Tag Archives: parenting

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?

Sober Solutions: Family of origin

Putting down the drink is not enough and it’s not just about staying sober. We are here to thrive and fulfil our potential. That means we have to process and deal with the stuff that was weighing us down, the underlying issues that fuelled our drinking. This is not about ‘dwelling on the past’ but taking the learning gifts from paste events so we can then move on.

Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The following is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: Journey to freedom.’ It’s part of a series of posts I’m doing called ‘Sober Solutions’ which looks at the issues alcoholics need to be address to achieve quality long-term sobriety.

Healing past relationships: parents

Whether we had a good or bad experience growing up, our parents have a profound and long lasting impact on our lives, often without our realising.
We will always be their child, no matter how old we are, and our task is to become independent of them: free of their baggage, which we inadvertently picked up.

Even if your parents were absent, you will still have to deal with your experience of not being parented adequately. Co-dependency can often occur in adult and child relationships, and can continue into the child’s adult life.

Without realising it, parents can convey strong messages: that the child needs to please the parents in order to receive their love, or that the child exists to provide the parent with the love they never received.
This can be when the seeds of co-dependency are planted.

We can grow into adults who are never free of the unhealthy chains that bind us to our parents’ approval. Often, our parents don’t realise what they are doing, and may never recognise their behaviour, so we have to be responsible for ‘unchaining’ ourselves.

The words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are two of the most powerful words we have in our vocabulary, and are usually the first words we learn.
They are powerful because of the meanings we attach to them.

The word ‘mother’ in our culture generally means: love, comfort, support, tenderness, safety, gentleness, caring etc.
The word ‘father’ in our culture generally means: discipline, order, authority, power, fun, guidance, leader, etc.
When you take these words away from the person, all you have left is a person who is trying to do the best they can, however inadequate that may actually be.

The words ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ are powerful because of these meanings; we project onto them an image of perfection.
No one can live up to what the word suggests.
Like you, mums and dads are works in progress.
So, one of the keys to freedom is to let go of your parents, and what they did and didn’t do to you. They are just people after all. Have a relationship with them, but stop getting angry or frustrated with them. Stop blaming them. You only keep yourself chained if you don’t.

Now here’s the deal: your parents are human beings too and they were doing the best they could with the tools they had available.
Now the next bit is really important, so pay attention:
All their behaviour was about them, and not you.
This is very important. The way your parents behaved didn’t have anything to do with their loving you or not loving you. Their behaviour was just a manifestation of how they felt, just as your behavour is.
Have a think about that.

This stuff can be very complicated, not to mention painful, so I’ll try and make it as simple as possible. At some point, we do have to ‘let go’ of our parents. You may have had an absent or abusive parent – sexually, mentally, emotionally or physically –or an inadequate parent. You may have had a parent who wasn’t fully ‘present’ because they were so wrapped up in themselves.
You may have had a parent who couldn’t express love.
It’s important that you know that these were their failings, not yours!

Abuse of any kind, especially by a parent, is a terrible thing.
However, it wasn’t your fault, and it certainly wasn’t because you weren’t good enough.
However, this is the interpretation we come to, because when we are children we take everything personally.
In fact, as adults we still take everything personally.
We interpret the world personally. We interpret everyone else’s behaviour to mean something personal, especially that of our parents. Knowing this is enormously freeing. Our parents were caught up in their own ‘stuff’, which sometimes had an impact on you.
So now it’s time to see your parents as the flawed human beings they are. There’s nothing bad about that; maybe they worked on themselves, maybe they didn’t.

Whatever their failings were, don’t take responsibility for them. They’re not yours. Put them down and experience what it’s like to be free from that baggage.
We pick up lots of unwanted stuff from our parents: guilt, shame, feelings of not being good enough and so on. Now is the time to recognise this: ‘uncover, discover, discard’.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Love your parents if you can, understand they did the best they good even if it was inadequate and then take the steps you need to be free.
This is your life to live, not theirs.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom’ available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

Recovery Rocks – Jillanna D. Mercer

This weeks ‘Recovery Rocks’ interview is with the fabulous Jillanna D. Mercer (38). She manages to be a mother of three children while working as a hair stylist at Wingard Salon in Champaign Illinois.
One of the first things you notice about Jillanna is the word ‘Sober’ tattoed boldly on her arm.
She’s serious about recovery.
Her life is full with her family and career, the only helping hand she requires now is some good coffee.

Her interview is breathtakingly honest, Jillanna has been fearless in describing how low her addiction took her. She lays bare the reality of being a young mother in addiction and how close she came to loosing her children. Thankfully she turned herself around.
If you are a mother struggling with addiction or you know someone who is. Then you need to read this.
Sobriety date: 08/10/09


Recovery Rocks Interview

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
(Deep Breath)
I remember the exact moment I hit rock bottom. I can describe the room I was in, the time of day, and what I was wearing. I was 7 months pregnant and in a state run rehab. I had no money, no job, no car, no friends or family willing to talk to me. I was homeless. I had lost my rights to my oldest son and hadn’t seen or talked to him in months.
I was pretty sure I was going to lose the rights to my unborn child. I had been in the rehab a few days and had gotten to know some of the women. Most were either coming from jail or going to jail. None of them had any relationship with their kids. A lot of them had drug and alcohol related illnesses, like hepatitis and HIV.
All the women looked rough. Hardened.
Some didn’t even have their teeth. I looked around and saw what my peer group had become. I could not continue down this path any longer. I knew I had to stop and not ever, ever, ever use again.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?

I had spent my few days there also reading recovery literature. I recognized that a power greater than myself was necessary to make any permanent change. But I did not have a clear understanding of how to do this. I found a woman who had struck me as somewhat spiritual. I asked her to pray with me. We went into a small unused office and she prayed for me. We both cried a little. I can’t really tell you what words she used but it was a plea for help. I felt an indescribable peace come over me. I believe this was my ‘spiritual awakening’. Since that moment I have found the strength to overcome any urges I may have to drink or drug.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
Honestly, they were pretty rough. No one trusted me. No one believed I could stay sober. No one could appreciate the changes I could feel inside that this time was different. My biggest struggle was my pregnancy. There was a very real fear that DCFS would take my child. I was honest with my doctors and was preparing myself for the worst. No one around me could really get excited about the baby because they too knew she could be taken into foster care and they were concerned I would not stay sober if that happened. I kept to myself. I did a lot of recovery reading. I prayed a lot.

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
There are so many!
The very best thing is I am a get to be a wonderful Mom. My relationship with my first child has been restored. The first year I was sober, I was not allowed to see him. But I could call. I called every night. Gradually I was allowed short visits and now I have just as much time as any other divorced parent. My second child, the one I was pregnant with when I got sober, was not ever involved with DCFS. She is happy and healthy. I also have a third child. I absolutely love being a mom to my kids.

I also went back to school to get my cosmetology license. I now am a self-employed hair stylist.

Finally my relationships with my friends and family have been restored. I am now trusted and appreciated.

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were dinking/using what would you tell yourself?
My first rehab was in 2007. I could stay sober for 3 months or maybe even 6 months but then I would relapse. I would be triggered by something and then start obsessing about the drugs. I felt I HAD to use. I did not feel I had a choice.
Now I know that those feelings of wanting to use will pass. Before I thought I would be struggling with them forever. I never realized how quickly the intensity of wanting to use can go away. The same is true for how mad I get at someone or how sad I feel or how hopeless a situation seems. This too shall pass. Without a doubt it is the most valuable tool I learned.

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
It is amazing to me how much easier my life got once I stopped self-destructing. Just by doing the right things, I eliminated a ton of stress. No more worrying about hurting people I care about, or going to jail. No worries about losing my job or my boyfriend finding out I cheated on him. No hangover headaches or overdrawn bank accounts.

I have learned that my life is pretty simple. There is very little I can actually control. If I make the very best decisions I can and have some faith in God, everything works out.

7) What are your favourite recovery slogans?
One day at a time. This too shall pass.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Today I live a life I never thought possible. My whole life I felt uncomfortable in my skin. I was filled with depression and sadness. Those feelings led me to drink and drug and that led to utter chaos. There are days I am still in shock that I am sober.
I am totally amazed that I can be so happy. Not that I don’t have problems or struggles, but I feel I have been giving the tools to live my life. The best part is that I know my feelings are genuine. Happy or sad, they are mine. And that totally rocks!

If you are clean and sober and would like to take part in a Recovery Rocks interview, please message me through my Facebook page. I would love to include you!