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How I Explained Recovery To My Daughter

I always dreaded the day that I would need to explain my alcoholism to my daughter.  I knew that it was going to be a necessary conversation; a conversation that would help to heal the wounds that my drinking behavior had caused her. After all, this is a family disease, and my mom was also an alcoholic. So after contemplating a long time, having the conversation just seemed like the right thing to do for my family; including the two sons I had in sobriety.

I had a long journey into sobriety, motivated in the beginning by several legal consequences. It took another four years before I was able to maintain long-term sobriety. In my early recovery, I went to a 12-step meeting every single day no matter what. Eventually, my ex and I split up, and we were awarded joint custody of our daughter. Being a single mom all of a sudden, I often took my daughter to the meetings. I bought a portable DVD player and headphones, and we sat in the back of the room as not to disturb anyone. I went to women’s meetings because they made me and my daughter feel more comfortable. Of course, all the women loved to see her adorable little face too.

These meetings provided me with many new connections to other sober moms; from which some of the greatest friendships of my sober life have blossomed.

I also found tremendous support through my difficult times in sobriety, as well as the challenging times in parenting. Our kids became friends too, and sometimes we would bring them to meetings together. I got involved in other fellowship activities; where I met up with sober moms and had play dates for our kids. My daughter was a huge part of my recovery, even early on.

My journey began six years ago, and my daughter is now almost eleven. She has become a curious preteen, and the questions have begun. I no longer have to take her to meetings because I have remarried, and she can stay with her stepdad.

One day, as I was leaving for a meeting, she asked me why I keep going to the meetings and what I do there. This question had come up before, but in the past, I had politely responded with humor.

I decided that it was time to start the conversation.

I told her that I go to the meetings because they help me live a happy life without drinking alcohol.

Then I explained that alcohol is a type of a drink that some adults enjoy, especially with dinner, and that it comes in several forms; like wine, beer, and liquor. I told her that I have an allergy to alcohol, sort of like the kids who have an allergy to nuts. I explained that when I drink alcohol, I cannot stop. I get very sick or act strangely, or I fall asleep for a really long time. She replied, “Oh, I remember!” My heart sank! She continued, and I listened to what sounded like a description of my last drunk night. Good grief, I couldn’t believe that she remembered that. She was only four years old!

I was heartbroken for several days after that conversation. The pain of knowing that my daughter remembered my last drunk night was excruciating. I was flooded with the memories of all the wrongs I had done, and wished it had been different. But you know, what’s done was done, I couldn’t change it, I could only move forward and work toward not repeating it! I had to let it go, beating myself up served me no purpose! I had to remember that was in recovery now, and no longer that person. After some time had passed, I was getting ready to leave for another meeting. My daughter ran over, gave me a big hug, and told me to have a great meeting! Ever since then, we have had open communication about my recovery. My husband, her stepdad, who is also in recovery, felt comfortable enough to share that with her too.

My recovery has become our recovery, and a part of our life! It is a part of our family, wide open and acceptable. This has been the greatest gift of all because, after all, one day she may need meetings and recovery! I hope if that time ever comes, she will feel comfortable enough to find support in her family.

This amazing post was submitted by Maggie Shores. In July 2014.

Maggie has been sober since April 15, 2008, and is a huge advocate for recovery. Her main motivation is to stay sober, and help other alcoholics to achieve and succeed in sobriety. She works full-time in the exciting business section of Washington DC, and in her “spare” time she spends endless hours entertaining her three awesome kids (ages 10, five, and two), along with her amazing husband. He is one of her biggest supporters, and is her partner in recovery. Maggie is also a passionate gardener, a music enthusiast, and a coffee junkie. Check out her blog Sober Courage!

original photo credit: greekadman via photopin cc

4 Comments on “How I Explained Recovery To My Daughter

  1. Thanks for sharing this Maggie~ wonderful post. She may remember a bit but she knows more of the sober mommy and sober step dad… what a beautiful gift you can give her as well as your younger children. Congrats too on your new marriage and expanded family.

    My sons are older and only my oldest teen at present knows a bit of my new recovery. Both my sons know more about my drinking sadly and when my youngest comes home from camp I would like to include him on my new recovery journey. I do know how important now it is to educate them on drinking as teens especially since that is when I started my binge drinking.

    Thanks again for sharing your post. 🙂

    B.

  2. when my daughter was 4, she had tonsilitis with a fever of 105 degrees. she refused to take the children’s tylenol, and i kept asking her why; she needed it to get better. she looked up at me with her little face and solemnly told me that she did not want to me like me, mommy. i cried and cried and got high some more. eventually, 7 year later, she and i were in the kitchen cooking together where i was teaching her about seasonings, and she looked at me again. she said, “mommy, when i grow up, i want to be just like you.” it ABSOLUTELY gets better the longer i go.
    ilsa, addict/alcoholic, age 41, anniversary: january 9, 2012

  3. Hi Maggie!

    First, congrats on this amazing guest post, they couldn’t have picked better to have you 🙂
    This has been sitting in my inbox for a while, I have been behind on all sorts of blog-related activity, and I find it no coincidence that as I am just settling in from post-vacation that I get a chance to read it. You see, I have earmarked this summer as the time to sit down with each of my kids and have this talk. One is headed to high school, the other to middle school, and my husband and I decided the time was right. Like the true alcoholic I am, I am opting to wait until the LAST POSSIBLE SECOND of the summer to do it, but I am still committed. No doubt you will be reading of the results of this conversation on my blog at some point.

    Short story long, thanks for sharing this, and for the gentle reminder to get my butt in gear and have this talk 🙂

  4. Hi Maggie,
    Thank you so much for this post. Beautifully written I think this is so vital to a healthy family. I have had this conversation with my 7 yr. old daughter, I remember recently we were discussing why I still had to go to meetings even though Mommy was better. I asked her if she remembered when I used to drink wine she shook her head yes. I looked at her and said so that I never drink wine again this is why I cannot stop going to meetings. She looked at me and with a smile said have fun at your meeting Mommy and remember only drink coffee there!! I am so grateful for the gift of recovery moments like these!

    Rose

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