Written By Granite Recovery Centers
Clinically Reviewed By Cheryl Smith MS,MLADC
June 8, 2021
Addiction recovery is an accomplishment for everyone going through the process. Anyone who is able to handle detoxing a drug from their system and using the tools that they’ve learned in therapy to move on with their lives is a superhero. Mothers who go through this process are practically legendary. It is extremely difficult to go through recovery as the average person, but when you throw children into the mix, there are so many more variables that make recovery a must-do and not a hope-to-do.
There are so many struggles that recovering moms need to deal with. In addition to the physical and mental strength needed to withdraw from and stay away from drugs or alcohol, they also have to parent at the same time. There may be so many conflicting feelings that they’re dealing with. Some of those feelings could include shame, guilt, embarrassment, and a host of other emotions that come up when a parent feels that they’ve failed their children.
Some women are so overwhelmed by the shame and embarrassment of having to heal from addiction that that shame threatens their recovery. They are so obsessed with and consumed with what other people think about them that they don’t focus on using all of that strength and energy toward rebuilding themselves. This is a dangerous mindset to have, and it could put the mother at risk for a relapse.
Shame, guilt, and other negative feelings often lead people to seek out some sort of solace or relief. Because they used to self-medicate with drugs in the past, a recovering mother struggling with these issues could be more likely to reach out and seek those drugs again. This is devastating for the family, and it’s devastating for the mother.
If you are a mother struggling to stay on track while recovering from an addiction, there are so many resources, techniques, and strategies that you can turn to in order to help ensure that you stay on track. Some of those are listed below.
Find Your People
When anyone goes through addiction recovery, it’s important for them to build up a strong community of supporters. Those are the people they will turn to if they have questions, get weak, need advice, or simply need someone to hold their hand. This supportive community can make all the difference between healing and failing.
When a mother is going through the recovery process, it is absolutely critical that she get this type of support. The saying goes that it takes a village to raise children, and that’s in the best of times. When a mother is going through recovery, she’ll need a bigger village to rely upon. Some of the best types of supporters are other women who have gone through exactly what she’s gone through.
By working together, sharing emotional resources, and simply being there for each other, the outcome is better for all. While every addict understands what it takes through to go through the recovery process, only a mother who’s a recovering addict knows what another mother like her is going through. With this kind of support, mothers don’t have to explain in detail why certain things are difficult. They just know.
There are many recovering mothers who have formed communities that provide support to each other as well as to new recovering members. They understand that it might be difficult for a new member to reach out, so they often reach out themselves in a way that doesn’t make those newer members feel any pressure. They understand the intense shame that these new members must be feeling, so they make it easy for them to come into the space without judgment.
Admit When You’re Not OK
One thing that newly recovering addicts who are mothers do is pretend that everything is fine. They’re desperate to prove to society that they care about their children enough to make all of the sacrifices necessary to be able to take care of them in a healthy and supportive way.
Privately, however, they are struggling. They may find themselves craving drugs, or they may be dealing with issues of doubt. The shame of not being OK forces them to pretend to be OK. Some of them may be afraid of losing their children, so they’ll lie even though they’re in desperate need of some sort of support. At Granite Recovery Centers, we understand this. We understand that things can become difficult. We help our clients find resources in their own communities, and we help them with our own resources if it works for their situation.
People who are dealing with recovery should understand that many aspects of it may be difficult, and there will be times when they will be tempted. Mothers need to understand this more than anyone. The stresses of motherhood, raising a family, handling a career, finding work, and a host of other issues often force former addicts to relapse. When it starts to get difficult, their support networks should be there to step in.
One of the worst things you can do as part of any healing process is to hold on to negative feelings. Negative feelings destroy any kind of hard work that you do. They overtake your mind, and they make it impossible for you to make the moves that you need to make to heal.
Mothers in recovery struggle with issues of anger all the time. Many of them may be dealing with issues of resentment toward people that may have hurt them in the past, people who were instrumental in their drug or alcohol use, or anyone who they feel did not support them.
They need to let go of all of this. The best way to do this is through some sort of therapy. In therapy, they’ll be able to address the past anger and resentments that either caused them to become addicts or that may have made them stay in the world of addiction.
By dealing with those issues, they’ll learn how to deal with their anger constructively. By talking about the things that happened in the past, they’ll be able to process those situations properly, figure out what their roles were in those incidents, and create healthy new ways of dealing with the trauma. In certain cases, trauma therapy is needed to address serious, long-unresolved issues.
Over time, those issues will become less and less triggering. The recovering mother will be able to look at the feelings and situations objectively and move forward.
When someone is in the throes of addiction, the last thing they think about is taking care of themselves. Their only goal will be to get their next fix. As mothers go through recovery, their first thoughts often revolve around taking care of their children. Some of them may not have been able to take care of their children before, and they’re anxious to do so. It’s an opportunity for them to show that they are good mothers, and this is an absolutely amazing and necessary step.
One thing they must not forget, however, is to take care of themselves. They need to practice the art of self-care. Practicing self-care could be anything. It could mean taking the time to have a long hot bath. Practicing self-care could mean treating oneself to a manicure every other month. Practicing self-care could be something as simple as making a special ice cream sundae for oneself. By engaging in healthy, joy-inducing practices that make her feel happy, the recovering mother will learn to love herself again. Once she loves herself, she’ll be free to give all of her love to her children.
Some people confuse spirituality with religion. If someone struggling through addiction recovery hears the word spirituality, but they are not a part of a religion, they may believe that it’s not a practice or a philosophy they can access.
This is completely wrong. Spirituality is any sort of connection a person has with the universe outside of themselves. Some people believe that this means their relationship with God. For others, it could mean how they interact with nature.
There is no one true definition for what spirituality is, but it’s generally described as a belief system that helps you feel more at peace with your inner self as you ponder the world beyond yourself. You can access spirituality through meditation, volunteerism, walking in nature, swimming in the ocean, or any other activity that allows you to disconnect from your physical form and engage with your spiritual and emotional soul. Again, this looks different to many different people.
One of the most important things that a mother who is a recovering addict can do is forgive herself. Many mothers feel guilty by nature. They wonder if they’re doing enough for their children, providing them with the tools they need to succeed as they grow up, and giving them a happy childhood. Many also wonder if their children look to them as someone they can turn to if they needed help.
For many recovering addict mothers, they may have already been in situations where they had let their children down. Addiction makes people do things that they wouldn’t do without the addiction. It makes them engage in behaviors that they wouldn’t engage in otherwise. It makes them do or say harmful things to friends and family.
When the addiction is on its way out and the mother starts to get clarity, she may be left horrified. Many recovering addict mothers are wracked with guilt over all the time they believe they took away from their children’s childhoods. In order for them to move forward, they are going to have to forgive themselves.
Addiction isn’t something anyone chooses. It is a physiological, physical, and mental disease that grips people until they can’t think about anything else except the drug they’re seeking. It changes the brain chemistry, so they end up engaging in behaviors they would never have otherwise. Mothers have to allow themselves the gift of forgiveness. One thing that they could teach their children is that in life, everyone makes mistakes. The issue is not whether a mistake was made but whether an attempt was made to correct it.
Mothers who are in recovery deserve the right to feel proud of themselves. They deserve the right to be able to forgive themselves for the mistakes that they have made in the past, and they deserve the right to have a chance to make things right for themselves and for their families. They can’t control how other people respond to the mistakes of their past, but they can do everything that they can on their end to make things right if they wish to.
If recovering mothers learn to forgive themselves, they learn to be kinder to themselves. If they are kinder to themselves, they allow themselves to be loved and forgiven by others. This may take a lot of time, and no one knows what the ultimate outcome will be. Giving themselves that love and forgiveness is the first step.