A mother who has survived addiction naturally would like to do everything in her power to protect her children from making the same mistakes she made. She may feel especially responsible for the welfare of her daughters, who, as they grow and mature, will increasingly look to her for guidance as they attempt to make the difficult transition to adulthood. Because alcohol consumption in particular is a rite of passage for so many youth, there is little doubt that the daughters of mothers who were substance abusers will themselves have to make decisions about alcohol that could end up impacting the rest of their lives, and frank mother-daughter discussions could go a long way toward influencing impressionable adolescents to make smart choices and avoid dangerous temptations. In addition to the ubiquitous presence of alcohol, the illegal drug subculture is a fixture in every high school in America, and no concerned mother, no matter her history or background, can dismiss the chances of a teenage child falling in with those who are abusing such substances. Moms in recovery can offer a unique perspective on the risks associated with drug and alcohol use. The insights they can provide into how the secretive culture of substance abuse functions can help their daughters make more informed decisions about how to live their own lives and about whom they want to associate with in the future. If you are a mom with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, here are a few tips that will help you ensure any conversations you do have with your daughters about this topic will be informative and productive.
Tip #1: Start Young
If you wait until they enter high school to bring up the subject of drugs and alcohol with your daughters, it may already be too late. At this stage, peer influence is likely to be strong and if other kids who are drinking or using get to her first, your chances of making an impact with your words will be reduced dramatically. There is no perfect age to begin talking honestly about drugs and alcohol with young people, but the conversations should probably begin somewhere around the age of 12, or even a little bit earlier if you believe your child is mature enough to handle hearing about such a sensitive issue.
Tip #2: Begin at the Beginning
Your tale of addiction unfolded over a prolonged period of time. Your addiction had a history. It saw you progress from experimentation to casual usage to dependency. Rather than simply trying to shock your daughter with the details of how bad things were at the end, it would be much better if you could tell her the whole story so she can understand how gradual and unexpected your descent into addiction really was. Even if at some point in the future she chooses to start drinking or experimenting with illegal substances, she will likely remember your story and realize how addiction can sneak up on a person and ambush her when she least expects it.
Tip #3: Don’t Resort to Melodrama
If you dramatize your story so much that it sounds like the plotline from a Lifetime movie-of-the-week, your daughter may have trouble taking you seriously. It is important to be honest and to not sugar-coat the truth, but it is also important not to insult your daughter’s intelligence by trying to convince her that she will be instantly doomed if she ever decides to take a drink or consume an illegal substance.
Tip #4: Make It a Dialogue, Not a Lecture
Your daughter’s experiences and outlook on life will not be identical to yours. Culture and society change constantly, and if you really want to understand what things are like for her and what kind of peer pressure she is facing, you need to ask her about them, and you have to be willing to listen without interruption or judgment. Again, you must maintain your credibility if you expect to make a difference, and if you are just talking at your daughter instead of with her, she will close down and your words will not be able to penetrate her defenses. Even at age 11 or 12, a child will react with defiance and will refuse to listen if she thinks you are not interested in what she has to say or are trying to control her rather than advise her. When having serious conversations, you must tread carefully and allow her to express herself in any way she sees fit.
Tip #5: Let Your Story Be One of Triumph and Redemption
Yes, what happened to you was horrific and naturally you want your daughter to know how much suffering and misery drugs and alcohol brought into your life and into the lives of her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, and her father if you were still using at the time your relationship with him began. But despite how bad things got in the end, you found the strength to overcome your addiction, and your daughter should see your success as an inspiration that can help her as she faces the inevitable trials and tribulations of life in the years ahead. You obviously hope that your daughter will never fall into the trap of addiction the way you did, but if the unthinkable someday happens, she should know that she has inherited your strength of character and that deep inside she has the courage and resiliency to beat her addiction just like you did.