I grew up in a family with a deep history of addiction on my mom’s side. Though my mom made the conscious decision to never activate the gene, never indulging in drugs or alcohol, it remained present in me and I succumbed to it. While I applaud my mother for never becoming an addict, once I chose sobriety, I wanted to take it one step further and arm my children with the information I wish I had been given.
When I sat down with my kids, two things happened: they shared with me more valuable insights then I ever could have realized on my own and they wanted to be a part of the healing process and to help others. That’s when we decided to write a candid book about our experiences.
Here is a brief look at some of the nuggets we want parents and kids to know:
First, if you have a parent who is an addict, you are not alone.
20% of children in the United States today have a parent that is an alcoholic or addict. Roughly 11 million kids have alcoholic parents, and it is fair to assume at least half as many have drug addicted parents. That gives us 16 million children with an addicted parent today. That is over 20% of the 72 million children in the United States. So, one in five of your classmates may be going through the same feelings and fears that you are. Take a look around. They are also feeling alone in their family drama and want someone to talk to.
Second, addiction should be treated like a peanut allergy – just more seriously.
Kids with peanut allergies are protected at school, on playdates, on airplanes, on sports teams, etc. As they should be. This incredible focus on the dangers of peanut allergies has undoubtedly saved thousands of children from serious ailments or death. Yet, this movement was developed for a disease that affects less than 1% of children in the United States.
What a wonderful example this is of America’s ability to mobilize for the protection of its children.
Yet, what is our county doing for children with an equally deadly disease hiding in their genes — the gene of addiction? The number of these children dwarf the number of children with peanut allergies (children of alcoholics alone total over 11,000,000 in the U.S.). These children with a hidden allergy to alcohol are in grave danger of developing the same disease their parent suffers from. For example, some research indicates that a son who has an alcoholic father is 8 times more likely to develop alcoholism than his peers. We need to educate society and our children about addiction.
Three, you don’t need to drink to fit in.
One of the most common excuses for underage alcohol abuse is that “everyone drinks” – classmates, family members and friends. Whether these thoughts come in the form of peer pressure or just an excuse for behavior, it is important for kids to know that almost half of the world’s population never drinks alcohol, according to the World Health Organization.
Underage drinking, often caused by peer pressure, should never be acceptable and can only lead to negative consequences. This is especially true for children of alcoholics.
So for those kids who may think (or are told by their peers) that “everyone drinks,” remember that half of our world never touches a drop of alcohol during their lifetime.
If 50% of the world can do it, so can you.
Four, you can avoid/break the family addiction cycle with a few simple steps:
- Communicate regularly with your children about their social circles.
- Openly discuss any family history of addiction.
- Visit resources like potatoallergy.com to learn how to talk to your kids about addiction.
About Marc Treitler
Marc Treitler and his family are the founders and creators of the family addiction education website www.potatoallergy.com and the authors and illustrators of My Dad Is an Alcoholic, What About Me?: A Pre-teen Guide to Conquering Addictive Genes.
Learn more about how to talk to your kids about substance abuse at www.potatoallergy.com. You can also find and connect with the authors on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.