Why is parenting in sobriety so hard?
My husband looked at me a few years back when we were struggling with the challenges of the early teen years and said “Why didn’t anyone tell us it was going to be this hard”. I said, “They did, we just didn’t listen”.
We didn’t listen. Or perhaps we did but we thought ours would be different.
We were after all living a wholistic, healthy, and at least for me sober life. We were hard workers, loved God, paid for private school, had lots of family involvement and we had a dog.
Yet we were neck deep in the mess of parenting.
The kids were getting older, they were challenging us with their emerging independence and experimentation and every fiber of our beings was being triggered by our own pasts. #yourhealingisyourresponsibility
I found myself thinking, but I’ve been sober for 15 years, why is parenting it still so hard? I have worked a program and sacrificed time with family and friends to attend meetings, conferences, therapy, yoga, etc. I’ve done the things. But it still is rocking my world.
Turns out parenting is HARD even in sobriety.
I can’t speak from actual experience, I had my kids six months after I got sober, but I would imagine it is A LOT harder if you aren’t sober, but then again maybe not because you wouldn’t even notice.
One of the hardest parts of parenting is the worry.
That gut-tightening, breath-stealing feeling that comes over you often several times a day when dealing with kids of any age. Each stage with children has its own unique set of challenges so the worry changes but it’s always there. And it’s something a drink or drug would wash away allowing you to fully unwind.
Living sober means no substances. No mommy wine time, wine o’clock, glitter cups full of flavored vodka, or early bedtimes so you can snuggle in bed with your bottle and binge-watch Bridgerton until you pass out.
As a sober mom a huge part of your growth is facing all the emotions you have been shoving under the rug for most of your life until now. Whether you have been sober for a while and things are tough now or you recently found recovery and are relearning parenting, dealing with feelings is your primary focus.
It is not uncommon to discover that you have quite a bit of unresolved trauma from your childhood around the same age that your kids are now. I know I have had that experience. There might be resentments, grief, anger and shame. In recovery, all of this needs to be addressed.
But have you ever tried to do an important task like make an appointment, write a business proposal, follow through on test results, or talk to a plumber about a situation in your home with kids around? Literally tried to do anything with children around? Actually, they don’t even have to be around because they can text you or they need to be picked up.
So the idea of focusing on healing old trauma or working on much-needed coping and life skills feels similar to being pushed into a pool with your hands behind your back and being asked to solve a complicated puzzle. You’re drowning.
Recovery creates the opportunity for you to be present for your children. To model the kind of emotional intelligence you might not have ever seen. To do the work and create the kind of freedom that allows you to sit in the mess, deal with the disappointments and face the unknown without a drink or a drug.
Yes of course parenting is still hard even in long term recovery. But it’s a heck of a lot easier then repairing the damage created from staying drunk.
Here are a few things that make it easier for me, or at least able to tolerate the feelings:
As you work your way through this journey of motherhood and sober living, the feelings will be there. And often they will be quite intense. You must get comfortable in that discomfort and with giving yourself A LOT of grace along the way.