Parent to Parent: Should You Disclose Your Past Addiction

I can understand that this particular subject matter could get a little tense and it could get a little controversial.  As parents (speaking from experience) we all suffer and struggle trying to think with the decision on whether or not we should branch out and tell our children about our past addiction problems if we had them.  On the one hand, we think that it could be a good thing because it might put things into perspective for our young ones.  On the other hand, though we might be a little bit concerned at the thought of doing this too as it might cause us to worry that they might think less of us, or that they might justify their own actions based off of our past ones.

Some parents choose to tell their kids about their past substance abuse.  Some choose to keep it hidden in an effort to protect them.  The honest truth of the matter is that I don’t think there is anything wrong with either decision, especially if it is made in the right way and that the parents have fully looked at and explored both options in their minds and how each route could go down.  In that case, I support parents of both sides of the coin.

What My Advice is on the Matter

Here’s what I think about it.  I personally believe in an all-out in the open, no subtleties, no withholds, no lies, no secrets type of approach to parenting.  I want to know everything about my kids, and since that is what I want from them, I am willing to afford them the same courtesy.  I feel it is only fair if I am asking for my kids to tell me everything that I, in turn, tell them everything.  That sounds fair, right?

Of course, I do have some contingencies.  I don’t tell my kids about my past unless I think they are ready to hear it, and I always consult with their mother before I do so.  That is my policy.  I feel as though children have a right to know all about their parents, just as parents have a right to know all about their kids.  In truth what it really comes down to is when you go about telling them about your addiction past and how you go about telling them about it and under what circumstances you tell them about it.  That is ultimately what it all comes down to I feel.

With this in mind, I invite you to come to a decision on which you think is the best decision.  I invite you to arrive for yourself a conclusion as to what you think will be best for your kids.  Consider points like:

  • “What have they heard about me so far and what kind of effect did that have on them?”
  • “Are they old enough?”
  • “Are they on the verge of experimenting with drugs and alcohol themselves?”
  • “Have they already started abusing drugs and alcohol?”
  • “What would be the pros to be telling my kids about my addiction past?”
  • “What are the cons to me telling my kids about my addiction past?”

If you write all this out and make a list and answer all the questions honestly and truthfully then it will be pretty clear to you and plain to you what you need to do to effectively address this situation.

As a last note, I strongly encourage you to consult with your spouse on this matter. Whether your spouse is the parent of your kids or not, I strongly encourage you to involve them in this process and the overall decision too.  After all, it is just as much his or her responsibility to raise the kids as it is yours, so they should have a say in the matter just as much as you should.  In the end, a final exercise to do to decide which is the best decision is to think on it and work it out in your head and to try to think about how it could be successful and workable and what might happen that might make it unworkable.  Whichever direction you are leaning towards after that will be the right choice.

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