Crud. How do you explain addiction to an 8 year old?
"Well sweetie, it's when you become dependent on something. Your body gets so used to it that when you don't get, it it makes you sick.”
“Can I become addicted to toys?” she asks innocently.
“No, most people become addicted to drinking alcohol or drugs?”
“A little.” She sits quietly beside me.
“Sweetheart, when you get a little bit older people will try to convince you that doing something you know isn’t right is cool. People will say things like “Everyone is doing it” and “It’s so much fun!” You’ll know that mommy and daddy have taught you never to do these things but you still might feel confused, maybe a little curious. So I want you to know what it’s like.”
You probably think I’m insane reading this…
“Okay.” She says finally.
I direct her to stand in the empty space in our living room and spin as fast as she can 15 times. “Faster, faster… faster!”
She stops, unable to regain her balance she falls not once but twice. Frustrated she stumbles toward the couch and plops down, almost missing it completely. I can see her eyes trying to focus on me and I suppress a giggle. “That was weird.” She says when she gets her bearings.
“Was it? Why?”
“Well,” she responds. “I couldn't walk straight, the room was spinning even after I stopped, and I think now my head might hurt. I still feel dizzy.”
Do you think if you could drive while feeling that way?— If you were old enough to drive.”
“No. I can barely walk.”
“What about defend yourself? if someone tried to hurt you? Could you take care of yourself like daddy taught you?” I continued.
“Was it fun at all?” I could see confusion come over her face.
“At first spinning was fun but not being able to stand wasn't fun.” She said twisting her long brown hair, her nervous twitch.
“What if I told you that there are people in the world who drink or do drugs, then drive a car? People with important jobs go to work feeling that way. Do you think they get much done? Do you think thats safe?”
“No, thats horrible.”
“Addiction, makes people live their lives feeling like this, foggy. Sometimes they don't even know they’re doing so bad. Some try to stop but their bodies are so used to it that it hurts. This is called withdrawals. I want you to understand how bad for you drugs and alcohol can be. Even when everyone else is doing it, you have to think for yourself and remember today and what we talked about.”
“I will mommy.”