• Wed, Mar 5 - 1:00 pm ET

I Talk To My Kids About My Illegal Drug Use All The Time

shutterstock_122564791CNN asks parents this morning if it is a good idea or a bad idea to talk to your kids about your past drug use or your experiences with alcohol. I obviously never considered this debate because I have always been fully open with my own children about what a sloppy ass drunk I was as a teenager. And drugs? I have done many of the drugs. I haven’t done any real drugs since I was about 20 years old, so this is all sorts of BACK IN THE DAY sort of information, but I just never felt the need to hide it from them, or be ashamed or embarrassed about it. I always assumed being honest with my own kids was the best policy in regard to this discussion.

So what have a I told them about booze? That booze is delicious.

That booze is fun and awesome to enjoy with a good meal but the bad part about alcohol is that it can go from being happy fun celebratory times, to puking up nachos in the bathroom, crying and becoming super depressed about how Mick Jagger is going to die one day times. You cry about really stupid things when you are drunk. Puking is not fun. I stress to them that if one day they do drink, that they should quit when they are buzzed, try not to keep drinking after that, but I think we all know that the buzzed you is not the best listener.I tell them they should remember to drink water, and take aspirin before bed, and not to drink on an empty stomach. I tell them I do not want them drinking before they are of legal age, but I think we all sort of know the likelihood of THAT happening is pretty much nil. My kids will get drunk before they are 21. I will ground them. But the most important thing, and my rule that can never, ever be broken, is that they cannot drive when they have been drinking, or get in a car with someone who has been drinking. I have always told them we will come get them no questions asked. For me that is the most important discussion to have. That they can under no circumstance drink and drive.

As for drugs, I am all sorts of open about it. I tell them I got high when I was younger, but that dope always just made me sleepy and amazingly hungry and that even though at times it was sort of fun, it just never really appealed to me. I explain that I don’t want them getting high, mainly because not only is it illegal, and I don’t feel like them going to jail for pot possession, but that the drugs these days may not be the best drugs, that the drugs they consume may have other scary things mixed in with them and that can be incredibly dangerous. I’ve spoken to my teen about LSD, and told them that is also a scary drug, and that anything he takes can affect his mind and you can never be totally sure what is in the drugs you take. Because I live in a very meth-y state, I have also discussed meth with him but due to repeated viewings of Breaking Bad I think that has sort of ruined any glamor that drug may have had for a lot of teens.

I tell my younger kids they should never take any substances that aren’t given to them by mom or dad or by a hospital. I tell them that they can always come to me with any questions they may have. I tell them that they will be offered drugs, but before they decide to take them that I hope they consult with me or their father first, because we love them and want to keep them safe. I tell them that people have died from taking drugs, and that they may take something that just seems like a FUN idea and that it can turn into a habit that can destroy their lives.

I always want my own kids to be honest with me, so I have sort of assumed the best way I can make that happen is by being honest with them. There is a chance that one day they will say “well, you did it when you were young” and that will be their excuse for any drugs they partake in. It’s a risk I’m willing to take, because hopefully my tales of vomiting all over my boots and getting grounded by my own mom when I stumbled home at age 16 is enough to deter them from making the same mistakes.

(Image: Anna Moskvina/shutterstock)

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  • Crusty Socks

    Eve, you actually read a CNN article???

  • Guest

    The key with parents telling their kids to call them when they’re drunk and need a ride is you cannot then yell/ground/punish or whatever. Sadly, parents of a high school friend learned that their daughter knew she would get in trouble, would drive drunk anyway, and got in an accident. I always knew my parents got drunk (my dad told me about his DUI and car accidents) and I knew they would actually come get me no prob if needed. That being said, we always just stayed the night where ever we went.

    • Karen Milton

      My sister and I had the same arrangement. I was also of the ‘stay the night’ sort, but she did call at least once. My generally conservative parents never said a word – I only even heard about it from her, they never brought it up. I’ve said the same to my son. I like to think he’s too young for it to be relevant, but considering I recall my friends and I sneaking wine coolers in Grade 8 it’s probably a good conversation to have now rather than later.

  • Megan Zander

    This strategy worked for my mom. She always told us the good bad and ugly of her teen years and expected us to be honest with her. I remember once her driving me and a couple friends to a party and she asked us what drugs we thought would be there and what alcohol was expected. My friends jaws dropped when I told her the truth. she never encouraged us to drink, never let us drink in the house, but she expected us to be honest and to call her if we needed a ride, which my sister took her up on once, and to my moms credit, she didn’t yell or ground her. My sister and I both graduated college drug free and with some fun memories without any scary hosptial visits. I hope to follow the same plan with my own kids.

    • Valerie

      This is great. I wish my mom had been this way instead of making it about shame and getting into trouble. I met my now-husband when I was 20 and one night soon after we started dating, came home from his apartment very late and a bit tipsy (my sober friend dropped me off) and she screamed and yelled at me at 2am in my bathroom for being a slut, basically. My mom is in all other ways an amazing person and raised me very well but her attitude about drugs and alcohol definitely did not help me any.

    • Megan Zander

      That’s awful. I’m sure your mom is amazing, but fights like that stick with you, you know?

    • Valerie

      Absolutely. I won’t even repeat exactly what she said because it is so not how she normally is and its terrible but I still remember it vividly and it made me feel sooo ashamed. I know she was probably just worried about me and it came out as anger but still…..I would never want to make my daughter feel that way.

  • Valerie

    I think my parents made a bad mistake by taking the stance of “you will not have sex, do drugs or drink alcohol under my roof, missy” and never actually talking to me about the consequences of those actions. They just made sure I knew that it was a non-option as long as I wanted to live under their roof and went on their merry way. It worked for high school for the most part (I drank a few times, never really got drunk, but did remain a virgin until my first year of college and never did any drugs) but I did go nutty with alcohol once I hit college. And I am positive it could have been mitigated by my parents being more realistic and teaching me more about alcohol and not just assuming their wrath if they found out I was drinking would be enough to make me abstain. As a result, I definitely did not know how to handle myself around alcohol and made several bad decisions in my first few years of college. Luckily, none of them had permanent ramifications but I do have the memories and many are cringe-worthy and make me feel awful to this day. So yes, I will be quite frank with my kids about drugs and alcohol and won’t blithely assume that my telling them to stay away from them will be enough info to equip them with. I will not stick my head in the sand and trust that they will listen to me.

    • SA

      This was pretty much what I was going to post. I hope my kid can learn through my mistakes.

    • Natasha B

      Yep, pretty much how I was raised. Along with no sex before marriage. Yeah, that worked great. (Eye roll). I was an angel through HS, then went off the freshman year and discover sex and alcohol rather quickly and with vigor. My parents were much more lenient on my younger siblings….I broke them in nicely.

  • Crusty Socks

    still, the greatest PSA ever!

    • Valerie

      OMG, I can fully hear that kid’s voice in my head right now. 90′s kids for-evah.

    • CrazyFor Kate

      This one could also apply – ask your mom or ask your dad!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mrhuaj540Aw

    • LiteBrite

      I just love the cutesy, fun sing-a-long with this PSA. I’m going to have that in my head all day now.

      “Drugs Drugs Drugs. Which are good and which are bad?….”

    • CrazyFor Kate

      And of course, every Canadian kid in the 90′s rewrote it as “Drugs, drugs, drugs, all are good, none are bad. Drugs, drugs, drugs, from your mom and from your dad.”

    • LiteBrite

      Of course they did.

    • Karen Milton

      It’s like you lived my exact life!

    • Zoe Lansing

      I think whoever thought of this PSA was high at the time.

  • JLH1986

    My mom did this. She was open about the good and the bad…and the ugly. Drinking or smoking never held much appeal after that. But on the few occasions I did get twisted. I called her, she came to get me and put me to bed with aspirin and water. She let me wallow in my hangover for a bit and then it was time to go about my day.

  • Shelly Lloyd

    I think I’m the most boring person in the world. I can not talk to my kids about what illegal drugs I’ve done because I’ve never really done any. I like to have the occasional margarita but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been drunk. The biggest thrills in my life recently: I found a set of vintage Fire King dishes at Good Will for $8! And a new Knitting shop has opened up not far from me! And while I do feel for the Ukrainian people, the history nerd in me has found it interesting to hear about the Crimea making news again after like 170 years.
    See, compete dork. I spent my teen-age years going Jane Austen theme tea parties. That and dealing with my drunk ass mother and my abusive drug addict step-father. So I never wanted to deal with anymore drama from drugs and alcohol as an adult.
    I had to live through so much horrible crap that no teen should ever had to go through all because of drugs and alcohol abuse that I just want to put it all behind me. I’ve talk to my kids about some of it, but not about all of the deep, dark shit I’ve live through. And so far at 15 and 17 they are good kids and they don’t seem too into drugs and alcohol. So I’m hoping I’ve done my job.
    Now, let me tell you all about the vintage dishes I found :)

    • Meg

      I am pretty darn boring myself. I never did drugs, and have never been drunk. I hate the taste of alcohol. As a teen I was a bit of a total goody goody. I was in my 20s when I gave my virginity away…to my husband. I hope I can find a good way to teach my child about these subjects, because I sure don’t have experience to rely on.
      And I would love to hear about your dishes. :). I love thrift store shopping and yard sale deals!

    • Shelly Lloyd

      I had too much 2nd hand experience dealing with an alcoholic mother. I haven’t shared a lot of what I went through with kids–mainly because my mom did get help and has been clean and sober for over 15 years and I do not want her grandchildren knowing her past deeds. And I don’t like dwelling in the past too much either. So don’t worry, you’re not missing out on anything. I have always told my kids that if they need me, I will pick them up at a party, no questions asked. I would rather them come home alive than not come home at all.

      As for dishes, I found a set like these: http://www.rubylane.com/item/610965-626/Vintage-Fire-King-Milk-Glass

      And these carnival glass cups: http://www.etsy.com/listing/158506449/set-of-2-indian-pressed-carnival-glass?ref=market

      And these Termocrisa plates: http://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/160680995/termocrisa-of-mexico-set-of-four-bowls?ref=market I think the Termocrisa plates and carnival glass cups would look nice together. Or just combining all 3 sets.

    • Karen Milton

      My grandfather was an alcoholic (I say ‘was’ because he too got treatment and stayed sober for the rest of his life long before I was born). My parents for a lot of years just said that a very close family member had gone through some very hard years that had had long-term consequences, but that the past was the past and that this person had been able to change. They didn’t tell me who it was for a long time, and I think that was good – I don’t have any opinions of him that I didn’t form myself.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      I would like to go to this Jane Austen tea party please

    • Shelly Lloyd

      :) They can be fun, depending on the group. Some of them are real sticklers for staying in character and I have found those to be a bit stuffy and not as much fun at times. But it has been many years since I have been a part of a JA group. I need to get back into doing things like that again.

    • Williwaw

      My mom let me have a Mad Hatter’s tea party when I was 12. It was awesome.

    • Karen Milton

      Fire King?! ABOMINATION. I collect mid-century Pyrex, clearly a superior product. I am now questioning whether you are truly not, in fact, on the drugs.

      My friends with addict/more than average substance user parents by and large grew up straight-edge, or at least fairly close. They didn’t have to see for themselves what drugs/alcohol were like – they already knew too well what they could become, I guess.

    • Shelly Lloyd

      “I learned it from watching you Mom!” Because of my addiction to vintage dishes when my daughter got to high school and took a cooking class, the teacher was using vintage Pyrex mixing bowls! The first day my daughter looked at them and told the teacher, “Do you know what these are?” and the teacher said “Yes, do you?” and my daughter was like “Yes, do you know what these are worth?” She said the teacher laughed and said “We are going to get along well.” She said it was the first time in years that she met a teenager with any knowledge of vintage kitchenware. And that is mainly cause I’ve dragged the poor girl to far too many thrift stores.

    • Karen Milton

      She let strangers use the Pyrex?! Like, with actual food in it?! Unconscionable. It is for making eyes at, not USING.

      It’s an affordable collectible, which means I’ve been able to afford so much more than anybody really needs to own. I have a couple things I do use, but most of it is off-limits. Do not touch the Pyrex, I will kill you to death with murder. My husband questions why someone needs to own so daggone many food-related items she doesn’t actually use and, given that said person doesn’t cook in the first place, will never use. Judge all you want, just don’t freakin’ touch it. I’m gloating over my new thing enough that I think I might be the second coming of Gollum. I can live with that, it’s CHRISTMASY!.

      I might steal your daughter. She gets it.

    • Shelly Lloyd

      Well my daughter knows about it. But she doesn’t understand it. She has told me that when she moves out all of her dishes will be bought at Ikea and nothing in her first apartment will be less than 5 years old, LOL.

    • Karen Milton

      Hm. I’m now giving her the side-eye, even though that’s perfectly reasonable. I just can’t picture owning dishes that haven’t been in someone’s grandmother’s china hutch for 40 years, haha.

    • Zoe Lansing

      My Nana was like that with her Pyrex lol. She assumed that everyone (well, all females, at least) was as into Pyrex as she was and, thus,stored it in 3 separate boxes. Each box contained an equal amount of Pyrex and had one of her granddaughter’s name on it. That way, we were each assured to inherit our fair share of Pyrex should she suddenly drop dead. She was very meticulous about this lol. I actually do treasure mine now. Not really because I’m really into Pyrex, though,but because I know she loved it.

  • http://lawleramericanadventure.wordpress.com/ Nicole

    This strategy worked really, really well for myself and my brother & sister growing up. There was never any stigma attached to alcohol in our home and I think that went a long way during our teen years when people started throwing parties with booze and drugs. Our parents never wanted us to drink to get drunk and wanted us to know our limits in a safe environment so that led to us having parties at home where we were allowed a 6 pack of something when we were 16 or so (legal drinking age in Australia is 18). By the time we did hit 18, we were kind of done with alcohol (save a few messy nights once in a blue moon) and had no interest in drugs whereas friends who grew up in a home where alcohol was taboo, were getting slaughtered every chance they got.
    It may be related or it may have nothing to do with it but I think being open and honest about your experiences and not lying about how fun alcohol and drugs can be, will go a long way.

    • Lisa

      I agree! My parents were really open about alcohol, and while they personally didn’t try drugs, they were really open about discussing it. With alcohol, there were two basic rules that were unbreakable. 1) NEVER drink and drive, and 2) if I drank at home (once I turned 16, I was allowed to have a glass of wine with dinner or really whenever in the evening), there was no leaving the house afterwards. It worked pretty well for me-I still enjoy alcohol, but it was never a big deal for me.

      Honesty: who knew that it worked?

  • Lee

    My parents were open about their past drug/alcohol use. If you have seen that 70′s show that was pretty much my parents. Same town and everything. I was pretty responsible about it. I let my parents know if I was going to go to a party with alcohol. I turned out okay. My brother on the other hand grew up the same way and is now a recovering herion addict (5 yrs sober) so I really can’t say if being totally honest is the way to go.

  • Alex Lee

    I think I’m safe for another 4 years. Alcohol, smoking, and drugs and medicines have no appeal to my kids right now. If anything, I’m really good at holding your hair.

    Having to explain my career as a virtual stripper? That’s for another day.

  • Véronique Houde

    Most of the fun of drinking underage is doing it behind your parents’ backs. Same with sex. I plan on being honest about both – how I got drunk for the first time at 17, my advice for drinking well, the drugs I took. Before the age of 18, I’d only ever smoked pot. If my kids want to do it, it’s not with my permission. I think that we think alike in this way. Just like they won’t be having sex under my roof with me being aware of it. They can sneak into the woods and risk getting stung in the butt if they want to do that. But, they will know ALL about contraception, and I won’t get pissed if I see a pack of pills in their room.

  • Zoe Lansing

    My dad, like many of his fellow vets, battled a severe drug and alcohol addiction for several years after returning from Vietnam. He got clean and sober in his early 30s.He was largely motivated by the birth of my oldest cousin and the fact that my aunt — his sister– told him he couldn’t be around his nephew if he was drinking or using. He was lucky enough to come from a family that could afford to a long stay at a top-notch rehab and to find a wonderful sponsor (a fellow vet) but getting and staying clean was still extraordinarily difficult for him because addiction is a huge bitch. He purposely waited until he was in recovery a few years before marrying and having kids but I know he still sometimes struggled with the urge to use (particularly during his and my biological mother’s divorce and,later,when he found out I was being sexually abused by my stepfather). He was always very candid with my sister, stepbrothers, cousins and I about his past (in an age appropriate manner).We all knew how he was essentially missing years of his life due to addiction,about the dishonest (and out-of-character) things he did to keep using,about the cruel and selfish ways he (normally a very kind, caring and generous man) treated the people he loved, about the times he ODed and came close to death. We knew that, due to our genetics (our grandfather ,my dad’s cousin , and our great-grandmother on our grandmother’s side all struggled with alcoholism, as well, as did my stepbrother’s paternal grandfather and uncle) we had to be even more careful than many about using potentially addictive substances, particularly about using them to self-medicate emotional pain. My dad relapsed into alcoholism for about a year following 9-11.He had a meeting scheduled at the WTC that morning and saw the towers fall, the people jumping from the windows, etc. firsthand. My oldest brother was 22 , living in DC, and working in one of the Senate buildings (believed to be one of the main terrorist targets),so he was very scared for him, as well.Living just 15 miles outside of Manhattan, we knew people who were killed. All this brought up many of his PTSD and “survivor’s guilt” issues from the war and he fell off the wagon. This time there were no drugs ,”just” alcohol, involved and he was active in his addiction for a far shorter time but we– especially the 3 of us siblings still living at home full-time– saw how much drinking changed him and how hard it was for him to get sober again (he needed another inpatient rehab stay followed by twice-daily meetings).We know that even though he had been sober again for a few years by then, that the first thing he wanted to do when my sister was diagnosed with cancer and died 8 months later was pick up a drink or find some cocaine or heroin (miraculously, he didn’t). We’ve seen how he doesn’t trust himself with prescription narcotics and, if he must take them, he has my stepmother keep them locked up and has her or one of us dole them out to him .When I was living at home — and even when I visit now– my adderall is kept locked up, as well, — at his request–and he doesn’t know the combination to the safe it’s kept in. The fact that he ,a loving and devoted father,fears he might steal his own daughter’s medication shows us how strong addiction can be, even years into recovery. We’re grateful that nothing was hidden from us. I really think it likely saved at least one, probably several , of us from a life of addiction. Possibly even death.

    • Zoe Lansing

      Fuck,many of my posts are long :0 I totally understand if everyone see my user name and immeadiately thinks “tl;dr” lol.

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      Nooo, thank you for sharing all this, I think hearing stuff like this is fascinating.

    • Zoe Lansing

      Thanks.I worry that sometimes my comments might be TMI x 100 lol. I don’t really talk that much about this kind of thing very often in “real” life so I sometimes fear I might overcompensate by going on and on (and on!) in internet “conversations”.

  • Karen Milton

    I haven’t talked about drugs in much detail with my son, but he knows I have a history of making decisions that were not the most positive on my life. I did use a recent event as a teaching tool though. I was taking a medication that causes a physical dependency. At no time did I abuse the drug (I only took it as prescribed by my physician, never inappropriately, and mental addiction was not part of my equation) but the fact is that it still causes the body to become dependent on having it the system. Recently I was taken off the medication and had to withdraw (something that has been compared to heroin withdrawal for patients taking this specific class of medications), and I had to do it at home as there were no hospital beds available (thanks, Canadian health care!). My son observed me nauseated and vomiting, sweating, shaking and cold, and I used the opportunity to say that if this is how my body was reacting to the removal of a medication I was prescribed in a safe dose, imagine what stopping a street drug that has no regulated dose or chemical makeup would be like. I hope it stuck with him.

  • ShanLea

    I’m pretty honest with my 12 year old about what I’ve done, in small doses. He hasn’t asked too many questions as yet, so I’m not sure how I will feel if he gets more inquisitive. He’s pretty familiar, since his father, that he spends all summer with, is a “medical” marijuana user, and swears he doesn’t have an urge to be like that. Best part is, he has a pretty dry sense of humor like me, and we freaked out his best friend at a sleepover-they were loud and goofy and I said, “hey, what did mom say about doing drugs?” and he yells back “sorry mom, I forgot to share with you!”
    (just want to add that I put “medical” in quotes not because I don’t believe in it, but because my ex is a chronic pothead who may or may not have faked pain to get his medical card)

  • Magrat

    The dude and I are alcohol snobs. If I’ve had enough to get drunk it’ll trigger a migraine, and he has a liver of steel so trying to get drunk is usually a futile, expensive effort. So we drink moderately and buy very good liquor and beer.
    What I’m saying is that our kids will not only grow up around responsible alcohol consumption, but by the time their friends are offering them Coors Light bought with fake IDs, their dad will have already have given them a Guinness to watch the Super Bowl and the occasional glass of some fancy Belgian. Not only will the allure of breaking the rules be gone, drinking with their friends will be gross.