The Mighty Logo

What Alcohol Recovery Looks Like in Motherhood

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Would I like to be more active in addiction recovery? Yes, I would. Attend engaging and inspirational speakers meetings? You bet. Participate in women’s meetings that allow me to foster healing connections? Count me in. Honestly, I’d agree to just about anything if it meant being undisturbed for the greater part of an hour. The thought of sitting down — in a chair —anywhere appeals to me; especially in a room full of people who are genuinely invested in personal growth. I truly respect the recovery that comes from the rooms. I do. But I also find the commitment to be unrealistic at times, at least for this mom of two young kids.

It’s my impression that, in order to achieve and maintain lasting/worthwhile recovery, at the very minimum one must: regularly attend meetings, work the steps with a sponsor and do service work. It’s a trio that typically goes hand-in-hand. It’s a relatively straightforward process. Twelve step attendees will lament that you have to show up in recovery the same way you would show up in addiction, which makes sense. But there are exceptions to every rule and for some of us, regularly attending a face-to-face meeting often involves completing at least 12 steps before one can even consider opening the front door to leave. Apparently, toddlers don’t come with a cruise control button.

Whether you are an old-timer, or you are brand new to the 12-step community, it’s widely recognized that sobriety has to be your No. 1 priority. You must invest in your recovery. Thanks to technology, folks have access to recovery in some form 24/7. There are e-meetings and over-the-phone meetings, books and workbooks. People with some time sign-up and are available for SOS calls into the wee hours. There are smartphone apps and recorded speaker meetings…these amazing tools can serve anyone who needs a quick dose of recovery at his or her convenience. Despite their availability, however, I don’t sense that these tools can be used exclusively as a means to achieving sobriety and lasting recovery. Call me “crazy,” but I suspect that true recovery — the kind that is respected and sought after — can only be achieved in-person.

For me, today, recovery looks like this: I don’t consume substances and I do my best to show up for my family. It’s not perfect, but it works for me for the time being. What I consider 12-step minimalism, others might be quick to call “white knuckling.” Am I, at times, restless, irritable or discontent? You bet. Frequently I’m all three. I’m a mom, damn it! Even so, I have full access to a slew of emotional tools gleaned over the years in AA and through therapy.

The concept of powerlessness is inescapable in the recovery community. Coincidently, anyone who has been a parent for longer than 12 hours will likely agree that parenting is an undertaking that will challenge one’s illusion of control on a daily basis. I wasn’t “recovered” when my husband and I decided to have kids. No one in recovery ever is. But we were in a good place in our journey to welcome kids. Recovery is an ongoing journey. I view it both as a gift and a necessity. And I haven’t lost sight of my desire to strengthen my sobriety as I continue down the path to recovery. But for now, my path looks a little different from what is typically prescribed by sponsors and old-timers. And different is OK. For the most part, my life is drama-free and full of smiles, energetic play, bear hugs, poopy diapers and tears. For these things and more, I am grateful.

A version of this story was originally published

Photo credit: m-gucci/Getty Images

Originally published: July 23, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home