Sober Parent Interview – Dara

Dara and her family

Tell me about your family…

My family consists of myself, my husband, Ray and my two daughters, Abby and Brooke. Abby is just about to finish 1st grade and will be turning 7 in August. Brooke is turning 3 in two weeks and goes to nursery school a few days a week. We live on Long Island in NY in a town called Garden City where both my husband and I grew up in. I tend to say I am the “older” parent as I had my kids later in life and find I have different ideas of what an ideal family life is due to my age and my journey to this point, including getting sober.

What is your parenting philosophy?

Let kids be kids. In a world where everyone is in a rush to grow up, do more, get all the popular tech gadgets and apps, it is important we let our kids be kids and just learn to appreciate each day, each moment. I try not to “sweat the small stuff” and apply rules and restrictions when if I don’t could cause harm to them or someone else. For me, I want my children to be happy, smiling, laughing, basically an overall sense of contentment.

What have been your biggest challenges as a parent?

To play off my answer to the second question, my biggest challenge is to not let the outside world influence the girls in any negative way. I never want them to feel like they need to “keep up with the Jones” and have everything everyone else has. I want to enforce that as long as you are happy, healthy and honest, you have a great life.

In your opinion, how can we effectively educate our kids about addiction?

Children needs to be introduced at the appropriate age to all sides of addiction, meaning not just the car crashing into a tree video or the boy being rushed to the hospital for a stomach pump, they need to understand it is a disease but you can get the help you need to get better. That they are a lot of successful well known people who live in recovery and live great lives. The children need to be able to have open communication with their educators on why they may drink or take drugs, usually that is the just the symptom of a larger issue.

I would also love to see teachers in middle school and high school required to learn more about addiction themselves and to try to truly understand what is about so they can teach the children properly.

What have your children taught you about yourself?

They have taught me to be grateful for all I have and not what I don’t have. I am blessed to have two beautiful children and a wonderful husband and that trumps all. They also teach me to be patient and understanding and to remember that sometimes it is truly all about progress and not perfection. That is why I drank like I did I needed an outlet to numb my non-stop working brain and that is what alcohol did. I was an overachiever with too many goals and today I realize I need to find balance between reaching my goals and living a simple happy life.

If you have teenagers, how do you parent them around alcohol and drugs? How do you deal with your fear that they are going to use drugs or binge drink?

I do not have teenagers but if I did I would tell them about my journey and also let them know I am here for them no matter what, no need to hide and no need to not communicate. Life can be so hard for a teenager and I want them to believe I am their ally and not their enemy.

How will you tell them about your past?

As far as what I will tell them about my past, I believe for the most part I will focus on the fact that I have a disease that made me act out in ways that were not appropriate growing up. That it put a strain on their grandma and grandpa while I lived very selfishly. There are a lot of lesson to be taught here and it is just not to “not drink or drug”. I want to use what I have been through to show them that we need to overcome things in life and it is not always easy.

Do you have any thoughts on how to protect your kids from addiction?

I don’t believe there is any way to protect them from addiction, the best I can do is educate them as to what it is and how to deal with it if given certain situations. The key for me is that they feel they can communicate with me and tell me everything and anything without worrying.

What do you feel they need from you as a parent?

As a parent I believe they need to feel they are always safe and have someone to go to no matter what. I grew up in an household with an alcoholic father and my mother always wanted to keep everything “hidden”. Thanks to God my dad has 22 years sober and we have a great relationship today however growing up I realize I had no outlet nor understood what my family was going through, I would like to change that for my children

Is there a parenting book, workshop or support group that you would like to recommend to other parents?

As far as a parenting author or workshop etc, I really cannot say I have one that really has impacted me. I will say that as a mother who is an event producer and has to go to work full time when projects arise, it was beneficial for me to read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, as it taught me not to feel guilty and to understand my girls will in fact benefit for this one day.