Category Archives: Families

Exhaustion, sobriety and motherhood

pexels-photo-269141Most of us realize pretty soon after we get sober that alcohol was never really the true problem. That in fact, it was life that was the problem. Newly sober, we have the challenge of living life without the crutch of alcohol.

We need tools and the instructions on how to use those tools, but most of all we need each other. This path cannot be walked alone. Ask around, many have tried, it never ends well.
Healthy sobriety is about connection and living our truth.
Eventually, if we stick with it, sobriety becomes our ‘new normal’ and our old life seems like it belonged to a different person.
The challenges don’t stop when we get sober, in fact, most of us have lots of learning and growth opportunities to grapple with that we postponed because of our drinking. Like developing emotional intelligence for instance and responding to our feelings in a healthy manner, not a destructive one. Creating balance in our lives where we used to have chaos.

Yep, balance is essential to healthy recovery.
Just because I have balance today does not mean I will have it tomorrow.

I have to work at balance in my life especially now that I’m a mother.
I wouldn’t say that my recovery was easy, it wasn’t, but it was certainly easier than drinking and using. I had a major crisis at about 3 years sober because of a relationship (dating disaster hell) and a few more speed bumps along the way. But I found that as long as I continued to stay connected and use the tools I was given I was able to learn and grow through each challenge.
I was 12 years sober when I had a baby, so I had some solid sobriety under my belt. However becoming a mother was an enormous learning curve. I didn’t sleep for a year. My son is now 5 and I have another son who is 2. I can’t remember what it’s like to feel properly rested. I look back at my old life and actually feel embarrassed at ever complaining I was tired before.
Exhaustion became my ‘new normal’.
All I did for the first year of motherhood was look after my darling one whilst trying to remember to shower occasionally. I didn’t use any of my recovery tools because I didn’t think I needed to. I wasn’t doing a whole lot, I certainly wasn’t getting resentments and I adored my baby beyond anything so I just cruised for a while.
Then came a speed bump. It was a big one.

My son was about 15 months old when I realized I just didn’t feel right in myself. People were starting to annoy me and I was withdrawing from my husband. I was exhausted, nothing else mattered except sleeping and taking care of my son.

Despite my exhaustion, I had to find some internal strength to do what I’ve always done; to take care of myself spiritually and emotionally. Even bone crunching exhaustion wasn’t a good enough excuse.
My mind is insidious like that, it will still look for reasons to not do the things that are good for me. It will always try and find the easier option.
But there is not easier option for someone like me.

I wasn’t close to taking a drink, but I know the pathway to drinking and I had stepped on it. Maybe I’d have stayed a dry drunk for years, who knows?
But there’s no way I want to find out.
My sons deserve a sober mother, but they also deserve an emotionally healthy and spiritually fit mother too. Becasue there’s so much more to staying sober than just not drinking.

His name is Luke……

Image courtesy of chrisroll at

Image courtesy of chrisroll at

I was sent this very moving essay by a mother in Illinois. It moved me greatly. It is about her son Luke who is struggling with addiction.

“I am here to see my son Luke.
What is his number?
His name is Luke.
Mam, what is his number?
His name is Luke. Luke…Luke.
Lady, if you don’t give us his number, you will have to leave.
But his name is Luke………………
And his number is M164874”.

John Mayer has a song that says:

When you’re dreaming with a broken heart
The waking up is the hardest part
You roll outta bed and down on your knees
And for a moment you can hardly breathe

But I wasn’t dreaming…I was talking to the guards at Statesville Prison in Joliet, Illinois. Luke had barely turned 21. He was sentenced to two years in prison for criminal destruction to property over $300. His probation was revoked because he didn’t do what was mandated. They put a warrant out for his arrest. I remember the day he called to tell me was running because he couldn’t go back behind bars. He had spent two weeks in the county jail before his hearing, and he was like a trapped animal. I would visit him at the county and talk to him on a phone with glass in between us. Just like you see on TV folks. And I would put my hand on the glass and he would put his hand on the glass and I knew my heart was never going to beat the same. Luke has always been a free and creative spirit. When he told me that he was going to run, the fear took my breath away, but I also couldn’t tell him not to do it. We met on the sly for lunch a couple of times. I could have turned him in. I should have turned him in. Instead I would give him a hug and watch him walk away down an alley never sure if I would see him again. I knew he’d get caught, and he did.

Enter Statesville Prison in Joliet. Two hours drive there, two-hour visit, two hours drive back home. Every single week-end. They would call him up from his cell. His room was in a huge building at the end of a courtyard the length of a football field. I would hurry into the visiting room and go to the window so I could watch him walk across the courtyard. I watched every single step he took. My baby. And I would try to get my tears out before he entered the room. But I also knew that before he could enter that room, he would first have to go into the guard station to take down his pants, bend over, raise his balls. And after I left from the visit, he would again have to take down his pants to bend over, raise his balls.

He would call me non-stop during the week. Sometimes we’d only say a few words. But he needed to hear my voice and I needed to hear his. On my visits on the week-ends, the first time we talked and talked. But with each visit, the talking became strained….his world never changed, and it was difficult for me to talk about the world outside that he was missing.

I could purchase a card to get food out of a vending machine for Luke when I was visiting. I know it sounds so minor, but it was a major event and one of the things that would make me cry. Momma bear knowing that food was a comfort. Luke longed for the food…crappy microwave sandwiches and Mountain Dew and some chips. But half the time the card machine was broken or the vending machines were empty. And I would sit there and cry because it meant something, and Luke would look at me and say “Mom, don’t worry about it, just please don’t cry.

As time went on, I continued to be a mess on the inside. Some friends and family changed the subject if I mentioned his name. It was awkward to talk about my son being in prison. I became two different people…I went through my days as normally as I could, but I was also heart broken by his imprisonment and by the system. And I knew the importance of visiting each weekend, but it was SO difficult to get into my car and drive the long drive and endure the pain of seeing him in his prison jump suit, losing weight, and losing touch with the outside world. And Statesville…it’s like an Alcatraz in Illinois. Frightening.

So with each visit I became more and more agitated. The guards sitting at the front desk, watching every move we made in the visiting room while they sat there with their feet on the desk, eating food and tapping on the window if I got too close to Luke. It got to the point where I felt like the scene in Terms of Endearment when Shirley McClaine becomes a maniac when her daughter, dying of cancer, needs pain medicine. If you haven’t seen the movie, she screams at the nurses “I don’t see why she has to have this pain it’s time for her shot, do you understand? Do something…my daughter is in pain! Give her the shot, do you understand me? GIVE MY DAUGHTER THE SHOT!!! Just like that, I wanted to scream:


The Dalai Lama once said “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” I wish I could post that at the guard station at Statesville. But this isn’t about the prison system per se, it’s about the understanding of pain which is always trumped by love.

Where he is today:

That was in 2011-2012. Luke did really well the first year and a half out of prison. Fast forward to today, 2017. Luke is a mess. He is probably the worst I have ever seen him. He admits he is addicted to drugs and alcohol, so much so that without either in just a day’s time, he begins shaking and having withdrawal. He refuses to get the help he needs. He recently went for an involuntary evaluation prompted by the police, but within 4 hours he was released.

He has five felonies, two active. He also has two Orders of Protection against him. He will most likely be sentenced back to prison. That’s if it even gets that far….because, as in the past, he’ll run. He’s like a wild animal that can’t be caged. And if he does run, he will end up dead because he can’t keep doing the abuse over and over again to his body. And how will I know where he is? And how will I know if he is dying?

This was his latest text message to me from last week:

“You are fucking stupid.
You’re the worst mom ever.
Fuck you.
I hate that you’re my mom.
I hate you.

And an hour later:

“I don’t hate you.
I am going to kill myself.
I am going to kill Rachel.
I wish my son would die so you all know how it feels to miss someone.
Good-bye mom.
I’m going to fucking kill myself and you all have yourselves to blame.“

He is terrorizing every one that he loves. You are watching him terrorize himself. You take him for food because he is hungry. You drive around for hours listening to him talk, watch him cry, then watch the anger return, and you’re paralyzed when he pounds the dashboard, pounds his own head, and pulls at his hair. You give him a hug and he is filthy…that smell of alcohol, BO and cigarettes. And you actually go home and don’t want to take a shower because that disgusting smell is all you have of him.

Mental illness and drug abuse. I don’t even know how to begin to understand it. But it is the devil. I don’t know how to kill it. I don’t know how to help my son. I don’t know…and I am exhausted and terrified.

I attend a support group. I listen to similar stories. These complete strangers instantly become your life line. They tell their stories and it somehow gives you comfort that you aren’t alone. You cling to their every word. You hug, you cry, you exchange emails, you give fake smiles, and you tell each other that it will all be okay. And you walk out the door believing that.

For a moment. For a moment.

But then you get in your car to drive home, and the pain returns immediately. The fear returns. The hopelessness returns. You hear a siren and wonder where your son is. You get in bed and toss and turn. You fear your phone will ring in the middle of the night. You wake up the next day and he is the first thing that enters your mind.

Every once in a while you see him and he looks healthy and he is smiling. Or you get a nice text. And he tries to say something meaningful and thoughtful because he knows his own mom is afraid of him. And just when you are feeling calm, you get a text from the demons inside his head and the euphoria-hope-please dear God moment you had comes crashing down.

Shadow of Hand in jail by Sakhorn38 curtsy of

Shadow of Hand in jail by Sakhorn38 curtsy of

Lyrics from Hate Me by Blue October about a son singing to his mom so she will hate him and it will take her pain away.

“Hate me today
Hate me tomorrow
Hate me for all the things I didn’t do for you
Hate me in ways
Yeah, ways hard to swallow
Hate me so you can finally see what’s good for you.”

But it doesn’t work that way.

The pain never goes away.

And neither does the love.

The most terrifying post I’ve ever written…

I’ve missed you guys.
I’m sorry I haven’t posted for a while. There have been a lot of things going on and I haven’t had any time to give to my blog. I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to tell you, I’d rather pretend that everything is ok, but it isn’t, and I need to be honest.
When I trained as a therapist I also worked as an intern at a local treatment center. I had about 3 years sober and was working with people who had been sober for a matter of days. When you are trying to string together a week of sobriety, you tend to look up to people who have more sober time than you (don’t worry, you get over it eventually). Somewhere in my training I had mistakenly assumed that I always had to be perfect in front of my clients. In that, I always had to have the right answer (I would trot out some trite recovery phrase that seemed to fit the situation and nod wisely) or, I could never lose my cool or, show that I was flustered, or unsure of myself, or god-forbid, scared. This became extremely suffocating and limiting very quickly and it was a huge relief to discover that congruence (counselor stock in trade) and authenticity were far greater tools than always pretending I, and my life, were perfect.

Which is why I want to tell you the truth about what is going on with me right now. I have been sober for 16 years and a half years and this is the hardest thing I have ever gone through. My youngest child has a health diagnosis that could be potentially devastating. It meant that we had to move house very quickly and are living in temporary accommodation until we find somewhere suitable. As you can imagine, dealing with all of this through the summer whilst managing two little children didn’t leave any time or, energy for blog posts.
My emotions have ranged from despair, to fury, to depression to numbness. I never thought about picking up a drink but I did think about self-harming. Which is new for me.
It was then that I realized I needed some help.
As a mother, I can burden any pain or suffering for my children, but I don’t know how to navigate life with a child who may have a catastrophic condition. I feel crushed by the weight of it and sick with fear.

But I will not be broken by it. I had such a feeling of relief when I booked an appointment with a therapist, I started exercising again and my mood lifted immediately. I joined a support group and now I don’t feel quiet so alone. Whatever is in our future now, my family needs me to be strong and stable and I can only do that when I get help and support. I hadn’t forgotten that, it was more like asking for help, meant I had to admit there was a problem and I wasn’t ready to do that. If I didn’t admit it, then maybe it would go away. But it hasn’t gone away and I know this isn’t something I can deal with on my own.

It is always my goal to remain authentic to you, and even though I have experience and real insight into recovery, I am not without my challenges too. No matter how long I am sober for, I can never forget that my greatest strength comes from admitting my pain and weakness. It’s only then I can go forward. If there were ever a time in my life that was going to drive me back to drink, it would be now. But that was never an option. What all my years of recovery have taught me, is that when my back is against the wall, I can only keep applying the tools that have always worked for me.
I’m not going to pretend everything is ok when it isn’t; I always did that when I was drinking and it was so lonely. I’m going to live in the feelings, admit them, and deal with them.
The only way over this, is through it.

How to get sober when no one understands

Image courtesy of photostock at

Image courtesy of photostock at

So you’ve taken the enormous step of stopping drinking. You already feel better, your head is clear and your life is less chaotic. You may look at your past behavior and shudder, glad that is the past and the future looks brighter. But what if you are beginning to enjoy your newfound sobriety, only to realize, that no one close to you understands why you stopped drinking in the first place?

What if your partner is angry with you for stopping drinking? What if your friends think you are going overboard? What if everyone around you is trying to convince you that you don’t have a problem?
It can be tough. The opinion of other people, particularly people we care about, carries a lot of weight with us. It can be persuasive.
We live in a society that has normalized abnormal drinking, where alcohol use is encouraged in every social situation. Drinking is a way of life, to the point that if you don’t drink (for whatever reason) you are seen as slightly odd.
When you choose to get sober you are going against the stream of the majority.

We all want to fit in, being liked and approved of by our peer group is incredibly important. But it is not more important than liking and approving of ourselves. Sometimes we forget that, we become so entangled with our partners or our peer group, that we value their approval over our own.

Once you have accepted that what you think of yourself, is more important than what anyone else thinks, then the second step is to understand that your sobriety may be uncomfortable for others.
And that’s ok. You are not here to make other people feel comfortable, you are here to feel comfortable in your own skin, by living with integrity. Sound easy? It can be a little more challenging in practice but gets easier over time.

You may be wondering, ‘but what can I say to make them understand?’ And I have the answer to that. In my experience, the best thing to say, is nothing at all. Let your actions speak for you, they will do a far better job of demonstrating why sobriety is something you want, then anything you could ever say. Answer questions politely and precisely (being precise with your words is a great life skill). But don’t lecture, explain or rant. It will get you nowhere.
Overtime, the people around you will see a difference and they may begin to acknowledge it. They may spend a lot of time (and breath) persuading explaining why it is not necessary for them to stop drinking. That’s ok, that’s their business, not yours. But I have noticed that when I change, it can have a positive effect on the people around me. So just wait and see what happens.
It’s important to know what you are up against. Don’t waste energy trying to get people to understand why you have decided to change your life. You will need that energy to meet the challenges of early sobriety. Because getting sober is a very personal decision and the only person who really needs to understand that is you.

Tools out there for at risk kids – guest post

By: Alek Sabin
Tools out There for at Risk Kids pic 3
Growing up is a hard thing to do. The series of experiences that carry us from the innocence of our early youth to being full-fledged adults ready to take on the world is a beautiful journey, but not necessarily a pretty one. However, there are some kids out there who have an even harder time, due to the background that they come from, whether it be a socioeconomic issue, or just a problem with their home life. Nowadays, these kids are labeled as “At-risk” or street kids, and have often seen or experienced things that nobody their age should ever have to. Being forced to grow up a little quicker, in such a short amount of time, often makes them difficult to handle for adults who are used to thinking of youth in only a certain way. However, there is absolutely no excuse that our society should have for letting any young people slip through the cracks, while we should be lifting them up to help them succeed. In honor of that pursuit, here are some tools out there for at-risk kids…

Government agencies

The first line of defense that is out there fighting for at-risk kids is government agencies that are designed to help kids from poor economic backgrounds. Although it is difficult for a government agency to be set up to actually deal with the issues directly, there are dozens of different funding agencies that are meant to provide financial support to programs in geographic areas that can deal with the problem at the heart of the issue. These funding agencies are spread throughout the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, among many, many others. However, this is only one small part of the puzzle for helping at-risk kids, and isn’t much good on its own.

Court classes (link)

Many different at-risk kids are far more likely to end up in trouble with the law, whether through drug abuse, vandalism, or other general petty crimes. However, the issue that we are currently seeing is that our justice system is putting them into a pipeline where they will continue with these behavioral trends for the rest of their lives. This is a problem. Our criminal rehabilitation facilities are simply creating an environment that breeds more crime and makes it harder for people to escape from this lifestyle. However, there is already a much better option that is being utilized in many different cities: court classes. Court classes are specialized classes that are meant to educate youth and adults on the dangers of certain actions, such as domestic violence, underage drinking, and general addiction. For more information about court classes, check out this link here.

Early education

Sometimes the best way to help at-risk kids is to prevent them from ever actually being classified as at-risk. Studies have shown that one of the best ways to do this is to put kids in early education programs. The problem right now is that kids from lower-income backgrounds aren’t necessarily getting the early education that they will need to help them thrive in educational environments later on. However, there are many programs that are designed to help lower-income families provide pre-K education to the kids who need it most. By getting into education, earlier, kids develop skills and mindsets that will help them succeed, later on.

Specialized education

Early education is great and all, but it doesn’t actually provide anything for the kids who are already past that point and actually in need of the most help. However, for most at-risk teenagers, what has been found to be incredibly effective at helping them see purpose in their lives is specialized education. Usually, this is accomplished through charter schools that focus on specific types of education that aren’t found at standard public high schools. These focuses could range from advanced robotics engineering to performing arts, but they are usually geared around topics that are invigorating and challenging for these kids who need to find something that works as an outlet for their own intelligence and creativity.

How to Support a Family Member Who’s Making Bad Choices

A great guest post by Alek Sabin.

Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin /

Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin /

There are few things that most people wouldn’t do for their family, as they are the people who have been there for them from the beginning, and would love them through thick and thin. However, it is because of this very reason that one of the most challenging experiences in life is having to watch a family member make bad, or destructive decisions. An example of this would be watching a family member go down a path of addiction (that very situation is outlined in this helpful article, here). Our natural inclinations will make us want to reach out and prevent the pain and harm that could come to our loved ones, due to their choices. However, we can’t always control what they do. So how do you find a balance between trying to help these family members out of this situation, while not causing them to turn away from you, even further? Here’s some important things to remember when supporting a family member who is making bad decisions.

Accept that you can’t control the actions of everyone

The first thing that we need to accept when dealing with a family member who is making bad choices is realize that we can’t control their actions. They are their own people, who have their own agency (this logic may not quite be the same for younger children, but it becomes this way when they become teenagers). Once we can relinquish the sole responsibility for the actions of someone else, we can clear our head of misgivings, and get a better idea of how to support these people we love, while not necessarily supporting their bad habits.

Understand that you have to let people make mistakes

Making bad choices is a natural part of life. We are all going to do things that we will come to regret, at some point, and that is okay! It’s one of the most important steps of loving up. We need to realize this in our own lives, and come to accept that it will become part of someone else’s, especially our loved ones. Part of loving someone is understanding that they need to make their own decisions, even if those decisions are mistakes. This is how we grow as people, and it’s something that you cannot try to stop, for doing so is like fighting a hurricane. No matter what you do, it will one day be upon you.

Always be ready to forgive

While we can’t stop the bad decisions of the people that we love, what we can do is prepare ourselves for the ultimate act of love: forgiveness. Although you may have fought their negative path with all of your will, always be ready for them to come back to you, and ready yourself with open arms. Learning to forgive is something that makes us better people with a stronger foundation for virtue and livelihood, and rejecting the people you love will only do the opposite.

Let your opinions be heard

Although you can’t necessarily change what someone is going to do, it doesn’t mean that you have to sit in complacent silence while a person you love makes bad decisions. Although you don’t want to be hurtful, it is important to make sure that your voice is heard, and that they know what your feelings are, on the subject of their actions. Open communication, in nearly all instances, will bring greater, more honest results.

Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin /

Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin /

Chastising people will likely alienate them from you

On the other hand, if you choose to voice your opinion in an aggressive way, you will run the risk of making your situation with your loved ones worse. Chastising people typically only results in them turning further away from you. This is a very dangerous position, as it alienates them from the very people who seek to help them.

If you are spiritual, pray for them

While not everyone is religious, there can be immense benefits to simply kneeling on the ground and praying to something bigger than yourself. At times, this is all we can do to clear our thoughts with the situation that lies before us. Praying is a very therapeutic activity. And, for the religious, it is an absolute necessity to feel that you are not alone in your fight to help the people that you love.

Lonely Christmas.

The season is almost upon us, and if you are alone this Christmas you probably just want to run and hide until it’s January.

Image courtesy of Apolonia at

Image courtesy of Apolonia at

I know exactly how you feel. Christmas (or the Holiday Season as it’s referred to in America) asserts itself as a time of joy and togetherness, when in reality it is an enormous struggle for a lot of people. With very little joy and no one to be ‘together’ with. I’ve often said it is loneliness that kills alcoholics more than anything else. I know it almost killed me.

But somehow I was always saved from having to spend Christmas alone. By sheer luck, I always managed to have angels in my life who would invite me over for Christmas and always make me feel included and welcomed. The gratitude I have for these families knows no bounds.* Despite myself, each year, I wound up actually enjoying the day a lot more than I ever anticipated, and it was always due to those lovely folks who invited me in.

Now I have a family of my own, a house that is clean, comfortable and warm, and enough money to indulge my family in festive treats – I am able to pay this kindness forward.

We always invite people over who perhaps wouldn’t have somewhere to go over Christmas. Sometimes they are newly sober or going through a divorce or just an international student with nowhere to go. Whatever the reason, we find all these different people bring something special into our lives and we wouldn’t want to spend Christmas without them.

I would urge you to try it. If you are in the incredibly fortunate position of being surrounded by people you love, have a look around you at the people you know. I guarantee that if you look hard enough you will see someone who is quietly dreading Christmas day and would be incredibly grateful to be included. People in very early recovery often struggle a lot with Christmas. It can be a very vulnerable time of year for them because there is alcohol everywhere and often they have estranged their own families and not had a chance to make amends yet. Having a safe and loving place to go to would be an enormous relief to them. Or maybe you know someone who is lonely and isolated, loneliness afflicts everyone at some point, not just alcoholics. The gifts of companionship, hospitality, and connection are worth so much more to them than anything that can be bought in a store.

Then in exchange, like me, they may one day get the opportunity to pay it forward to someone else who is struggling.

And there will be one less person lonely this Christmas.

*Thank you to the Sokoloff and Broyden families – including me in your Christmas meant more to me than you will ever know.

Can we change college binge drinking?

It can be tough sending your kid off to college. They’re finally leaving the nest eager to spread their wings and become adults, whilst getting an education that will hopefully lead to a successful career. Of course you want them to fulfill their potential and make their mark in the world, but as a parent you naturally worry. Are they managing their money; are they studying; making friends; did they remember to eat? Even when your child is officially an adult you still worry about them being safe, wanting them to have a full college experience, but nothing that could endanger them, right?
College is the bridge from adolescent to adulthood. A rich enlightening college experience can shape you for the rest of your life.

Image courtesy of t0zz at

Image courtesy of t0zz at

It can also kill you.

Because, besides learning, we all know that a big part of the college experience (unofficially) is being able to party unsupervised. In fact, some colleges are known primarily just for their partying. And as parents we just roll our eyes and say ‘kids, what are you gonna do?’ Because abusive drinking is now so ingrained in our culture, we really feel there is nothing we can do and it’s just a harmless part of growing up.

Is that right?

Because each year over 1800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol related causes or injuries.

Are you shocked?
That is a staggering figure. My jaw hit the floor when I first read it. 1800 kids die each year because of alcohol abuse? Did you know that? More importantly, are you ok with it?
How about this for some more scary figures:
696,000 college students per year are assaulted by another intoxicated student
97,000 college students per year are victims of alcohol related sexual assault or rape.

People, we have a crisis on our hands and nobody is paying attention. My eldest son is 14 years away from being a college freshman and these figures are not ok with me. They are horrifying.
I feel a tremendous need to do something.
I would like to begin a conversation with other parents on how we can address this and make college campuses a safer experience for everyone (by the way non-college peer groups have significantly lower rates of abusive drinking and drunk driving).

Although I think alcohol has a place in our culture and we know prohibition doesn’t work. I do believe our attitude and complacency towards abusive drinking needs to change. And it needs to change now.
I don’t believe in prohibition, as I really don’t think it’s the answer. I believe the solution lies in balance, honesty and changing people’s attitudes towards alcohol. Moderate drinking needs to be the norm and if you choose to be alcohol free you should not be treated like a freak.
We have done this before with smoking, eating habits, seatbelt wearing and all manner of behaviors that we eventually found to be unacceptable.
We can do it with alcohol.

I will be exploring this subject further in the coming months and am interested in hearing from anyone who is interested in this subject. Let’s work together to change it.

Addiction, parenting and fear.

IMG_8078-1I am 2 weeks away from giving birth to my second child. I also have a son who is 3 ½ so you could say I think about parenting a lot. As the first one wasn’t born with an instruction manual I’m suspecting the second one won’t be either. Because I knew next to nothing about babies and children I’ve had to read a lot of parenting books to try and figure out what the hell I’m doing.
As a recovered drug addict and alcoholic I’m also very grateful for my second chance life and the opportunity to be a parent.
However, I don’t mind admitting that parenting sometimes terrifies me.

When I was pregnant the first time I went through all the normal fears any pregnant women has, miscarriage, birth defects etc. I kept thinking to myself, all I need to do is get through 9 months and everything will be ok. Then I gave birth and held my son in my arms, and I realized, I would never, ever, not know fear, again.
It struck me that my job as a parent, would be to manage my fear, for the rest of my life. Because when you love someone that much, your fear of something happening to that child can be overwhelming.
Fear is something I’m quiet familiar with, I have spent most of my adult life dealing with it but nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for the level of fear I felt when I fell in love with my child.
Did you feel the same as a parent?

Armed with my parenting books and experience as a therapist I thought I was totally prepared to be the best parent I could be. I was also determined to never make any mistakes with my precious angel child.
I guess we all go through that right? That’s the second shock of parenting just how many mistakes you do make.

Parenting mistakes
Just the other day my son was asking me to draw pictures for him. I’m terrible at any kind of art so when he was asking me to draw a picture of a racecar I told him, ‘Mummy’s not very good at this.’ Later that day I asked him to get dressed for me and he replied ‘I’m not very good at that.’
Oh hell. Right there, I had a really good example of how my behavior had impacted him. I resolved then and there to say “I’ll try my best’ next time he asked me to draw anything for him.
The point is, no matter our intentions, we are going to make mistakes with our kids. We are not always going to get it right, our behavior will impact them. They observe us responding to the world and internalize what we do. They adopt our behaviors.
As we all know addiction starts long before we pick up drugs or alcohol. It starts in our thinking and in our emotional responses. There is a genetic component of course but even with a genetic pre-disposition it doesn’t guarantee someone will grow up to be an addict. It just means they are more susceptible to the disease than others.

Emotional intelligence for kids
I firmly believe that the best way we can protect our kids from going down the same path is to ensure they have a really strong attachment to us and we model emotional intelligence. It was the gaping hole of pain inside of me as a teenager, with absolutely no tools or resources to deal with my feelings, that lead me to misuse alcohol and drugs as a way of coping.
Which is why I believe it is vital for kids to learn appropriate methods to deal with fear, insecurity, disappointment, anger and all of the other emotions that make up human beings. So few of us are taught how to manage our emotional lives well.
I want my kids to strive to live their truth and help them figure out ways to do this when they are surrounded by a peer group who wants them to conform.
I want my children to see me have honest emotional reactions to events. I’m not going to hide my sadness or pain from them; I’m going to talk to them about it. I’m not going to hide or suppress my emotions because I want them to know its ok to feel what you are feeling; right at the moment you are feeling it. I don’t want them to be scared of their feelings, but to understand they are something we can learn to interpret and use to make better decisions.
Luckily my kids will have plenty of opportunities to see me mistakes and I hope I can model to them how we can learn and grow from our mistakes and we shouldn’t be ashamed of them. I hope I can demonstrate humility in making amends where I need to.
I’m also not going to pretend I’m perfect. I want them to be raised by someone who loves themselves and tries their best but is far, far, from perfect. I want them to know that’s ok.
And I want more than anything to show them how to deal with fear, as I believe above all other feelings it is fear that is the engine of addiction.

Will that be enough? God, I hope so. I know my children are likely to have the genetic pre-disposition to addiction. When appropriate, we will have to have a conversation about drug and alcohol use.
And I hope by then I have given them some protection against this fatal disease through developing strong emotional intelligence.
But of course I’m frightened that I will mess up or I won’t do a good enough job. That I will fail them in some way.
It’s just one more parenting fear I will have to manage.
How about you?

I know this is a subject that all parents who are in recovery think about and worry about. I would love to know your thoughts about protecting the next generation from our disease. What do you think? What are your struggles in being a parent in recovery?

Surviving the Holidays as an Alcoholic

Thanks to Kelly Cordovano of Fresh Start Ministries* in Orlando Florida. Here is some great advice for surviving the holidays.

Image courtesy of Apolonia at

Image courtesy of Apolonia at

If you’re a recovering addict—an alcoholic, especially—the holiday season is difficult to get through. Parties to bring in the holiday cheer are happening left and right, and that typically means alcohol is being served. The temptation to drink is present more than ever.

A great way to celebrate your sobriety is by throwing your own holiday event. Here are some tips on how to make your dry holiday party memorable:

Serve non-alcoholic cocktails
You can avert the desire for alcohol by serving cocktails with no alcohol content. Find a recipe that interests you, then make and serve it. Creating a fun drink will keep your guests happy and cheerful.

Invite others in recovery
Sharing the holidays with friends also in recovery will create a judgment-free feeling and make the party fun and carefree. They understand what you are going through and will be happy to have a place to go during the season.

Celebrate you
Celebrate the holidays, but also celebrate your journey. Why not use this moment to pat yourself on the back for being on the right track? Remind yourself why you are on this journey by creating a fun sober theme celebrating your days in sobriety.

You will find that sometimes avoiding a social gathering will be difficult, if there is alcohol involved, follow these tips:

Find a friend
Pick a close companion you wholeheartedly trust. This friend should also make a vow not to drink during the party. Their responsibility is to supervise you the entire night and make sure you don’t make any poor decisions. They’ll watch what you do, where you go, what you drink, who you’re with, all to ensure you don’t make a choice you’ll later regret.

Fill your cup with anything but alcohol
Sometimes, you’ve got to fake it until you make it. While your guests can choose to drink whatever they’d like, you can fill your wine glass or cup with a non-alcoholic beverage—grape juice instead of wine, flavored water instead of vodka or gin. This will trick your mind and satisfy the craving without doing any harm.

Be the designated driver
By electing yourself the designated driver, you are now responsible for everyone that climbs into your car. This added sense of responsibility will give you the incentive you need to stay sober.

Keep conversation light
If you’re asked why you aren’t drinking and you don’t want to let anyone know you’re in recovery, make up something! Say you’re on antibiotics. Say you’ve got a stomachache and don’t want to upset it further. All people need to hear is one excuse and they’ll let it go, and you’re free to enjoy your party. By keeping conversation lighthearted, you are less likely to get upset and stay in good spirits.

If none of this sounds easy, if you feel the temptation is going to be too great, then don’t put yourself into the situation. If you know you’re going to want to drink at the party, despite these suggestions, just don’t go. Your recovery and comfort is far more important than any social gathering, and everyone will understand that.

* Kelly Cordovano is co-director of Fresh Start Ministries, a men’s rehabilitation center located in Central Florida. Along with her husband Joe, Kelly works with men who have taken the step to reach sobriety. With over 25 years of rehab teaching under her belt, she has seen people from all walks of life and is well versed in the experiences had by clients.

Fresh Start Ministries
Located in Orlando,Fla., Fresh Start Ministries of Central Florida, Inc. is a year-long, residential, faith-based substance abuse program for men. It provides affordable residential treatment for men recovering from life controlling problems, most typically substance abuse, through provision of transitional housing and comprehensive educational and support services. You can find more information by visiting