Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
I have a six year old who seems like they are wiser than they should be at that age. (Of course I might be just a little biased!) They ask every time I go to a meeting if I'm "going to see my friends again." I don't kid myself that they know what AA is or anything like that, but I know at some point the questions are going to become more direct. What are your thoughts about telling your kids about AA and that their parent needs it and that their parent has a disease that needs an hour of medication a day? Should I bring it up first or wait? I have no plans to have this talk with a six year old but I know the day is coming.
Dear Sober Parent,
Being a sober parent is like having TWO of the most important jobs in the world: Sobriety and Parenting. And I deliberately gave "sobriety" top billing in that pairing because, just like the oft used analogy of flying with a child where, should the cabin pressure cause the oxygen masks to drop you put your own on first before you assist your child (and you do that so you can assist your child) so, too, sober parents must make sobriety a priority so they can then be a present, healthy, viable presence in their child's life.
I was struck, when reading your email, that you already have the answer -- and that is, to clearly identify that addiction is a disease. Maybe not one everyone understands fully, but still and all, a medically diagnosable disease. And while it's not everyone's business to be told about it (probably not an appropriate Tell for Show-and-Tell, for example), it is also nothing to be ashamed of -- just like diabetes or epilepsy or any other serious medical condition which requires regular medication to be kept in check.
As to what age is appropriate I leave that up to you. I was about to type, "I don't really have that much experience talking to children" but then I realized I've been sponsoring alcoholics for over 25 years, so there must be some kind of earned credit or something -- like college credits for life experience. Still and all, you are best suited to make that call. Often I find if I pray about questions of timing -- the "when" of a thing -- the Universe will eventually give me my cue.
But whatever the age, I believe the key is to speak with the same calm practicality which one would use to describe physical therapy after an accident, shots of insulin to treat diabetes, or any other treatment. (So of course this is a wonderful opportunity for you to look inside -- deep inside -- and check out your own feelings and beliefs around the disease concept of addiction.)
Congratulations on your sobriety! Your kid is so lucky to have a sober parent who is active in their recovery so they can be present for them, as opposed to the terrible messages and toxic dynamics so many using/drinking parents may helplessly create.
Cheers and Congrats!