Talking to Your Teen About Your Past Drug Use

Autumn Cavender

A report provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on adolescent substance abuse in the United States is alarming. The numbers show that 39% of high school students used marijuana at least once, and 33% of them had at least one drink in the 30 days before the survey was taken. The data also revealed that some of the young student subjects also used inhalants, cocaine, and even pain relievers for non-medical reasons.

Substance use among adolescents should be dealt with immediately and accordingly as it can lead to numerous negative consequences such as vehicular accidents and deaths, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, juvenile delinquency, as well as other physical and mental health conditions.  Studies also show that individuals who start abusing drugs early in their lives are more likely to develop serious addiction problems, considering how drugs significantly affect a developing brain.

When it comes to adolescent or teen drug use, parents are the biggest influence in this area. Numerous studies show how the lack of parental supervision and monitoring, and drug use among parents are factors that significantly increases the risk of addiction among teenagers.

The Dilemma of a Parent in Recovery

If you are a parent in recovery, it is understandable that you are anxious about your teen treading the same path as you, given the information above and your own journey. You may be committed to providing parental support, guidance, and information about addiction, but you may be having second thoughts as to whether you should share your past drug use and the time you spent in an inpatient rehab facility.

You may be afraid that your child will look at you differently or that you would lose your moral high ground. A study about this concern, however, suggests that parents in recovery should share their story and tell their children the truth. Here are key findings that may encourage you to share your difficult past:

  • 50% of the teenagers shared that they would less likely use drugs if their parents shared their addiction story to them.
  • 95% of the teenagers who revealed that their parents already shared with them their experiences with drugs and alcohol when they were younger, believed that this kind of honesty was a good thing.
  • 68% of the teenagers whose parents have yet to share their experience with alcohol and drugs, said that they would want their parents to talk to them about it.
  • 90% of the teenagers whose parents shared their past alcohol and drug use considered their parents to be role models.

Points to Consider When Talking to Your Teen About Your Drug Use

Talking about drugs and alcohol is a conversation you should have with your teenage child, whether you are in recovery or not. However, sharing your past drug use with your teenagers can be unnerving, but necessary. Here are some points you should consider delivering the right message across:

  • Choose the right timing and consider your child’s maturity level.

You cannot simply blurt out that you are a recovering addict during breakfast or out of nowhere. The topic should be brought out naturally. You can take advantage of everyday events such as headlines about celebrities who entered rehab because of drug use or other news stories that show the ill effects of addiction, to start the conversation.

As to how you will exactly bring up the topic or how much details you can say would depend largely on the maturity level of your child. While you may be inclined to ask suggestions from family and friends, you should trust your own judgment since you know your child better than anyone around him.

  • Provide the right information.

Do not forget that you intend to share your addiction story not because you just want to be “honest” with your kid. This is more than just the issue of truthfulness. You want this conversation to help your child understand the dangers of substance abuse and to make it clear to him that you do not want them to use drugs or alcohol.

  • Focus on the important things that you learned.

Being honest about your past drug use does not mean you have to share your entire experience. Center your talk on the important lessons you have learned, like how drug use can ruin a promising life of a young person or how it can make you lose yourself. Telling your teen how experimenting on drugs helped you to fit in or how it was simply a mistake can undermine your critical message – you should never do drugs, ever!

  • Stay collected

While you may not know exactly how your child will react after your revelation, there is one important rule you should follow – stay calm. Even if your child starts screaming, venting, or throwing things, you should never lose your temper. If your child stays quiet, ask probing questions like, “What do you think?” or “How do you feel about that?”.

It is difficult for all parents, whether they are in recovery or not, to talk to their children about alcohol and drugs. Consider the tips mentioned above and concentrate on the thought that your past is not the issue, but your child’s future is.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 ©2018 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.


Parenting A Teenager with Addiction: The Hardest Challenge Of My Life

Ever since my child was little, I always strived to be the best parent I could be.

I wanted my child to have everything he could ever want.

When I was a teenager I was addicted to alcohol, so it was difficult for me to ever think about my child having an addiction.

Then, it happened.

One day he came home and something was different.

I could see it in his eyes.

 He was on drugs.

 How did I not find out sooner?

 Why didn’t I recognize the signs?

 After I thought back for a bit, I realized I just didn’t want to see it.

He had started hanging out with new friends during the summer after his junior year.

He was hanging out with them in the evenings and on weekends.

His grades had been falling during his senior year as well.

I should have known, but as a parent I just didn’t see it until he had already become addicted.

I went through his room that night and found his stash of marijuana and heroin.

When I confronted him that night, he was so angry with me.

He got defensive and slammed his door.

He even said that he never wanted to talk to me again and that he hated me.

I cried for hours.

My son was 18 at the time and he had his whole life in front of him.

What was I going to do?

I would do anything to save him from the addictive lifestyle that I had gone through.

However, as a recovering alcoholic myself, I knew he was the one who had to put the work in.

He would have to overcome the addiction, not me.

I could be there to support and help him, but I couldn’t do it for him.

Getting through to him…

A few days later, I sat my son down and told him I just wanted to talk.

The first thing I did was tell him I understood.

I told him about my own addiction, the struggles I went through, and let him know that nobody was there for me.

I didn’t have family members who understood. 

They all thought I was just having fun when drinking and didn’t really believe in addictions.

They also didn’t believe in getting help to quit drinking.

I told him about everything I had gone through and how much I was grateful for my recovery.

During this talk, I told him how proud I was that he would be graduating this year and asked him to tell me about his hopes and dreams for the future.

He explained that he wanted to be an engineer and all about his hopes of going to college.

I told him how great that was and explained how an addiction could derail that.

I didn’t judge him or tell him what he was doing was wrong.

I just listened, gave him support, and told him I would be there for him if he was ready to go to rehab.

I explained to him what happens in rehab and how supportive they would be with helping him overcome the addiction.

I told him he didn’t have to answer me that night and he could think about it.

Five days later, he came to me after school and told me he was ready to go to rehab. 

I knew he would need inpatient rehab and I talked to his school.

They said as long as he was willing to take summer school to make up the class time and work he would miss, he could still graduate that year.

I was amazed by their support and understanding during this tough time.

The next day my son was enrolled into an inpatient rehab center.

The program would last for 60 days.

Rehab and full support…

In the rehab center my son attended, they had family night every Sunday, and I was there every time.

He went through detox first which lasted 7 days.

I wanted my son to know I was supporting him through all of this.

He had to know there were people on his side and that I loved him no matter what.

The first few weeks were tough and really difficult to see him in the rehab center.

However, I knew I had to hold it together.

I won’t lie.

I cried when I got home, every single time.

After a bit, it got easier.

I could tell he was doing better and wanting to improve his life.

He would tell me about what he learned in therapy and the group sessions.

The final two weeks, I wanted to make sure I had everything ready for him when he came home.

I made sure to clean the house and create a schedule, where we would check in with one another.

Coming home and working the program…

The rehab center my son attended sent him home with an aftercare plan.

It included attending individual therapy once a week and group therapy once a week.

They wanted him to attend NA meetings three times a week as well.

We talked about all of this before he left the rehab center.

When he got home, we went over the schedule and he gave input on things he wanted to change.

We agreed on times we would check-in with each other.

He knew that I was there if he needed to talk, but I wasn’t going to hound him about his recovery.

He had to hold himself accountable and I think that helped him knowing that he had to do it.

The first year was the most difficult because I had a very difficult time trusting that he wasn’t using.

Any time he was away from me or  if he didn’t answer his cell phone on the first ring, I was concerned.

I had to let him be and let him work his program.

He never relapsed.

He attended all of his therapy sessions and NA meetings.

He even attended the summer program and graduated that year.

Now, he is two years clean, and I couldn’t be more proud.

He is my son and I love him with all my heart.

He knows his recovery is a lifelong process and he is still working his program.

 We still check in with each other, as we did since he came home from rehab.

 Written By Charles Watson of Sunshine Behavioral Health

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.


©2018 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.