Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is hard enough on its own, let alone when you have to do this while caring for your children. Mothers with substance abuse have it tough, as they must work hard at their recoveries while also taking care of their children as well as other responsibilities. The pressures to be a good parent can mount, putting a mother at risk for relapse.
Even though recovering from drug or alcohol use as a mother is incredibly challenging, it is not impossible. There are steps you can take to protect yourself and your children while focusing on your long-term sobriety.
Below we share seven of the most important ways to support a healthy and complete recovery. Your children are your greatest gifts. You owe it to yourself and them to stay sober.
1. Build a Strong Support System
You cannot do this on your own. You must learn how to ask for help and especially, you must learn to accept help. If you struggle to do this for yourself, then at least, do it for your children. If a neighbor offers to take your child to school so that you can make it to your AA meeting, let them. If a family member offers to help out with meals in the first weeks of recovery, take them up on it. If they don’t offer, you need to learn to ask. The worst that can happen is that they say no and you have to go to another friend. Chances are, they won’t say no. They are your support system.
It’s also important to be honest with your friends and family. Those who ask how you are deserve a genuine answer and not a fake, “I’m fine” response. As you learn to open up to friends and family, you will be more comfortable in sharing your true thoughts and feelings. This is how strong foundations are built and long-lasting friendships are born.
2. Let Go of the Past
When you can’t let go of the past, you can end up feeling bitter, resentful and shameful. None of these emotions do any good for your recovery, and in fact, can prevent you from progressing. If you cling to bitterness and resentfulness, you’ll end up getting stuck and not moving forward in your recovery.
As you heal from addiction, you must learn to let go of the past and all the negativity that is a part of it. You made the decision to get clean and sober and that is the absolute best way to show others that you are trying. Remember, you are starting a new life, with new goals. Continue making progress in your recovery by staying positive and letting go of your past. Your future starts now.
If you have certain people around you that keep bringing up the past, you may have to take a step back from them. Discuss this issue in a family therapy session, and if it doesn’t get better, give yourself space. Sometimes you need to walk away. Other people may need time to heal and forgive, and that’s OK. But, they cannot be allowed to hurt your recovery. When you both are in a good space, you can always come back to them.
3. Eliminate Toxic Relationships
Eliminating toxic relationships is something that should be done while you are building a strong support system. Toxic relationships are with those people who have a tendency to pull you back to your addiction, whether they are your before sobriety friends or a family member that is tearing you down. By phasing out these relationships, staying sober in your new life becomes that much easier.
However, this step can be a lot harder than it sounds. If you’re a single mother, you may crave attention from your boyfriend or friends in ways that married mothers do not. Or, if you’re married but have a husband who says he still wants to drink at home, what do you do? Do you automatically separate yourself from your spouse? You can’t “phase out” that relationship, but you can ask that they are mindful of your recovery.
In early recovery, you are most vulnerable to relapse. If you have drugs or alcohol around you, it’s going to be very difficult to say no. That in itself is very stressing and it has nothing to do with willpower; it has to do with the fact that you’re still healing. Your go-to stress reliever has been drugs or alcohol in the past, and now you need to learn how to destress without those things. You need supportive, sober living conditions after completing treating. Those who want to see you succeed at your recovery should follow your aftercare plan.
4. Follow a Daily Spiritual Regimen
Addiction does nothing to make mothers feel good about themselves. It robs your ability to be a good mother, wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter, etc. As you learn to settle into a new routine, it’s extremely helpful to have a spiritual regimen that you follow. This will provide you with a light, even on a dark day.
Spirituality is not to be confused with religion. You can be spiritual without being religious, which means anyone can practice spirituality. Some of the things you can do to achieve this state of mind are:
- Unplug from technology
- Spend time in nature
- Meditate and pray.
Connect with a Higher Power and your purpose in life. As you grow stronger in your spirituality, you will learn how to deal with stressful situations in a healthy manner. Drugs and alcohol won’t be the first things you think of when you’re anxious or stressed. Mothers need various outlets to deal with the chaos of being a parent, so learning how to take a timeout and meditate is a lifelong skill.
If you’re having trouble getting spiritual, consider volunteering your time. You may find that this exposes you to new perspectives that connect you with something greater. There are many wonderful places that can use any and all help, and by helping them, you are helping yourself heal and grow.
5. Practice Self-Care
Mothers often neglect themselves, and it’s understandable how this happens. How can you get to the doctor when your children have appointments all the time? How can you start a new hobby when you’re always driving your kids to soccer and dance? And, if you do have a few minutes to yourself, you might feel guilty about doing nothing.
Moms’ brains never turn off, and that’s a problem. Moms are human and they need time to rest, relax and recharge. You can’t be a good parent if you don’t take care of yourself, so remind your children that you need breaks to keep yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy. Most importantly, make the time for yourself. Because if you don’t, who will?
Some of the most important self-care tips for moms are:
- Eat when you are hungry
- Get daily exercise
- Make time for friends
- Start a new hobby or activity
- Unwind with a book or TV show
- Volunteer your time
- Go to your self-help meetings
6. See a Therapist Regularly
Your aftercare plan should include recommendations on the type of therapist you should see and how often you should see them. Follow these guidelines, as a therapist can help you stick to your sobriety goals. During your sessions, you will continue learning about yourself, your motivations for using drugs and alcohol and healthy ways to cope with stressful situations.
Moms also benefit from family therapy. There is no question that addiction affects the family unit, so it’s likely that your family will benefit from time with a therapist, too. Your children can talk openly and honestly about their feelings and experiences, and you will feel better knowing that they are getting the help they need, too.
7. Go to Your AA or NA Groups
Lastly, make sure that you continue going to your 12-step groups. These groups are important at all stages of recovery, and they keep you connected to people who know what you’re going through. As you progress through the 12 steps, you can become a sponsor and work with others who are new to recovery.
Going to AA or NA reinforces healthy habits, such as practicing responsibility and accountability. Some of the people in your groups will be mothers, which is a nice change of pace from the mothers you see at school functions and sports that may not be struggling with sobriety. It’s important to know that you are not alone in your struggles. The mothers at the meetings can become part of your support system and probably will become your biggest advocates as you continue your journey through recovery.
Moms with Substance Abuse are Not Alone
Being a recovering addict or alcoholic is hard. Being a mother is hard. Put them together and you have a situation that calls for added support and self-care. Don’t be afraid to pamper yourself and spend time on your healing. Ultimately, this is the best gift you can give yourself and your children.
If you ever feel tempted to use, reach out for help immediately. This is not an issue of willpower. Talk to someone – a trusted friend, your sponsor or your therapist. Work through the craving and your reasons for wanting to use again.
Continuum Recovery Center has substance abuse treatment options for everyone, including mothers. We understand that mothers have unique needs, and we are prepared to address these challenges. Call us today at 855-869-7132 for a confidential assessment.
Geffen has been in the field for over 20 years, and has worked in every facet of substance abuse treatment. Using his own personal experience in recovery and the education he has learned while in the field, Geffen can relate and connect with clients in a way that promotes recovery, self love and the desire for clients to achieve the best for themselves. Geffen is licensed in Arizona as a substance abuse counselor and has an IC&RC certification, as well as a life coaching certification.