I had the honor of recently being chosen as a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate. As one of eight chosen from across the country, our mission is to help break the stigma surrounding addiction by gathering the stories of those who have been touched by addiction and sharing their stories of recovery.
One of the first people I thought about interviewing was my daughter.
You see addiction doesn’t just touch the person with the addiction; it touches the family as well. For the first 11 years of her life, I raised my daughter as a single parent while her father was in active addiction. I did the very best I could to shield her from her father’s drinking and drug use, and because of that she no memory of ever seeing him high or drunk and for that, her father and I are both grateful.
In the interview I did for the Heroes in Recovery website, which you can read in full here, my daughter talked about how her father’s recovery, and to a lesser extent, her aunt and uncle’s experiences with addiction and recovery, have affected her life and shaped her views.
I learned so much talking with her in depth for the first time about her father’s addiction and recovery and I cannot tell you how proud I was listening to her talk so openly and honestly about something that I know had to be difficult for her. I found out some things that I never knew before and it reinforced in my mind how important it is to hear from all those who are affected by addiction; especially the children!
I’m so grateful to her for having the courage to share her story because people who are suffering from addiction need to understand how they are affecting their children’s lives and their voices need to be heard.
Finding a way to explain
I know that having to try and explain why a parent isn’t around because of addiction can be very difficult, and when your child is younger you have the “luxury” so to speak of not having to go into much detail in explaining why they aren’t around. But as they get older and their absence becomes more evident and the questions start becoming more frequent, you need to find a way to explain what is going on in a way that they will understand and not destroy their view of the other parent.
It was a delicate balance for me and one that I agonized over at times, but I’m happy that through this interview I got to learn that my daughter understood my reasons for not going into great detail about her father’s addiction and that she appreciated it. I never lied to my daughter about what her father was going through and why he wasn’t there, but I kept it age appropriate and did the best I could to get her the help she needed to understand.
Fortunately for all of us, my daughter is very intuitive and has always been able to read situations and pick up on things without being told much, and was able to find her own way through her father’s addiction on her own terms, which meant reaching out to me for help when she felt she needed it. The pride and profound happiness she now feels having her father back in her life, celebrating what will be 16 years of sobriety this year; as well as exceling in his career as a drug & alcohol counselor is the best gift he could have ever given her and all I can do is be extremely proud of both of them!
Nadine Herring is a blogger that specializes in writing about addiction from the family perspective and community building & organizing. She is a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate, community activist, runner, new cyclist, and owner of a small animal kingdom consisting of 2 dogs and 3 cats (all rescues).