5 Tips for Long-Term Sobriety
Recovering from an addiction is tough enough, and when you throw in the tremendous responsibilities of motherhood, it can seem like an impossible challenge. When I finally sought help for my alcohol addiction, I was a single mom with three young children. I didn’t want to stop drinking, but I was afraid I would lose my kids. I didn’t have the luxury of going to a treatment program, so I detoxed at home. I never knew how dangerous it was to detox without any help or how going to a treatment program would have been so much easier for my kids and me.
For the first ninety days, I craved alcohol every day. When I wanted to drink, I white-knuckled it and told myself I had two choices—the alcohol or the kids. My children were the most precious gifts in my life, and I figured I owed it to them to do whatever it takes to stay sober.
I watched like a hawk what the moms with long-term sobriety were doing. I paid careful attention to the moms who were relapsing and took copious mental notes. I noticed the moms with continual sobriety who were thriving in life, were doing five main things.
1. Building a Strong Community
Building a supportive community with other moms, who are healing from drug abuse and alcohol addiction is a crucial component to building a solid foundation. The toll substance abuse has on a mother, and her family is devastating. Only another mom can understand the gut-wrenching pain and challenges of being a sober mother.
Moms with long-standing sobriety from alcohol and drug addiction have built this strong foundation by learning to give and receive help. Most women are great at offering help but find it hard to ask for help. People suffering from drug abuse and alcohol addiction don’t come skipping into recovery feeling great about themselves. Unresolved shame is a significant issue for moms suffering from substance abuse. Trapped in S.H.A.M.E (should have already mastered everything), moms think they ‘should’ have everything together and are afraid of letting others know their insecurities and failures.
Early in my journey people would ask me, “How are you doing?” I’d respond with a big fake smile and say, “I’m fine.” I was going through a divorce; trying to raise three young kids; filled with guilt, pain, and fear; and wanting to drink every moment of the day. Clearly, I was not ‘fine.’ Other moms in long-standing sobriety taught me by example how to be vulnerable and share my hidden secrets of shame. Revealing myself while not being judged by these women was the beginning of my healing.
Moms with continual sobriety build an unshakable foundation by continuing to go to many recovery meetings, making phone calls to women in sobriety, and socializing with other moms on the same path. These endeavors create long-lasting friendships, and moms never have to feel or be alone.
The tragedy is most addiction treatment programs, and rehabs lack in providing groups where only moms can come together to begin building this vital aspect of sustainable recovery from addiction and alcoholism.
2. Let Go of Resentments
Resentment is the number one killer of most alcoholics and drug addicts. Clinging to bitterness holds us hostage and keeps us stuck in the victim mode. We drink the poison and expect the person we are angry at to die. There is a high rate of relapse when someone is in this place.
Letting go of resentment and learning healthy ways to deal with anger is a critical part of healing from addiction. Before I got sober, I didn’t have any tools to process my feelings. The only thing I knew to do when I was angry was to scream, pout, sulk, and focus the blame on the other person. My poor me, poor me, pour me another drink attitude kept me drunk.
Moms with long-term recovery have learned how to process anger constructively. They don’t blame others or play the victim. They’ve found their voice and learned how to be assertive without being aggressive.
Other sober women taught me to pause when angry, step back, and look at my role in the situation. They often gave me a different perspective and taught me to respond instead of quickly reacting. Learning to use these tools taught me how to act like a sober, dignified woman.
3. Have a Daily Spiritual Practice
Here’s what I know for sure: Addiction kills and darkens our spirits. The addicts and alcoholics whose lives flourish, have some form of daily spiritual practice.
Religion had always been a struggle for me, and I confused spirituality with religion. I questioned and was skeptical about God. Most of my belief in a Higher Power started with disbelief. In recovery meetings, I saw with my very own eyes people who were battered, sick, broken, and their lives in shambles. I then noticed miraculous changes and healing start happening as they found a God of their understanding. I figured only a power greater than any human could turn these people around. I also realized the hole I had once tried to fill with alcohol was the very place inside my spirit where my Higher Power resided.
Spirituality means many different things to different people. Here are some ways I’ve learned to develop a spiritual practice.
- Unplug from the world and take time for reflection
- Spend time in nature
- Sing and dance
- Find a spiritual community
- Read inspirational literature
- Listen to inspirational music
- Try to let go and not control people
- Be open to not knowing
- Look for the ‘awe’ in life
- Find meaning and purpose in life
4. Practice Self-care
Being a mom is a beautiful blessing, and it can also be an extremely challenging endeavor for moms in sobriety. A bottle of wine used to work to relax me and help me escape from the stress. But in sobriety, I had to find substitutes for the alcohol.
A crucial part of healing for moms is to learn to take care of themselves. The moms with life-long sobriety have discovered ways to slow down, take time for themselves, and cut their never-ending ‘to do’ list.
The acronym HALT was a quick reminder to take care of myself. If I was hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, I was to halt and check-in with myself. These basic needs can be taken care of relatively quickly.
I discovered self-soothing remedies that still work for me today. I might take a nap, exercise, or go to the beach. Try a new hobby, turn my phone/computer off for an hour, or spend time with a friend or family members. Binge watch my favorite Netflix show (and not feel guilty) or see a funny movie…
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