05/09/2013 03:24 pm ET Updated Jul 09, 2013

Telling My Young Children About My 12-Step Recovery

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I should be used to my children asking me the "big questions" years before I am ready to answer them. In my four short years as a mother, I've covered ground I didn't expect to cover for another decade or so in conversations we've had that concern tampons, homosexuality, the nature of evil, and racial discrimination.

Certainly, I knew one day my kids would ask me about the meetings I go to. I pictured us having a long conversation about what happened in my life that led me to seek out a 12-step program of recovery and what my recovery entails. I figured they would be about 10-years-old before they asked any probing questions.

I was off by about six years.

And I totally should have seen it coming.

My kids ask me 400 questions if I leave the room for 30 seconds. "Mommy, where'd you go? Why? What did you do there? Did you eat anything while you were gone? Did you bring me back a present from the bathroom?"

Did I really think it would take them a decade to ask me questions about meetings I go to every week?

My plan had always been to be open with my children about my recovery. Having gotten into recovery at age 19, I've spent large chunks of my life hiding that part of myself -- the recovery and the meetings -- from roommates, boyfriends, co-workers, and friends. I was ashamed of not being "normal" and for needing the support of the recovery community. At some point, however, I decided it was nothing to be ashamed of; it was simply what I needed to do to take care of myself.

Before I had children, I vowed that I would model for them what it's like to accept myself for who I am and honor what I need to live a sane and happy life. For me that includes recovery and meetings. I never wanted them to get the idea that it was something to be ashamed of or something they had to keep a secret. I am proud of being a mother who is in recovery, and I want my kids to understand that recovery has been a blessing for me and for our family.

I was sure our first conversation about this would end with me tearfully telling them that "without recovery, I could have never become your Mommy," then we'd hug and order a pizza.

However, when my daughter asked me why I go to those meetings, we didn't quite have our Hallmark-y moment over a cup of tea. I'd just filled her sippy cup with milk when she asked the first question: "Why do you go to those meetings?" I told her what I thought would make sense to a 4-year-old. "Meetings help Mommy stay present so she can enjoy you and our life together." To her follow-up question, "what do you do there?" I told her the truth. "We talk about our lives and help each other by telling stories."

I considered going deeper and explaining the concept of the "family disease" and my "addictive personality" so she would really get it. But as I watched her pour her Goldfish into her milk, I decided maybe I'd said enough.

"Do you have any more questions for me?" I asked.

"About what?" she said, and I knew we were done. For now.