Sober Moms: Explaining Drinking to My Daughter

As you may have imagined there were many more questions that my daughter had about alcoholism and recovery after our initial conversation a few weeks ago. (You can read about it in my last Sober Moms post: Talking About Recovery.) At the end of that conversation, I did let her know that whenever she had any more questions, about anything, that she could most definitely come and ask me.
Question
I have also shared this experience with the moms in my sober circles. It has also brought up interesting conversations and many questions from the moms. The main question that everyone seemed to have, was why? Why did I choose to tell my daughter about my alcoholism and recovery? Is she not too young? (She is 11) Was I worried that she would be telling her friends, or the neighbors, or someone who would make it into a gossip? Was I worried that she would think less of me? Was I worried that she was going to be angry with me? YES! Yes, and yes! I most certainly was. I was mostly terrified that she would go to school and tell everyone that her mom is an alcoholic, and then people would be knocking on my door wondering what the heck is going on!

However, knowing my daughter, I do not think that she talks about me that often! Additionally, in our last talk I did explain that I am a recovering alcoholic, which means that I no longer drink alcohol. Therefore, and hopefully, that explanation covered the possible confusion and if some misunderstanding happens, I will be glad to explain this all! I am truly ok with telling her because I am no longer ashamed of it myself, and I especially want her to understand that people can recover and live happy lives without ever drinking again. In addition, I try to explain things as facts, and I do not add whether they are good or bad. This way she will more likely see this just as information. I really do not believe that kids carry shame until we make the information shameful. If we present things in a neutral way, then that is the way they will accept them.

So why? Why did I choose to share this with my daughter? Well, primarily I want to be the first one to tell her, and before she hears it from her peers who most likely will be glamorizing getting drunk. I also wanted to clear up any questions about why her mom goes to those meetings and such. I noticed that if I am the first person to tell her about something then she accepts it easier as a fact. But if her friends get to her first, then it is really hard to convince her that what she may think she knows, may actually be wrong!

The other huge reason is to make her aware that this is a family disease. Her family has been afflicted with alcoholism on both sides; chances are that she will develop it at some point too… I know… Scary, scary, scary! BUT. Hopefully she will know that recovery is possible, and hopefully she will feel comfortable enough to come to us for help.

Several questions that came up this time around were actually quite hard to explain: What is alcohol? Why do people drink alcohol? How does alcohol make you feel? My dad drinks, is he like you?

I have to admit, I was a bit lost. How do I explain alcohol? It is not illegal, it is not necessarily bad for you, although it can be, and it can make you feel relaxed, and happy, or get you really impaired and horribly sick. Hmm… What I really wanted to say to her was that drinking is horrible, and she should stay away from it, and never EVER try it, and that it will ruin your life! However, I think that might have made her even more inclined to try it, especially since most kids do exactly the opposite of what their parents say, right?
Girl
So back to basics! I started by explaining that alcohol is added to some drinks, like beer, wine and liquor. Usually beer and wine are served straight out of the bottle or can, and liquors are mixed with another drinks, like a coke or sprite. I explained that many people drink alcoholic drinks with dinner, or when they are celebrating something. Small amounts of alcohol, maybe a drink or two can make a person feel more relaxed. Some people feel happier and as if they are having more fun. But, larger amounts of alcohol have quite an opposite effect on people, and they begin to lose some control of their body. They may talk loud, have a hard time walking and may fall into deep sleep, often called passing out. Then I ended by stating that by law you have to be 21 to drink any drink that has alcohol in it.

Then she asked the last question: My dad drinks, is he drinking too much? This question really scared me, and I did not have a good answer for it, or at least not one that I wanted to share with my daughter. However, I do think he drinks too much; he was my drinking buddy when we were together. He still drinks every day and sometimes he drinks to excess. I can tell because his speech gets really slurred and he does not make sense when he talks. Nevertheless, his drinking has never caused him to have any consequences, as if it caused me. He is more of a sipper, he does not get drunk often, but he drinks every day. Is he an alcoholic? Hmm, well, it is not for me to make that judgment.

Therefore, I skipped this question, just for now, so I can figure out how to answer it properly. I told her that I was not sure and we can talk about it little later.
However, I do worry about his drinking! We have joint custody and she spends half of her time over at his house. I hope he does not get drunk with her around. I hope that he is not putting her in danger. I feel strangely uncomfortable being on the other side of the scenario, especially since I used to be the drinking parent. It makes me even more gratefully that I am sober today, what a gift! And hopefully someday, I may find a way to answer that last question, or not.
If you have any helpful ideas on how to talk to your kids about drinking, please share! Thank you!

For other Sober Moms posts click HERE.


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9 Comments Add yours

  1. We can’t diagnose anyone else as alcoholic. Everyone has to decide that for themselves. I have been explaining alcoholism & addiction, including how I have been affected, little by little for over 4 years now. When my kids were 4 & 6, I called them my “good mommy meetings.” I gently reminded them of when I was a bad mommy & told them that these meetings were like school where they taught me how to be a good mommy. They learned about second birthdays when they saw my chips. (And they wanted to know when their second birthdays were.) They know I help other women become good mommies and sometimes I have to go help them. We talk about the importance of honesty & we share openly about our feelings, stressing the importance of not stuffing or ignoring them… You know, the -ism part of it. Over the past 2 years, we’ve talked more about the actual alcohol & drugs. I stressed that alcohol is not a bad thing and there is nothing wrong with other people drinking. There are some people like me, though, that can’t drink at all because we are alcoholic. My kids are now 9 & 11. We are talking more about my history with drugs and how to know what to watch out for & the kind of people to stay away from (the oldest has told me some scary stories about kids in his class snorting stuff – not drugs, but he’s obviously learned that from somewhere & thinks it’s cool). I make sure not to judge anyone who drinks or does drugs, but rather teach my kids how to keep themselves safe. If someone is acting weird, keep away, protect yourself & talk to someone about it. It’s the same thing I would tell an adult in a similar situation. Even if their dad is a raging drunk, labeling him as such will do nothing. The only thing we can do is protect ourselves. Yeah, they’ll see some bad behavior, but I can’t protect them from that. So long as they know not to get in the car with someone who is not in their right mind (even if that means they have to throw a 2 year old style temper tantrum), they shouldn’t get seriously hurt.. unless it’s so obvious that there is a serious drinking problem. At that point, though, they just need to know they can talk to me, no matter who is doing what. And the only way they’ll be able to be that open with me is if they know I won’t judge, but only try to help. That’s been my experience and so far it’s working for me and my kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! This is wonderful information and very inspirational! I read it several times. I obviously still have some anger towards my ex to deal with, and I knew that if I didn’t prep, I might have said something bad and that she doesn’t need to hear about her dad, he’s not bad. And it’s really good to hear how other moms are dealing with these topics. I think for me it’s really important to be honest with my kids too. It also keeps me accountable. Thank you again so much, I am sure many moms will find your comment very helpful too! Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. lucy2610 says:

    What an inspiration you are Maggie. Thank you for sharing and continuing to support those behind you, and beside you, in the journey. 6 years is amazing and gives me hope xx

    Like

    1. Thank you Lucy! Hope is awesome! Hope gives you strength when you think that you have none. Just believe and you’re half way there- can’t remember who said it but I love that quote! Hugs.

      Like

  3. El Guapo says:

    As someone who’s just wandered in, I admire both your honesty in explaining it to your daughter, and your restraint in answering her question about her father.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It does me no good to say bad things about her dad – my parents were divorced, they never had anything good to say about each other. It was painful to hear it as a kid.

      Like

  4. Reblogged this on Sober Courage and commented:

    Talking to our kid about drinking and alcohol use and abuse can be a daunting task. We all know that as our children approach adolescence, their friends will exert more influence than ever over what they may or may not know. However, I truly believe that our kids will listen if presented with the information before their peers get to them. Study after study shows that even during the teen years, parents have a huge influence on their children’s behavior. (Source: NAADAC http://www.naadac.org)

    Here is a post about how I handled that discussion with my daughter.

    Like

  5. Lisa W. says:

    You are amazing, Maggie, and to see you now, explaining drinking in a sane way, to who used to be your tiny baby girl…aahhh I get all teared up. I believe in honesty, too, in way that kids can handle. What if I need to approach all this with my toddler twin grand nieces one day? I did have to make amends to their mother, my niece, who I helped raise. Because of drinking and drugs, I was not there for her at times she really needed me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lisa! Love you!

      I am just a mom. Trying to do hetter, you know. My parents never talked about anything. I was lost and confused growing up. I like being open with my kids. I feel that I can help them make the right decisions. 🙂

      Like

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