Ten Tips For Moms in Addiction Recovery (From a Mom in Recovery)
Motherhood, addiction, and recovery are all complicated things in and of themselves, but mix them all together, and what do you get? Something that can be difficult to navigate. Ask anyone that is a mom, and I am sure they will tell you that motherhood is one of the most rewarding experiences a woman can go through. On the other hand, they will probably also say that it is the most challenging. The same goes for addiction recovery; it's one thing that isn't easy but, oh, so worth it.
I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to address my addiction before I became a mother. I feel blessed that I was in a position where my family could assist me in receiving the help that I needed to address my problem with alcohol. I am grateful that I was five years sober when I first became a mom. At that point, I had become solid in my recovery, but I will admit that adding motherhood to the mix presented me with a whole new set of challenges.
While the “mommy wine culture” fad often presents alcohol as a necessary means for coping with the stresses of raising children, I would like to counter-argue that point with the idea that motherhood is a whole lot less stressful without the adverse effects of alcohol. That is in no way meant to indicate that a life of sobriety will make motherhood stress-free but rather to point out what I have found that I feel much better equipped to handle motherhood challenges without being held back by my addiction.
As someone who has been there and understands the daily lifestyle of raising young children while also navigating a life of addiction recovery, I have put together my top ten tips for moms that are either in recovery themselves or considering a life of sobriety.
1. Self-care is non-negotiable.
As a mom, it becomes all too easy to put ourselves on the back burner. That is one of the beautiful yet dangerous things about caring for other people on such an intense level. When it comes to kids, mama bears are willing to do just about anything to ensure their kids’ health and safety, even at the cost of their own. It is important to remember that the only way we can fully care for our kids is to care for ourselves. When we don’t take care of ourselves, our children will suffer. By taking care of ourselves, we are also modeling healthy behaviors for our children.
2. Honesty is essential.
When I was drinking all the time, I would lie without batting an eye. Part of the reason was that to maintain my addiction, I had to be less than honest with the people around me. Over the course of my sobriety, I have learned that to maintain my integrity, I must make a consistent effort always to be honest with myself and the people around me. The weight of “little white lies” begins to add up over time, and guilt can be a severe trigger for relapse.
3. Healthy boundaries are vital.
Boundaries are not something I was very good with before getting sober. I had a hard time saying no to people, and I had difficulty sticking up for myself. I have since learned that not only is it ok to say no, sometimes it is the best thing I can do for myself. Knowing and understanding my limits has been a critical aspect of maintaining long-term sobriety.
4. Limiting negative influences is necessary.
When I was drinking, I used to hang out with other people who also drank all of the time. Birds of a feather indeed flock together. I quickly realized that if I was going to stay sober, I had to cut out certain people from my life. Anyone who didn't respect my desire to get sober had to go. Addiction can turn into a life-or-death situation, and for that reason, I had no problem leaving certain people behind.
5. Developing new life skills is required.
During my addiction, drinking became my number one tool for dealing with anything that life threw at me. Granted, this was not a healthy way to deal with my problems, and it ended up creating many more issues than it ever solved. One of the best things about my time in addiction treatment was that I learned and developed new life skills that have helped me stay sober throughout the ups and downs of my life.
6. Communication is vital.
I used to have a tough time communicating my feelings with other people, and that contributed heavily to my alcohol abuse. Instead of talking about the things that were bothering me, I would bottle them up and try to drink them away. I am grateful that my time in rehab gave me the tools I needed to communicate more effectively with the people around me. I learned how to confront my problems instead of running away from them, which has made an enormous difference in how I live my life.
7. Addressing the root cause is healing.
To overcome my addiction, I had to figure out the deep-seated issues that contributed to it in the first place. The things that I had buried over time and refused to confront because they were uncomfortable. While it was a complicated process to go through, it was only by facing these issues and recognizing the self-destructive patterns that I was finally able to overcome them.
8. It will get better.
The early stages of sobriety are not easy. If there were, then getting sober wouldn't be such a big deal. Navigating cravings and figuring out routines isn’t all that fun, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I still remember how overwhelming everything felt the first few weeks of recovery. I wasn't sure if I would make it through all of the intense feelings that I had been avoiding for so many years. I slowly realized that my efforts to numb out all of the negative emotions in my life inadvertently suppressed all of the positive feelings as well. I then realized that if I wanted to experience the happy moments in life truly, I had to be willing to work through the difficult ones as well. Almost nine years later, I still have my challenging days, but the rollercoaster that used to be my life has become much more stable.
9. Professional help is invaluable.
Sometimes we all need a little help. Addiction can be a complicated thing to navigate, and there is no shame in asking for help. Thankfully there is no need to go through this process alone; there are professionals out there who are ready and willing to help.
10. You are 100 percent worth it.
My addiction made me hate myself, I didn’t like the person it turned me into, and I continued to drink because of that. The ironic part is that my drinking was a primary reason I didn’t like myself, yet I continued drinking to bury that feeling. I’ll never forget the freedom I felt when I finally began to love myself again and realize that I was worth it, and the best part is that you are too.