Being a single mom is probably the toughest job on Earth. You must be everything for your children. You play all roles and offer everything your kids need. Depending on the father, you may be doing so without any support at all, financial or otherwise. If you are also facing recovery from an addiction, your job difficulty just went up several notches. So how do you cope with staying sober, resisting temptations, gossiping coworkers, and raising your children well? With resources, family and friends, and enormous inner strength.
How did this happen?
People become addicted to substances for a variety of reasons. There are many risk factors, such as having a parent who was an addict, having the genes that increase your odds of addiction, experiencing abuse or other types of trauma, having a mental illness, and others. Whatever your particular risk factors, there may have been other reasons. Maybe you were injured and prescribed painkillers that you began to use too frequently. Maybe your relaxing evening glass of wine began to turn into two, three, and then more because of your daily stresses. Often, addiction creeps up slowly and you find yourself in denial until you can no longer cope without your substance of choice. As a single parent, you have very good reason to be careful about drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, but you also have many factors that can cause you to self-medicate with addictive substances. You are facing a great deal of pressure to care for your children alone, you may feel lonely, and you are probably tired and stressed. That you became addicted does not mean you are a bad person or a bad mother, but it does mean you need help. Rehab facilities are there to help you get clean again and to support you as you try to remain sober. You can even participate in an outpatient program that allows you to keep going to work and to stay home with your kids.
What happens after rehab?
Admitting to having a problem is the proverbial first step; accepting help is the next. What few mention is that the most difficult part of treating your addiction is the time afterward. This is called recovery, not recovered, because you will never be fully safe from the pull of addiction. Now is the time when you have to learn to live like a sober person, to resist temptations, and, not to be forgotten, how to enjoy life. Recovery is difficult enough for someone without children, or for one half of a couple, but as a single mother, you face an especially difficult task. Here are some things to try and to keep in mind as you create your new life as a sober single mom.
- Find a support group—and stick with it! Support groups are wonderful tools for anyone in recovery. Here you will find others like you, people who understand you, and a judgment-free zone to express yourself. Your fellow recovering addicts will also be able to help you with ideas for resisting the urge to use and provide you with years of experience with recovery. No matter how strong you feel, stick with your group and attend regularly, even if not frequently.
- Turn to family and friends. No one can go down this road alone and expect to be successful. Especially because you have children to care for, you need the help of others whom you trust. Rely on a handful of family members, such as your parents or siblings, and any close friends. This circle of support will not only help give you the emotional strength to stay clean, it will also provide practical assistance—a babysitter when you need to attend a meeting or just need some time alone, a ride to school activities for your children, and additional role models for your kids.
- Take time out. Your life is undoubtedly stressful. Make sure you take time to relax, to have fun, and to do something just for yourself. Your recovery is not going to be successful if you burn out on responsibilities. When you take good care of yourself, your children will be in better hands.
- Talk to your kids. It may be tempting to leave them in the dark about your addiction and to try to sweep it under the rug, but kids are very observant. They know much more than you think and they know when you are hiding something. Be as open with them as is age-appropriate and explain your disease and that you are healing from it. They will understand more than you expect. Furthermore, by being open, you are setting the tone for a great relationship and a hopefully drug free future.