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.