5 Recovery Tools you can do in 5 minutes

5 recovery tools you can do in five minutes a day
Yeah it’s been awhile since I cleaned…


I have a confession — I only get to a recovery meeting every couple of weeks.  When I admitted this to the women on the message board that has kept me sane since becoming a mother, I was terrified.  I figured they would call me a bad alcoholic and not allow me to be a part of the 12 step recovery community anymore because everybody knows, “Meeting Makers Make It!”

Then a funny thing happened – when I admitted how infrequently I went and how embarrassed I was about it, dozens of women acknowledged in the comments that they were in the same position, but were afraid to say anything.   When you are a mom to small children, whether you are working as I do, or you are at home with them full time, prioritizing yourself and your mental health is often last on the list.

“Well, I haven’t been craving a drink,” you think.  “I’m okay for now.  And I really need a shower…” And you don’t drink and it’s fine.  Except that then it’s every day and it’s less and less fine.  The truth is, at this point in our lives, it’s not necessarily realistic to expect to get to an in-person meeting with any frequency.

There’s no question, meetings are definitely the gold standard.  I walk out of a meeting feeling like the freaking Dalai Lama.  But this isn’t a zero-sum game.  Here are five recovery tools that will fit into your crazy mom life.

Recovery Tool #1

book with glasses

Read Program Literature* Every Day

Whether it’s a few pages from the Big Book (and/or the stories in the back), a Daily Reflections, the 12 and 12, or even something like Grapevine or Drop the Rock, this is an old standby. It’s a good way to stay connected to the program. We alcoholics have terrible memories, so the excuse that you’ve read it before doesn’t wash here. Meetings are repetitive as hell and for good reason. We will forget.

If you are not an AA person, check out the resources page for plenty of alternatives.  I tend to use them supplementally, but whatever works for you is awesome.

Recovery Tool #2

Oh look, it’s me postpartum.


Meditation for me is a lot like writing or exercise. I love having DONE it, but I hate sitting down and actually DOING it. I have zero motivation even though I know it helps me in ways I probably don’t even realize. Meditation literally changes your brain and since I was all about the mind-altering substances, it should theoretically be right up my alley! But it’s difficult to get excited about sitting and doing nothing. The only way it happens for me is if it’s built into my routine. If I can hack out ten minutes to listen to a Headspace track during my lunch break consistently, it makes a huge difference in my life.

If you struggle to find five minutes, go for one minute! Some days are a blur. When you get a quiet(ish) moment just take a second to check in with your senses. Feel your feet on the floor.  What else are you touching?  What does the air smell like? What can you hear, both nearby and far away? Can you taste anything? (Is it time for a mint?) What are you looking at that could be seen as beautiful? These tiny check-ins take you out of the constant whir and bustle in your mind. I try to do one of these whenever my son or my husband leans in to cuddle me.

Recovery Tool #3

Make like a Mantis

Pray/Ask for help

It’s staggering how often I forget to do this. It’s such a simple thing, and so important in recovery, but with having to wrangle small people and big business, I am so used to being in charge, that I have trouble remembering that I can ask for help. My main solution to this is that I have created a habit for it – I pray in the shower. That’s the only way I do it consistently. Mainly I just ask for direction and do a modified 3rd step prayer that my sponsor helped me come up with. (I wasn’t relating to it as it is written in the Big Book.)  Whatever else I am struggling with at the time, I just ask for help in accepting it and for guidance on how to get through it with grace.

Recovery Tool #4

woman on phone
Even if she is slightly cray cray.

Call/text (or help) another sober* woman.

Admittedly, I am a full-on hypocrite and I absolutely suck at this one. I hate calling people with a passion. I get stage fright calling for delivery or asking a store if they are open on a holiday. Texting is marginally better, but if it’s someone I just met? Not likely to happen. My answer to this has been Facebook Groups/Message Boards. I can simply go on there and comment on someone’s thread with something supportive, and it’s an instant boost for me. Yes, I sometimes post my own stuff if I’m struggling, but it’s the service aspect of this that really is the meat of recovery for me. And because it’s not a call or a text, I don’t have to worry about whether someone is going to keep me in a conversation that I don’t have time for.

* Don’t limit yourself to helping only sober women. It’s definitely important and you should do this as part of your program. In general though, if you can be on the lookout to help out a stranger once a week (offer directions, pay a compliment, etc.) It will make you feel good. I know it can feel like all we do all day long is help other people, but it feels different when you do it not because you are expected to, but because you just want to spread a little goodness in the world today.

Recovery Tool #5

I spy at least two choking hazards here.

Gratitude journal

I know, I know. You’ve heard it before.  Maybe you’ve even done it before! But humor me. It doesn’t have to be frilly or Pinterest-worthy.  Just a running email/Evernote file to yourself with your favorite thing that happened today is a game changer.  Gratitude trains your eye to look out for the good throughout your day where you might otherwise gloss over it. Think of it as something to check off on your list as you are going through the day.   And always say why you are grateful for it. “I am grateful that there was no traffic today because it let me get to work in a decent mood.”  “That was a damn good ice cream cone!  Those make me feel like a kid again.”  It doesn’t have to be huge.  Writing it down right before bed puts a nice button on your day.

If you struggle to find five minutes, go for one minute! Some days are a blur.

Sometimes you will not do any of this. Some days you will spend the ten minutes you could have used meditating locked in the bathroom playing Candy Crush. Go easy on yourself. Sometimes the to-do list can’t take one more thing without making your head explode. We are aiming for progress, not perfection. If you aren’t doing any of these right now, shoot for one. If you like it, try another one. Easy does it.

Sobriety and Motherhood

Mother and baby napping

The “easy” days

In the grand scheme of things, I was doing okay. I had a job, a husband, a great kid, and a weird dog. I haven’t had a drink since March 2014, and I was working a strong recovery program. And then I had a baby. And it blew up my cozy little life.

Motherhood was a whole new ballgame and my tools for sobriety didn’t fit in.

I had desperately wanted to have children my whole life, but when this tiny, needy, projectile-vomiting thing was dropped in my arms, I could not have been less prepared.   But I did all the research! I read baby books and blogs, and everyone agreed I was the most maternal person they knew!   I’d expected it to come naturally and it didn’t. While I never thought it would be easy, I also never thought it would be this hard. And I certainly never expected it to be this lonely.

Too many people

All of a sudden I had to be two people – a full-time businesswoman, and a mom. How was I supposed to have time to be a third – my sober self? Because though I put my son in daycare, I certainly never felt like a part-time mom…   So I pumped at my desk while typing work emails like a much more disheveled version of the typical stock photo.

Happy woman pumping at desk
Bitch, please.

I would come home and attempt to do all the things I used to do, cooking dinner, doing laundry, scheduling time with friends… But it was just too much.

I’m failing at this, aren’t I?

I’ve heard the expression that women today don’t “Have it All” we “DO it all”. I would like to add one word to that phrase – Badly. We do it all badly because there is no way to do the work you used to do with quality when you add 60 tasks a day to them. As a new mother, I used to make a list of everything I needed to do that day including “shower” and “eat”, and still didn’t manage to accomplish both on a daily basis. As a perfectionist, having to sacrifice “done right” for simply “done” felt like failure. I sucked at work, and I was cranky at home.

“This is probably supposed to be the happiest time of my life,” I thought while pushing my son down the street in his stroller. “My baby is small and cuddly, I have a great relationship with my husband. This is what I always wanted. So why do I always feel like crying?”

I called my sponsor. “You need meetings.” She said. “There is no way you can do this without meetings. You have to prioritize them.” She was of course right. But how could I explain to her that there literally was not time in my day to take out two hours (including travel time). It just wasn’t there. Every minute of my day was scheduled. Though I tried bringing my son to meetings a couple of times, when he wasn’t distracting me he was distracting others. I just didn’t feel like it was fair.

“This is probably supposed to be the happiest time of my life” I thought while pushing my son down the street in his stroller. “My baby is small and cuddly, I have a great relationship with my husband. This is what I always wanted. So why do I always feel like crying?”

When “Mommy Needs Wine” doesn’t cut it

So I’ve had to adapt. I have found tools that have been helpful to me, but more than anything most of the time what I needed was to not feel so alone in this. I read plenty of mommy blogs that I would identify with right until the point where they would say something like: “So go have your glass (or three!) of wine mama! You deserve it!” And I’d just want to bang my head against the wall.

What I hope to provide here is some solace from that — a promise that you are not alone. You can find a way to make your recovery and your life fit together again. It’s different work than perhaps your early days. You can’t simply “speak your truth” to your baby and ask if he can keep it down because he’s really fucking with your serenity… No, these require some advanced tools.

The 12 steps were founded by men. Very smart men, but men nonetheless, and therefore do not necessarily account for a life where you are physically tethered to another human and can’t make a program your #1 priority. I don’t intend to reinvent the steps by any means. Nor do you need to be a 12 stepper to interact here. I just think that as women, we have to adapt the tools we have been given to accommodate our bodies and our lives. I’m going to tell you what has worked for me from podcasts and online forums to hiding in the bathroom and watching trashy television shows. I hope you’ll join me. Together, we can do this.