Contributed by: Michelle Peterson
Whether you are starting your recovery journey with a baby on the way or with a six year old who is already here, becoming sober and staying sober are greatly beneficial to your health and happiness, as well as your child’s health and happiness. For parents, kids are often their number one priority, so gaining sobriety is important to give their kid the parent he or she deserves. But being a parent can also be a trigger for relapse.
Parenthood as a Trigger
Parents often feel like they have to do it all, and if they don’t they feel as though they are failing as parents. Parents work, cook, tend to their home, and raise kids. Raising kids also entails driving them around, getting them to band practice on time, and attending their baseball games and ballet recitals. It is a lot of work and a lot of pressure. Doing it alone is just added pressure.
The problem with thinking you have to do it all is two-fold. First, sometimes parents get so caught up in tending to their children that they forget about self-care, which is a vital part of staying sober. As a recovering addict, making time for self-care is especially important. In fact, some experts think self-care in recovery is the foundation for your recovery. Do something you enjoy at least a few times a week, even if it is something as small as reading a magazine. Make time to eat well, exercise, and get rest.
Second, parents do not want to ask for help. And for some reason, single parents, especially single parents battling addiction, do not want to ask for help. Every parent needs help from time to time. Raising kids is hard. You do not need to prove anything to anyone. There is a saying that “it takes a village.” So find a village. Have friends, family, and coworkers that you can call. Call to vent about your day, call to ask a parenting question, or call to ask for someone to watch your kids so you can take a shower or go to a meeting. A support system is vital for successfully staying sober.
Parenthood goes hand in hand with exhaustion, lack of private time, and lack of self-care. These are triggers for a relapse, but they are nearly impossible to avoid as a parent. You have to find ways to cope with these issues without turning to drugs or alcohol. Accept that you will have to face these issues, and work on a healthy way of dealing with them.
Also, let go of the notion that you have to be a perfect parent. As one recovering mom says, she became a “B+ Mom.” Trying to be the perfect mom stressed her out and only made her drinking worse. She decided to let go of the little things and some big things, and do the bare minimum for a while. Since cooking dinner was a trigger, she ordered takeout or made sandwiches, cereal, or frozen pizza. Once her sobriety was more under control, she began cooking again, but still kept it simple.
It is okay to put yourself first sometimes. Find a combination of self-care practices that work for you and find a routine to incorporate those practices into caring for your child. Maybe you can attend meetings while your child is at soccer practice or catch up on some reading while she is at a weekly playdate. You may need to say no to other family, friends, work, or others if your plate is too full. That is fine. Self-care means setting boundaries. Your priorities are yourself and your child. If you take on too much, you risk having too much stress, which can cause you to relapse.
All recovering addicts face triggers throughout all stages of sobriety. All parents face challenges throughout all stages of parenthood. Coupling previous addiction with the challenges of parenting presents unique hurdles, but with the right mindset, preparedness, and support group, you can stay sober and survive being a single parent.