By Debra Alessandra

As a group facilitator in a local treatment center and a person with long-term recovery, one of the saddest and most concerning things I hear from clients and members of the recovering community sounds something like this. “Well, at least the kids weren’t really affected.”

Perhaps it’s a way to avoid an uncomfortable discussion. More often, however, the motivation is less obvious. The lack of knowledge of a starting point is a major block. For if we don’t know where or how to begin, we do nothing.

When it comes to families, many parents of young children rationalize and opt to do nothing. They hope the pain they caused will disappear without effort on their part other than staying clean and sober. They don’t know how to begin, yet they must. Harmony doesn’t come from one instrument alone.

Somewhere deep in the mind of a person with addiction, an ‘off-switch’ keeps them from fully accepting this unpleasant truth. Yet this is a truth that must be addressed to heal. Whether it is overt or covert, the fact remains: Your children have been impacted by the disease of addiction. The ramifications are critical and can extend into adulthood.

Imagine how much better recovery would be it could be if the entire family were involved? All instruments playing in harmony. And yes, the entire family includes children. Not only teen aged children, but younger children as well.

Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, I have witnessed parents come to the realization and recognition of the impact of their addiction had on their children. Not only do they recognize the damage, but they make attempts to remedy the situation.

Children: Worth the focus

My mission is to help families navigate the path of recovery together. I believe we must be willing to go the extra distance and try to meet their needs.
I understand the challenge of opening a conversation about recovery with children. Many recovering parents ask, “What is a good starting point? How much can they understand? Is it really necessary?”  They often justify, “Isn’t my changed behavior enough?” As you can see, strength and courage on your part are required.

12 Steps 12 Stories offers a way to approach the steps of recovery at a level children can grasp. It helps children feel comforted, valued, and included.


Children may struggle to make sense of the changes in the home. Even good changes are stressful. Frequent small, but meaningful conversations can soothe children and alleviate their confusion. When children have some basic understanding, they feel more comfortable.They adjust to the new ‘normal’ with greater ease.


When you acknowledge their needs in this area, you can share one of the most precious resources you have: time. Children know they are valued if you devote time to their emotional needs. Taking time to offer age-appropriate explanations can go a long way in assuring your children of their value to you.


All children need information. This helps them feel included. Stories can encourage them to talk openly and honestly about their feelings and concerns. When they can identify with the characters, they are more likely to want to have a conversation. Introducing the 12 key concepts in a recovery based lifestyle will broaden the depth of family healing. Short and simple spiritual messages can be easily shared. Follow-up questions and talking points further the conversation.

The End Results

Perhaps the culture of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction can change if children have a working knowledge of the 12 steps of recovery.  After all, children who are informed can and do make better choices.

It is my deepest wish that children empowered by knowledge of the 12 step recovery progress may benefit now and for years to come.

Let’s shape a generation of spiritually knowledgeable children and share the hope and joy of recovery with children.

Debra Alessandra spent over 30 years as an educator, Prevention Specialist, and Drug and Alcohol Counselor. She holds a BA in Sociology and Elementary Education. Having witnessed the harmful effects of alcoholism and substance abuse on all members of the family, Debra carefully crafted a unique set of 12 stories to build bridges of understanding for children and families. Visit and on