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
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
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
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
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 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.