Going into recovery and getting clean is one of the best things you can do for your kids. But, once you’ve finished drug rehab or treatment for alcohol abuse, what then? How do you move on and be a good mom to your kids? Many of us leave rehab with a negative sense of self-worth, no clear picture for the future, and no real idea of how we’re going to maintain sobriety. The good news is, you’ve already done the hardest part. You’ve taken the steps to get treatment and made it through. Now, you just have to persevere, stay on the right track, and grow in your recovery.
These tips should help you as you move on your way to building a new and better future with your kids.
Talk and Be Honest
Your child or children experienced you when you were an addict, they understand there is change. Being open, honest, and upfront will go a long way towards healing that relationship. In some cases, you might want to go to family therapy, especially if your kids are over the age of 7 or 8. A substance use disorder can severely damage hierarchical relationships, it can shift responsibilities in the home, and it can change respect. Take the time to understand how your kids feel, discuss options for moving forward, and respect that they have been hurt by your actions.
This is difficult as a parent, especially for something over which you had little control, but it’s an important step in rebuilding your relationship. Children with addicted parents show lower grades in school, social withdrawal, and development disorders – much of which is based on stress, reduced love, and attention at home, and reduced feelings of self-worth. Understanding that impact, working to change it, and being there for your kids in an open and honest fashion is the best thing you can do to heal these changes.
Seek Out Peer Support
You are not alone. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that over 8.3 million children under the age of 18 have at least one parent with a substance use disorder. Millions of mothers, fathers, and parents struggle with substance abuse. Seek out social support groups and learn from your peers. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are popular and accessible. Others, like SMART Recovery and LifeRing Recovery are less common, but provide different options.
What do you get out of these groups? In most cases, ongoing attention to sobriety, social accountability, social support, and a group of peers who know what you’ve been through and why. It’s harder to be afraid to share, to listen, and to build yourself and others up when everyone in the room has the same problems.
Keep Going to Therapy
While most of us would like to go to rehab and then be forever cured, that’s never how it works. This is especially true for parents, especially single mothers, who will continue to face stress, demanding lifestyles, and potentially income inequality and poverty. Raising children is also stressful. Whether that stress related to the added work of managing and helping to raise another human being, added workloads, or interpersonal arguments and difficulty, you will be stressed. All of this puts you at increased risk of relapse. Investing in ongoing therapy can help you to stay clean and sober, while allowing you time and space to tackle interpersonal problems, to build healthier relationships, and to improve your self-esteem as a parent and a person.
Be Brave. Get Help.
Build Healthy Habits
Good habits can help you to resist cravings, build a healthy lifestyle, and improve your health. That’s doubly important for you in recovery because nutritional deficiencies, poor sleep, and stress can greatly increase your chances of relapse. Good habits mean:
- Set a bedtime and stick to it every day, even weekends. That means getting up and going to bed within an hour of the same time, every single day. This builds a stronger circadian rhythm, so that your sleep is more restful. It’s also extremely helpful for managing when your child goes to school, because chances are, you have to be up for that anyway.
- Eat healthy meals. Substance use disorders increase nutritional deficiencies by reducing the quality of food choices and by reducing your ability to absorb nutrients. Nutritional deficiencies can mimic the signs of depression, anxiety, and generally make you feel sick. Healthy food is also good for your growing children, so it benefits both of you. Here, following an 80/20 rule is often more than enough. If 80% of what you eat is healthy and follows guidelines like those set by MyPlate.gov, you’re probably good. If you have a nutritional deficiency, you probably also want to seek out advice from a specialist.
- Exercise regularly. It’s a good idea to get your kids involved where you can, but an hour at the gym a day can be a time-out from kids and can give you space. Daily walks with family, runs, biking, and other activities all count. Here, you want at least 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise per day, at least 6 days a week. This boosts your energy levels, improves oxygen flow, and helps you manage mood.
- Keep your house clean. You don’t have to constantly organize and keep everything neat, but studies show that your home environment contribute to your mental health. Keeping surfaces clean, asking kids to help you pick up after them after they play, and otherwise investing in keeping an organized space will help you to stay mentally healthy over time.
These habits are diverse, but they all contribute to a single goal. You build on and improve your mental and physical health, which keeps you healthy, happy, and in recovery.
Make Time for Yourself
Recovery is stressful and takes time. Childcare is stressful and takes time. Investing in your future does the same. As a recovering parent, it might seem that all your time is spent trying to make up for your past, atoning for your sins, and fixing harm. If that’s you, that’s bad. You need to take time and space for yourself. This means taking time to destress, taking time to relax and be yourself, investing in things for yourself such as hobbies, and doing things you enjoy just because you enjoy them. This can mean doing crafts, taking an hour a week to sit in the bath and play music, or it can mean learning a musical instrument or snowboarding. Taking time for yourself falls into whatever it is that you like.
Parenting is difficult and that is only made more so by a history of addiction. It’s important that you take steps to get professional help for yourself and your child. You need to do so to be a good parent. It’s also important that you manage your mental and physical health so that you can stay in recovery and continue to be there for your family.