When I had my first child over 4 years ago, I was fairly new to the USA and thousands of miles away from my support system. I was keen to meet other mothers who could help me navigate the travails of new motherhood. I pretty much went to every mother and baby group going and met some wonderful women.
You have a lot of questions when you become a mother for the first time. You are constantly panicking that you are doing ‘it wrong,’ and are going to inadvertently inflict some kind of lasting damage on your precious one.
These women reassured me.
They listened to my concerns and shared theirs. I realized there was no manual to motherhood and it is mostly trial and error.
At one group I attend, as a way of getting to know each other better, we each shared how we had met our husbands.
There were lots of cute and varied stores. A lot of people seemed to meet their partners in college. In fact most of the group was at least ten years younger than me.
I met my husband when I was 33, we married when I was 37 and I had my first child at 38 and my second at 42. I was a late starter and at least a decade behind everyone else. But it wasn’t, as many people often assume, because I couldn’t find the ‘one.’
It was because I’m a recovered drug addict and alcoholic.
When everyone else seemed to be describing how they married in their twenties, bought a house and started a family, I listened with awe and wonder.
When I was in my twenties I was binge drinking and using cocaine every weekend. I wasn’t fit to look after a goldfish and could barely scrape enough money to cover rent, let alone get my finances in order for someone to give me a mortgage.
I delayed any responsibility and pushed away anything that resembled commitment.
I was angry, frightened, lonely, confused and very, very lost.
How could I care for a baby when I could barely care for myself?
That life just seemed a million miles away for me, I really didn’t think it would be possible for me to have a loving relationship, yet alone a family.
Because, by rights I really should be dead now.
But I didn’t, and now I have the children that someone like me, never should have had.
I got a second chance.
Although I’m an incredibly late starter, these wondrous children were given to me when I was finally able to handle the responsibility.
I can’t possibly put into words how grateful I am that I didn’t miss this opportunity.
Getting clean and sober was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but raising children comes a very, very close second.
I’m late to the motherhood party and I have a lot to learn.
When I’m running around after my boisterous pre-schooler and baby, picking up after them and then collapsing into bed at 8.30pm I think back to my old life of partying all night and it seems like a dream now.
I am so different, I have changed so much that if I’d bumped into this older version of me 20 years ago, I would have stared with awe and wonder at how much I had my life ‘together.’
I am the person I always dreamed of being.
Motherhood has been the greatest journey for me. I spent years in therapy and have dedicated much time to personal growth so I could successfully overcome addiction. I didn’t think there was a corner of me left unexamined and yet motherhood has opened up a whole new area for me to explore.
By parenting my children I am able to reflect on my own childhood with greater depth and understanding. I am devouring every parenting book I can get my hands on so I can be the best mother I possibly can.
Alcoholism and addiction can be hereditary so I want to ensure that I do everything I can to protect my children from this fate.
When I got sober I trained to be come an addictions therapist and I’ve had the honor of working with many people suffering from addiction. From my work and my own experiences I’ve put together many theories about why some kids become addicts and some don’t.
This is the first time I’ve had to explore those theories in practice.
Based on all of my experiences, I truly believe that a strong attachment and emotional intelligence are two most important things I can give my children.
Learning how they can deal with and interpret their feelings is what I believe will enable them to understand themselves better. Taking care of their inner emotional world is the key to a successful, happy and balanced life. All of the things I didn’t learn until I got sober. Because the reason anyone uses drugs or alcohol abusively is to numb emotional and spiritual pain.
The most important thing I’ve learned is I have to demonstrate emotional intelligence. For me, sobriety is much more than just not drinking alcohol it’s about taking care of my emotional and spiritual life too. This is what I want to show my sons more than anything.
So, as exhausted, disorganized, and stressed as I feel on some days I can’t resent any of it. This life, this husband, these children that should never have been mine, are a gift I treasure above all things. In order to keep them, I have to ensure I’m taking all the steps necessary to stay sober. Because sobriety gave me my children and nothing is more important than that.