is different. I am different. I can see the positive in this difficult situation. I can see how important it is for my kids to have a sober mom, and today, I can take this knowledge and use it to give me another great reason to stay sober!

Have you had a talk about recovery with your kids? Have you though about it? How did you handle it? I would love to get some feedback! Thanks!

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  1. so awesome!
    thanks for sharing that….you are going to help so many people!
    and I also love the assurance here, that we can do and say hard, hard things and not die, or be overwhelmed with shame or self-hatred, hold our heads high and tell our truth and trust that we will be ok. AND so will the people we love….
    really, so great, congrats! You got lucky kiddos!


    • Thank you Mishedup! I really needs to hear that. I know the sky won’t fall down but my heart is a bit worried. I am sure I will feel better once this conversion continues and it just becomes a learning tool. She didn’t seem to have any issue what I told her, it was all my carp.

      Thank you for your kind words. Hugs.


  2. I have talked to both of my kids, but they are older. One is 22 and one is 19. They need to know what the genetic history is. We have alcoholism on both sides of the family. It is scary, because I know the genetic marker is the dominant indication for alcoholism. Although my husband, the doctor, disagrees with me, I also think that drinking is a behavior learned at home. I saw my parents drink every night, so that was normal for me. Now I know, that is is abnormal.
    My daughter is very aware. My son, I would have to guess, has a tendency to possibly have a problem. Not now, but maybe in the future. So, I keep talking.
    Great post!


    • I am in the same boat, we have it on all sides. I think in the end this is really the reason I decided that I need to start these conversions, the likelihood of them developing some form of addiction is quite likely. So I am too, hoping that by making them aware, maybe they will be more cautious and they hopefully will know where to go for help!
      Thank you so much, this is a really important point! Hugs.


  3. Mine are still littlies (under the age of 8) so I have not got into this with them as yet. I’m not sure how or when I’m going to deal with this and am probably putting it off a bit for the same reasons as you. Food for thought Maggie so thanks xx


    • Yes, I think if they are not asking, then there doesn’t seem to be a need. But at my daughter age, questions come all the time, sort of like the birds and the bees talk, we already had that one, but it seemed much easier – believe it or not! lol! I suppose it’s my own feelings about my past and stuff that had me really worried.


  4. My 13 year old knows the meetings I went to were for people who didn’t want to drink. I told her little except for that and introduced her to a good friend I met there, so believe the association was positive. My not-drinking came up again recently, and she knows I write about it, but not where. I’ve tried to keep it light and more as something I had to do (let her know not everyone can control how much they drink) but am thrilled to keep doing. She has one drinking parent and one non drinker and I don’t want to hide about it, though I’ve told her she shouldn’t mention it to friends (13 year old girls can be brutal).

    The conversation you had with your daughter sounds very open and brave. You done good!


    • Thanks BBB! My daughter actually has one drinking and one none drinking parent also, my ex still drinks – to what extend? Well that remains questionable! lol! But that already come up too, it was hard for her to understand and reasonably so, that some people can drink and some cannot. I am sure there are more questions coming my way.


  5. This is great Maggie. My kids will need to know someday why I don’t drink and I’ll have to decide how much info to give and when. I read something that said don’t mistake intelligence for maturity with your kids, which is helpful so that we don’t confuse them. It sounds like you shared the right amount with your daughter and I’m glad it was a good experience for you!


    • Hi Karen! Thank you. It has been challenging and probably the hardest to start, just like anything else. But I think it did go well, I didn’t get the judgement that I feared from her, but instead we both gained more understanding. Nevertheless, hard talk, it’s hard to talk about that past, but also my taking about it I am letting so e of it go!


  6. Hi Maggie, I can’t believe that I am just getting around to reading this brilliant post. First, congratulations on your bravery, I know only too well how hard that must have been, as you know I am struggling with this issue myself. So glad to hear it went well, although what your daughter said is precisely why I fear telling my kids at all, I fear what they already know! But you handled that bend in the road so unbelievably well, and you have really inspired me in ways you can’t imagine. We are thinking (husband and I) that summer time is the general time frame to do this, so I am so glad to have you as an example. If you would, if there are follow-up conversations/questions initiated by your daughter, I would be so grateful if you could do a follow-up and let us know how they go as well (that’s another area I’m concerned about… the kids coming back 3 days later with 8,000 questions I don’t want to answer!)

    Thanks again, Maggie, this is some information I will be using!


    • Hi Josie! Yes, there were more questions and I will most definitely get it all down on paper. This conversation was a good start indeed. I think it help her to understand what had happened and I assured her that it wasn’t her fault – I have an allergy. But of course the basic questions of what is alcohol still was not quite answered. And how come her dad can drink and mom can’t. And how exactly do meetings help? We have been talking about it a bit here and there, when the question pops, she asks, I answer. I try to be clear and honest, again without giving too much info that she might not underastand.

      Most of all, I have to say, it has lightened my heart, the shame has started to lift. I feel like I am making amends. It’s has been a good experience for sure!


  7. ive talked with my kids , actually more then I probably wanted to . When I got sober my girls were 11, 7, 5 , they had an idea of what was going on to a point , when i went rehab the first time they went to a kids camp for kids of recovering addicts . I will never forget my 5 year old saying my momma just alcoholish so proudly . Now that was 3 1/2 years ago and we still talk just when the need arises or they have questions . I have to younger ones now who one day I’ll sit down and tell and hope they understand I don’t worry so much anymore if it embarresses them or they think less of me I want them to see hey everyone has something to overcome and I also want them to understand they have to be careful with their choices because they are at risks of becoming addicts themselves


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