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Would You Tell Your Children That You Used Drugs?

I’m going to make a confession here that few people know about: I’ve used illegal drugs. For a little over a year after my divorce I took X-stasy and smoked marijuana. That’s right, not in high school or in college, but as an adult.

Go ahead and judge me. This is the internet, which, among its many benefits, is the freedom to condemn others anonymously in the comments section. If you feel so compelled, have at it; just know I won’t care. It was dumb, I know. I’m not going to waste time justifying it, and that’s not exactly the point of this post anyway.

The question I’ve had to ask myself rather, is whether I will admit to my children that I once used illegal drugs. There are pros and cons to this of course, which boil down to either they won’t think me naive or, because there were no visible consequences for me, they will believe that this makes their own experimentation acceptable.

At the moment, my kids know nothing other than then “Doing drugs is bad!” They hear this phrase at school and they hear it at home. I can’t speak for the school, but at home we ensure our warnings include an explanation of the consequences. The kids in turn, nod in agreement, and I believe it’s sincere, yet at the same time, they don’t have much in the way of context with which to grasp the seriousness of drug use.

The kids understand that drugs are harmful and can hurt them in many ways, but what does that really mean to them at their young age? My stepdaughters, to some extent, have an inkling, given that their grandfather died of an overdose, but they had no relationship with their grandfather and that makes him almost as nebulous as the circumstances of his death. My sons, on the other hand, have nothing to go off of—nothing except me.

Add this to the general confusion over alcohol consumption, a substance the girls’ school has taught them is a drug too. As adults we understand the differences, but to children still grasping a world of black and white, grey areas like this tend to muddy the concept for them. Because of this, the girls were shocked to learn that, per the messages being conveyed at Drug Awareness Day, their mother and I were drug addicts because we drink wine and beer.

As their mother tried to clarify the situation for them, you could see the wheels of consternation turning in the girls’ heads: So alcohol is not a drug, but only if you’re responsible and don’t do it too much? Does that mean it’s the same with other drugs too?

With all of these considerations in mind, I’ve questioned telling the children about my experiences with drugs. The conclusion I have reached, however, is yes, I will tell them.  This, though, is a qualified yes, meaning there is a time and a place to do this; it’s just a matter of when and where.

If they ask me, I will not lie. If I see them headed down a wrong road, then I will use it to offer guidance toward a better path. If they think it seems glamorous, I will reflect on how it’s not. And if they one day do find themselves in a situation where they are enduring the consequences of drug use, then I will let them know that I understand. Whatever the case, I want to be judicious in the hopes that the biggest consequence of my bad decisions will not be bad decisions on their part. The troubling part, though, is that there are no guarantees this won’t happen.

* * *

Ron Mattocks is a father of five (3 sons, 2 stepdaughters) and author of the book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. He blogs at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, and lives in Houston with his wife, Ashley, who eternally mocks his fervor for Coldplay.

Photo CreditWikiCommons (CP Storm)

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