Addiction and Child Raising: Have I Doomed My Children?

My name is John, and I am an addict. These words have occupied my thoughts since the first time I got clean back in 2004. I won’t lie and say that it has been a miraculous recovery since then. I have not been clean since 2004. I have now been clean and sober for about a week… Again…

The road to recovery, at first, seemed so simple: No more drinking. No more drugs. Simple right? Ask any addict, any alcoholic, anybody who has ever admitted that they were powerless over their addictions and had no control, it is not that simple. I am my own worst enemy in my recovery efforts. I am weak, I am sort of confused, but most of all, I am now sick of failing. Before kids, the failure of recovery didn’t make that much of an impact. Now that I am the proud dad of two very observant children, the urgency of staying clean and sober has reached an all new high. But here is where it gets a little more complicated.

My addiction is not limited to drugs an alcohol. I am also a smoker. I have smoked for many years, and have shamefully had a habit of two packs a day for quite some time. I have tried to quit many times before with a failing result. Addiction doesn’t mean I just have a thing for drug and alcohol use. Addiction is a disease of the mind that makes its way into many areas of my life. Smoking cigarettes just happens to be another are.

The other day I was sitting on the couch when Little Girl comes walking in the room. She had found an almost empty pack of cigarettes from the pocket of the pants I wore to work the night before. She walks up to me, hands me the pack and says “I want a cigarette”.


My heart stopped at that moment. More than the anger of her holding something she has been told is nasty and gross, was a feeling of overwhelming guilt and sorrow. How horrible of a dad must I be to be telling my kids that they should never smoke, cigarettes are nasty, and slapping them on the hand for reaching for them? Aren’t I the one who is supposed to be the example more than the “Daddy Lawmaker”? And the question that has consumed me since that incident: Has my addiction doomed my children?

I have read many medical articles that suggest that addiction is possibly genetic, passed from father to son. This is not of great concern to me though. Many people are children of addicts and never plunge in to addiction themselves. My biggest fear is that my living example has not been the example it should be, and that my children will grow up to be like me. They will grow up thinking these habits are okay. But they are not. Those habits are harmful, destructive, and deadly. But how are they to know this by my previously lived example? The answer is, they can’t. The solution is to start living a different example.

Have  I doomed my children to a life like mine? Or is it possible for my new example to change the perception of what is right and wrong, good and bad, destructive or productive? I hope that it is not too late. Now clean and sober and the next focus is on quitting cigarettes for total good, I hope I can live a new life. Not just for me, not just for them now. But for their future to not be destined for the things I have gone through. My children deserve the greatest life can give them. And that starts here at home.




  1. TheDaddyYoDude

    Update: When this post was written I was about a week into my new recovery. Now proud to say that I am starting on my 3rd week of sobriety this week.

  2. Lauren Hale

    Wow. What a tremendous wake up call.

    Thank you for sharing your insight. You know I’m passionate about this topic as well given my own experiences in living with an addicted spouse. Congratulations on the sobriety. Being open like this will hopefully lead to a groundswell of support – something SO essential to successful recovery.

    You rock. Don’t ever forget that, John!

  3. Jennifer is Always Sick

    With depression and anxiety, I worry that my children will learn behaviors and bad habits that are the result of my symptoms because I’m home with them all day and that’s what they see – and children emulate what they see. It concerns me too, so I understand.

  4. Anderzoid

    It’s never too late. I’m an “adult child of an alcoholic”. Best thing about becoming a parent was realizing that as an adult we get to choose our own path. My childhood has a profound hold on my world Jew but it’s my responsibility to find truth. As a mom, that gives me hope that loving my kids will give them the strength to make the best of their life. Thanx 4 sharin

  5. DadStreet

    Well done John. That is a hard pill to swallow. Staring into the eyes of our children and seeing our own reflection is so extremely powerful. I can’t think of a more reflective powerful surface, even moreso than a mirror, than our own childrens’ eyes. They see right into us and when we look into those eyes looking back, we see truth.

  6. Whitney

    Thanks for sharing so honestly, we both worry as we both come from long lines of addicted people and once were ourselves…you do the very best you know every day!

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