Sick in sobriety – How to avoid the triggers

sick in sobriety

sick in sobriety

Early on in my sobriety, I remember hearing around the rooms people complaining about how hard it was being sick in sobriety .  At the time I couldn’t figure out what one had to do with the other.  Of course, at that time I didn’t have any children.  I had no idea of the biological warfare that is daycare germs.  And as I sit here, having been sick for over a month with one illness after another, while I don’t necessarily want a drink, I have started to understand the problem.  It’s not that I think a drink would make anything better, that’s a guarantee in every situation.  It’s more that my defenses are down, and that little addicted part of my brain, which is usually a pretty good napper, sees its opportunity and starts whispering to me.

This feels familiar

My mouth feels like sandpaper and my head is pounding.  What does this feel like?  A hangover. This is completely unfair.  Because this was part of the deal – I stop drinking, and the hangovers stop. That’s the deal.  Who is messing with the deal? ??

we-had-a-deal
It states clearly in paragraph four.

Though I don’t want to admit it, there is some part of my brain that thinks “If I’m going to feel hungover, I should have gotten to drink!”  This is completely different than how I actually view drinking.  I don’t think of it as a privilege that I am denying myself.  I think of it as something that doesn’t work well with my body.  Kind of like Lean Pockets.

Side note: I got food poisoning from a Lean Pocket once. Why I was eating one in the first place is beyond me.  Alcohol was definitely a part of the decision-making process.  It was horrible and to this day the sight of one turns my stomach.  But when I get the stomach flu I don’t automatically think, “But I didn’t get to have a lean pocket!” Yet feeling sick with hangover symptoms triggers my “No fair!” alarm system.  And what was the one thing that could take the edge off a hangover? Yeah.

A pound of cure

balloon head
I may be sick but I still know how to rock

I do not have a high threshold for being uncomfortable.  If I don’t feel good in some way – either mentally or physically, I want to bomb it out of my body by any means necessary.  A big part of sobriety is learning how to sit with big emotions you’d rather block out.  I have learned to do that for the most part but still haven’t mastered it on the physical side.  So I drag myself to urgent care where they prescribe all manner of pills and potions.

When I still have a cough days later, the doctor wants to prescribe Tylenol with Codeine.  I explain that I am in recovery and would prefer not to use anything with opioids.  (This is a personal choice.  If your doctor prescribes it and you take it as directed, it is not considered a slip, but for me, I just don’t want to mess with it, especially since in the past they haven’t worked well.)  The doctor orders me some other prescription cough medicine which makes the room look slightly melty and makes my head feel like a helium balloon.  But it does help me sleep.  It makes me uneasy though.

So I try the health food store.  A man in a white coat but does not necessarily have any sort of medical or pharmacological degree sells me fifty dollars of tinctures that taste like an ogre’s jockstrap.  50 drops every three hours.  After taking it twice I read that tinctures are usually extracted with alcohol.  Great.  The ones I bought apparently do not, which is a load off, but that’s also a pretty easy way to accidentally ingest alcohol.  I am lucky to have avoided that.  My head is fuzzy and I am not being vigilant.

Caution

As alcoholics, we need to be careful about the temptation to take anything that lets us turn off the world for a while.  And just to put it out there – don’t take Nyquil unless it’s the alcohol-free version. Make sure to check everything you take.  Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you.  Hemlock is natural too but I wouldn’t recommend taking it.

This never used to happen

drunk rhesus monkey
I can’t even feel it

“I never got sick when I was drinking!”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this.  I have even thought it myself a couple of times.  My logic was that the alcohol killed whatever germs were in my system, though science doesn’t really back that up.  If you’re a rhesus monkey trying not to get smallpox it might help slightly, and to be fair, when drinking I never DID contract smallpox…  But beyond that, there is no proof to suggest alcohol boosts immunity.

What’s more likely?  I did get sick, I just figured it was a hangover. Or even more likely, I didn’t get as sick as I do today, because back then I didn’t have children, and could actually REST when I was sick.

No rest for the mommy

I barely remember what it was like to be sick before having a child.  It sounds like it was almost enjoyable.  I could lay down all day and watch bad tv and drink overly salty soup and ginger ale and sleep until I felt better.  I don’t have that option now.  I continue to trudge through my days as if I were healthy, thereby making myself sicker and sicker.

hospital patient
Why aren’t you logged into the VPN?

Part of this is my fault, in that I don’t ask for help early enough, but this isn’t because I am being stoic.  It’s all about the very real issue of balancing child care and the goodwill of our family’s employers.  Do I want to ask my husband to be late to work and come back early so he can do daycare duty, thereby saving me the mile walk each time?  Nah, I should probably save that for when I REALLY can’t do it myself.  Should I take a sick day?  No one really does where I work, since we all work remotely.  It’s considered lame.

Can my husband get up with my son when he starts screaming at night?  Yes, and he does.  And my son will have none of it.  I am getting no more sleep lying in bed hearing him scream “I want Mamaaaaaaaa!” than I would if I just went in there and rubbed his back.  Maybe this puts him back to sleep.  Or maybe he is up for the day at 3AM.  Does he care that I am sick?  Hell no.

Am I done relaxing yet?

Something I have noticed among most people in recovery is that we are high achievers.  We aren’t great at sitting still.  Maybe it’s because of all the years we wasted, or maybe it’s because we learned to function with a handicap of being drunk so much, it acted much the same way as a baseball player swinging multiple bats as practice – a single bat feels like a feather after that.  So for us, sober life feels lighter and easier.  For all these reasons, we do not want to stop and rest.  We hate doing nothing.

enough tranquility
Okay it’s been an hour. Enough tranquility.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a duvet day.  In theory.  But I usually can’t stay at it for more than a few hours.  My mind loves the idea of relaxation right until it gets bored.  So when it comes time to rest because my body is forcing it on me, I might take a half day to abandon my everyday chores, and then I get frustrated.  Why aren’t I better yet?  Now I’m still sick and the house is a disaster and I have twice as many emails to return.  This is bullshit.

The Mom Cold

You know how there’s the “man cold”?  Where some men get the sniffles and all of a sudden they act like they’re dying, and insist upon being waited on hand and foot?  My problem is that I THINK I’m behaving that way.  I think I have a man cold, when in fact I have a MOM cold.  This is where you are ridiculously ill but act like you are fine and do everything anyway.  I was certain I just had a persistent chest cold and found out it was really walking pneumonia.  It wasn’t until a doctor told me that and gave me a serious talking to that I allowed myself to call in reinforcements and just rest.

hotel room
Your sickbed awaits madam.

I have a fantasy in which I could just go to a hotel when I get sick.  Because at home, even if I try to rest, there is always something that needs to be done, and I can’t help myself.  But if I could just remove myself to a hotel, order chicken soup and sleep with no one yelling, I could recover.  Alas, I cannot afford it.

Back to reality

This is one of the many ways in which I feel like I should get a gold star for just showing up, while others seem to handle temporary illness with much more grace and little to no maid service.  So what can I do?  I can ask a friend who lives nearby to walk my son to daycare, and promise to do the same for her when she gets sick.  I can make giant mugs of herbal tea with as much honey as I want and drink them all day.  I can order chicken pho from the amazing Thai place nearby.  I can block off an hour on my work schedule and use it to take a nap.  I can go to bed at a very early hour even if I’d rather stay up and watch tv with my husband.  And I can remember that just because it FEELS like it will never end, that doesn’t make it true.  This too shall pass.

Anyone else?  Bueller?

 

 

How to relax without alcohol

relax without alcohol

relax without alcohol

You worked a full day.  You picked up the kids, made dinner, fed them, bathed them, put them to bed, cleaned up the wreckage of your living room and kitchen, and you are fried.  You have a thousand thoughts running through your head.  Responsibilities, worries, and to-dos whiz past your mind in non-sensical order.  You are wound tightly like a spring and you just want to unwind dammit.  Have a little “me” time.  How are you supposed to do this without a glass (or four) of wine?  How do people relax without alcohol?

The Recipe for Relaxation

cake recipe
Don’t question the cake

This is a dilemma that has faced every person who has ever gotten sober.  We all find a way and I promise you will too.  Now as you trawl the internet for ideas, you are likely to see a lot of the same things come up again and again.  Why?  Because they work.  If you look on the internet to find out how to bake a cake, you are going to keep seeing instructions that tell you to mix up some butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla with some flour, baking soda, and salt and bake it.  Why?  Because people have found again and again that if you do that, you will end up with a cake.  So yes, I am going to include things like exercise, meditation, and hot baths, because as much as I didn’t want them to, they do work.  But I am also going to give you a key to find out which relaxing activities might appeal to you most.  Ready?

Your most prominent sense

It all comes down to how you process the world.  You need to figure out your primary sense.  I am excluding smell and taste here because those are not necessarily constant, and well, we don’t want relaxation getting entwined with food because that’s a whole other issue. But generally, you fit into one of four categories

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinesthetic (Sensory)
  • Intellectual

We all experience these to varying degrees, but generally, we are more affected by one or two of them.  So do your best to determine your primary (and possibly secondary) sense, and check out some of the relaxation activities in that category.  You may enjoy something from every category, but because your primary sense is how you process the world, doing something that appeals to it is more likely to help you relax without alcohol much faster than one that doesn’t line up with who you are.

If you’re not sure – a sales trick

For most people, their primary sense is obvious and jumps right out at them from the list above.  But if you aren’t sure, there is a hack that I learned in a book about sales that says to pay attention to a person’s language.  Here is an example of a response from each primary sense:

Visual – “I see what you mean”

Auditory – “I hear you.”

Sensory – “I know how you feel”

Intellectual – “I understand/I think so”

Pay attention to which of these you say most often.  You may say more than one, but just keep a gentle note of it when you notice yourself (or hear yourself, or feel yourself, or think about) using language in this way.

Okay on to the list!

***

Visual

visual type

If you are primarily visual, you will probably relax more easily somewhere quiet.  Noise can be overstimulating for visual people. Things like art and design tend to appeal to you and you tend to process things very quickly.  Some relaxing activities that can appeal to a visual person are:

Coloring

adult coloring book
Must. Not. Go. Outside. The. Lines.

Adult coloring books have become all the rage over the past few years and with good reason.  It’s a great way to turn your brain off and make something beautiful.  You can grab some colored pencils at any drug store (or steal your child’s crayons, I won’t tell) and watch as a page transforms in front of your eyes. You can google it and print out free images or you can indulge in something like Johanna Basford’s The Secret Garden

Drawing

If you haven’t learned to draw, now is a great time to take up a hobby.  Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is the gold standard for teaching even someone like me who could barely draw a stickman to draw semi-recognizable figures.  It is both relaxing and interesting, and you never run out of material.

Zentangle

zentangle
Easier than it looks

Another option if you don’t have the time or interest in learning to draw for real, is to try your hand at Zentangles.  This takes doodling and turns it into something repetitive, meditative, and really enjoyable.

Do a puzzle

I believe dining room tables are only good for two things: holidays and puzzles.  Otherwise, they just collect junk.  So find a puzzle you find beautiful and dump it out on the table and get to work.  Depending on the age of your children, this may or may not be possible.  I love an old-fashioned puzzle, but don’t particularly want to spend the next month fishing puzzle pieces out of the various orifices of my toddler, I tend to go the app route.  Brainsbreaker is my absolute favorite for desktop, and I am currently digging “Jigsaw Puzzles Real Free” on my iPhone.

Nature Walks

forest bathing
Keep your clothes on please.

For visual people in particular, nature walks can be very restorative.  The quiet and the beauty of a forest or park can be just what’s needed after all the noise and distractions of the day.  It doesn’t need to be a hike.  Forest bathing has recently become trendy in the United States but has been a part of preventative healthcare in Japan for over 30 years.  Basically, just being in a forest and practicing mindfulness there can decrease stress and increase immunity.

***

Auditory

listening

Auditory people tend to absorb things better when they hear them rather than see them.  They tend to have an appreciation for music and like to have long discussions.

Audiobooks

While an engaging book is always a good way to relax, sometimes as a parent I am so fried that I can’t really concentrate.  And as an auditory person, listening to an audiobook just takes the experience up a notch, and allows me to do something else at the same time (should I want to).  Audible.com is my go-to, but both Google and Apple have plenty of audiobooks to download on their app stores as well.  I particularly like a good thriller, as they are easy to get wrapped up in and before I know it, the rest of the world has faded away.

Audiobooks are also great if you’ve been over-thinking.  It’s hard to think too hard when you are paying attention to the story.  Look up a book you know you like and see what else is recommended for people who liked that book.

Music

While most people have an appreciation for music, auditory types have a special connection to it.  Make different playlists to go with different moods.  Have a “cheer up” playlist of upbeat songs, a “chill out” mix for stressful days, and a “karaoke” list of things to sing along to.  Which brings me to…

Singing

choral group
Find out about performance uniforms before signing up.

Singing just makes you feel good.  Science says so.  The vibrations both calm us and elevate our mood by producing endorphins (happy hormones) and oxycontin (a hormone associated with relaxation and love/comfort).  It reduces cortisol, a stress hormone and can even help with depression.  Joining a chorus or choir is great if you have the time as these benefits are magnified by singing in a group.  However if like me, your voice sounds like an animal that has been run over by a car, you can still reap the benefits.  Just sing in the shower or when no one else is around.

Phone a Friend

Texting seems to have taken the place of phone calls over the past decade, and while it’s definitely more efficient, it’s not as much of a bonding experience as a long gab session with a friend.  Auditory people, in particular, connect very well this way, and hearing a friendly voice at the end of the day can be a big help.  These tend to work best when you set up a “phone date”.  Otherwise, no one answers these days.  Text a friend and say you want to catch up – do they have time for a call tonight?  Like 20 minutes?  Putting a time limit on it makes it seem less daunting, and if you are enjoying yourselves you can always blow right past it.

***

Kinesthetic/Sensory

kinsethetic type

As a kinesthetic or sensory type, you experience things in a very physical way and tend to feel things very deeply emotionally as well.  So slip into something really comfy and let your body help you relax.

Yoga

yoga tree pose

In the recovery community, yoga is very popular.  It produces a sense of calm and euphoria that can be very helpful when you miss the feeling of a buzz.  As a kinesthetic person, it’s particularly helpful that this practice is slow and steady, and allows you to focus on the sensations and your breathing.

Cuddle

Whether it’s your spouse, your child, or a fur baby, find something you can cuddle.  Cuddling releases oxytocin and particularly for kinesthetic types, helps you feel more connected and bonded with those you care about.

Bath

towels and candlesYou can’t be in early recovery without someone telling you to take a bath.  No, it’s not because you smell (probably?), but because it really is one of the most relaxing things you can do for yourself.  Do your best to make it as full a sensory experience as you can.  Use some lavender bubble bath (lavender is calming), light a couple candles and soak for fifteen minutes.  This is best to do before bed because your body temperature drops when you get out of the tub, which leads to much deeper sleep if you go to bed right after drying off.  That said, don’t wait until too late to take a bath because you don’t want to fall asleep in there!

 

Gardening/Crafting

Get productive with your hands.  Whether it’s weeding a garden, knitting, sewing, soapmaking, painting, or working with clay, find something your hands love to do.  A lot of women who are attached to drinking think of it as something “just for me” after doing so much for others. Hobbies are a great way to have something that is just for you.  Find something you love to create with your hands.  It’s satisfying on a very basic human level.

Cook/Bake

child kneading dough
Kids love helping too if you don’t mind the mess…

Cooking can be very relaxing if done for fun.  Figure out a recipe you’d love to try and take your time with it, focusing on the feelings of preparing the ingredients.  Experience the sounds of chopping and sautéing, the smells of the food, watch it all come together…  It really involves all the senses and can be a lot of fun.

 

 

***

Intellectual

intellectual type

If you are an intellectual type you tend to be in your head a lot.  You think things out logically and like having lists and rules.  It can be hard to get out of your head and you might have used drinking to get your head to give you peace for five minutes.

Journaling/Listmaking

hand with writing on it
I prefer paper but whatever you have on hand…

Sometimes it helps to get your thoughts out of your head and onto the page, whether that is in a journal or just a random word document.  For some reason, problems tend to stop rattling around and repeating themselves if you put it down on paper.  To that end, I also recommend list-making.  Do a brain dump of all your to-dos, ideas, projects, next steps, concerns, things to follow up on etc.  Then organize it into action items and reference files.  This is the basis behind the “Getting Things Done” system and it can be very helpful for anxiety.  Knowing where everything stands can allow you to give your brain a break.  Which makes you more likely to be able to…

Meditate

This can be hard if you are an intellectual, but it’s also the most beneficial for you.  If you drank to turn your brain off, this is learning to do that without alcohol.  It’s not hard at all.  Apps like Calm and Headspace walk you through it, so you don’t have to figure it out on your own.  Meditation has cumulative benefits so that over time, things that used to get you all worked up just don’t seem to bother you anymore.

Running (or another hard exercise)

This is another thought killer and a great way to deal with anxiety.  Make your body work so hard you can’t have a thought in your head.  And get a rush to boot.  (Get a doctor’s okay to do this first.)

Bad TV

Real Housewives, silly competitions on the Food Network, Property Brothers, The Bachelor…  Find something absolutely mindless yet somehow entertaining and enjoy the hell out of it.  No one has to know!

These are just a sampling of all the ways you can unwind.  It won’t be automatic at first, because you have conditioned yourself to associate alcohol with relaxation, so you will have to learn what it feels like to relax without alcohol.  It might feel a little different (but still awesome) and if you are in very early recovery your body may still be in a bit of shock, so it may take some time to relax properly.  But you will find what does it for you.  Pick one or two of these that sound appealing and give them a try.  If you feel like you don’t have time, think of all the time you spent glued to the couch or barstool.  The time is there if you work to find it.  You don’t have to spend hours on these things.  Just start creating new relaxation habits that fit your new life.

How do YOU relax without alcohol?

relax without alcohol
Nice if you can afford it

I’d love to hear other ways you’ve found to relax without alcohol.  Drop me a note in the comments or on social media!

Are you messing up your kid?

messing-up-your-kid

What to do when you’ve lost it to prevent messing up your kid

I don’t know whether it’s being an alcoholic or just being a mother, but so many nights I look at my son’s little face and think, “Dear God, please don’t let me mess him up too badly.”

Part of me feels like with alcoholism running in his family, the deck is stacked against him and I want to protect him from any hurt I can, just to give him a fighting chance. But what about when I’m the cause of the hurt? When I go away on business and he doesn’t understand? Or when I realize I’ve been staring at my phone for an hour instead of playing with him? When I attempt to wrestle him into a diaper because he Will. Not. Put. On. Clothes.  When I see his big eyes fill with tears because I yelled?

Does he think I don’t love him? Is he afraid of me? What kind of monster am I if I yell at a small child?

Unsurprisingly it’s not when I am going through this that I find any answers. It’s when my friends go through the same thing that I suddenly have pearls of wisdom about it. I can give them the grace I can’t give myself. But in turn, I can try and remember it for next time. Because as much as I hate it, there will be a next time. And I promise you: You are not messing up your kid as badly as you think.

messing up your kid
Why didn’t I just let him wear his pajamas to school?

We are doing better than our parents

This isn’t to say they did a bad job. I still consider my mother to be one of the best role models around for me or anyone else for that matter, but we learn things as a society from one generation to the next. If you look at parenting just a generation or two ago, it’s pretty crazy to realize the extent to which things have changed. Just as my son rides in a car seat instead of on my lap, we take the information available at the time and we do the best we can with what we know.

rickety playground
Sure, that looks totally safe for a two-year-old!

These are teachable moments

Okay so you yelled at your kid and they cried and now you kind of wish the ground would swallow you up. As tempting as it is to ignore it and figure things will go back to normal when they see you aren’t mad anymore, you are missing an opportunity here.

You aren’t perfect and that’s okay. No one is. It’s important for them to learn how to have humility about their own flaws, and to learn to forgive them in others. I’m not saying to go into a big speech about it, but when you are both calm, find an age-appropriate way of saying, “Hey, I’m sorry I yelled at you. Yelling isn’t a good way to solve problems. We all make mistakes, and then we say we’re sorry.” Don’t give excuses for why you were yelling. You can absolutely discuss their behavior separately. But they are more likely to hear you if you don’t seem mad anymore. And justifying the yelling will just get their back up whether they are two or twenty.

Do Better

Now unfortunately along with the apology, you do actually have to try to do better in the future. I’m not saying you will never yell at your kid again because that’s a joke. But if it’s happening every day, then maybe it’s time to research ways to keep your temper better. Whatever the issue is that’s the problem, look at your part of it.  Your child is going to be on every fourth step you do.  This is the best chance you have at minimizing the extent to which you mess your kid up.

Please let him turn out better than me…

Keep it in perspective

One of my favorite ways to keep things in perspective is to ask myself, “Have I ever heard anyone use this as part of their ‘before’ story in an AA meeting?” 99% of the time, the answer is no. You don’t hear things like, “My mom never gave me the toys I wanted,” or “she yelled at me to put on my clothes every morning”.   A kid isn’t a soufflé. It’s not something where you do one thing wrong and they are ruined. And when you do something truly awful? They love you so much and they will give you a thousand chances to get it right.

(That said, if you are hurting your children, or you are worried about your behavior, talk to a therapist, stat.  They can help you.  If you’re not coping on your own, it won’t magically happen.  Insurance covers some of it and a lot of them work on a sliding scale. )

Make sure your child goes to bed knowing they are loved

There are days that are just awful and the two of you seem to butt heads. You are exasperated and just want them to go to sleep so you can have some peace. (Hey, sometimes I wish for that on a good day too.) I’m not trotting out the old adage of “never go to bed angry” because you can’t always change a feeling on a dime. What you do have the power to do is to say,

“I’m still very upset. But I love you very much. No matter what.”

Having that sense of security and being loved is a huge part of the mental health of a person at any size.

Worse comes to Worst

All this aside, you will mess your kid up at least a little. Everyone does, it’s unavoidable. As they get older, I think it is important to share our stories with them. Perhaps not the gory details, but the general message of, “You can turn it around.” There is a genetic element to this, and what they become is not all down to you and your actions. And if they ever do end up at the wrong end of too many bottles, they have you as living proof that there is a way out.

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How to Make Mom Friends

mom friends

mom friends

Even before I had my son, I knew that along with the crib, swaddles and Rock n’ Play, there was one more essential to add to my list of must haves, and that was a tribe of mom friends.

I knew this because I saw headlines from the cool mom voices of HuffPo, Scary Mommy, Red Tricycle etc. that were pumped into my Facebook feed as “suggested articles”.

5 Types of Mom Friends Every Mom Needs”

Ok got it. I’ll be on the lookout for those.

“11 Types of Mom Friends – and Why They’re Important”

 Wait, how many now?

 “The 6 Types of Friends You Have As a First Time Mom”

 Oh, so those come preinstalled? Cool.

Hi.  We’re the mom friends you ordered.

It was my hope that these gems would just arrive as if by magic once I had the baby. They would see me with it and they would have one of their own. The shared experience of the insanity that is childbirth and the newborn phase would make us instantly understand each other. Like trauma bonding. Perhaps I’d meet them in the breastfeeding class at the hospital. (Or was that creepy?) Could I meet them at the pediatrician’s office? I wasn’t sure.

Ever the good student, I decided to get a jump on the process. I joined my local message boards and went to mommy meetups for those in my neighborhood that were due at the same time I was. It was exhausting to lug my ever-expanding self over to parts of town to meet with strangers, but I soldiered through confident that I would check off the “mom friend” list item.

At least I didn’t have to worry about one thing: since we were all pregnant, no one was drinking. I was new to the neighborhood, so no one knew that my abstaining was anything other than pregnancy related. The women were all friendly, but nothing really clicked. I felt the way I did when I was dating – putting myself out there, doing the work getting out of the house, being friendly and a good listener, and… nothing. An introvert at heart, every time I came home and sank onto the couch, I thought, “Why the hell am I bothering?”

I’ve been thinking about you all day.

Something I hear a lot in meetings – especially from women, is that they felt different and out of place as a child.   This was certainly the case for me. I was more or less born a tiny forty-year-old. I was strange. I was never comfortable.  Sure I made friends, and some very good ones at that. But in most situations where I met new people, they usually didn’t take to me right away.

And then? Alcohol. The great social lubricant that made me outgoing and charming. (Or at least it did in my own head). It allowed me to mix with people and be silly. It let me have fun. Until it didn’t.

So I have to find a different way to have fun. One of the best things I have found in sobriety is that I have become “me” again. The strange girl with a snarky sense of humor who loves knitting and writing and has zero interest in staying out late, or in what’s cool. But that’s not to say that I can’t still get out my tiny violin in these situations and replay my greatest hit — “People don’t like me.”

Once I had the baby, I had high hopes that we would now have things to bond over in the mom group. While I felt completely shell shocked by early motherhood, thanks to recovery meetings (and the internet) I knew that others were probably feeling the same way and we could all find relief in saying, “Yes! Me too!”

I did make some casual friends this way.  But I was the first to go back to work and the meetings continued without me. Once the others went back to work, they switched from meeting in a coffee shop to meeting in a bar for “girls night out”. While I have been able to hang at a bar with friends now and again, it is certainly not my preference. I recall the saying, “If you keep sitting in the barber’s chair, sooner or later you’ll get a haircut.” I knew my desire to be liked and to fit in was not a good match for this, and my one social outlet went away.

When I put my son in daycare I told myself I would try again with the moms there. But being back to work and then being with my son at night was exhausting and the excuses started piling up:

I’m already exhausted.

It seems like so much work to GO somewhere and have to be ON.

What if we don’t click?  

What if she’s a mommy wino?

Everyone just wants to drink and they’ll make fun of the fact that I don’t.

I can rationalize bringing sand to the desert. So I talked myself out of it time and time again, thinking “soon” or “next time” or “I’ll know my people when I meet them.”

Two years in and I do have some mom friends now. Here’s the advice I would give to my new mom self:

Don’t overlook what you already have

Through all my concern and frustration over not having mom friends, I was still texting my best friend daily, sometimes for hours at a time. She is a mom as well, though her son is older than mine. I was hung up on the idea of having mom friends whose babies were the same age, not realizing I was already getting the very thing that a mom friend provides – emotional support and a dash of humor. An additional bonus was that since her son was older, she wasn’t in a newborn fog and had some perspective so she could tell me what was normal. I still talk to her every day.

They don’t have to be local

Yes, it’s nice if they are because then you can make playdates and get yourself and your stir-crazy kid out of the house on a rainy day.   But that’s the role of your child’s friends, not necessarily yours. I met a great group of women in a sober mom’s group online and we definitely share all the things mentioned in these articles. Again, just because you can’t touch them it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Not everybody is interested in drinking.

This is one where I had to see my part. I threw a very elaborate pity party for myself when the mom’s group switched to a bar group. What I didn’t think about was that not all of them were necessarily interested in that either. There were over 30 women in that group and I now know that a LOT of them are not big drinkers. It doesn’t occur to them. That possibility never entered my mind. I noticed the mommy winos because they stood out to me. My ears perked up more at someone talking about meeting up for drinks because I am sensitive to that, so I felt like it was EVERYONE instead of maybe 10% of them. The normies weren’t talking about booze because they weren’t thinking about it. I couldn’t fathom that, so they flew under my radar.

Keep trying

Helpful, I know. Here’s the thing – a lot of other moms have the same excuses going in their heads. I’m too tired. I have too much to do. Not enough time with family. I don’t know this person, why would I want to hang out with them when I could SLEEP? It’s not personal. She doesn’t know you so it’s not that she has anything against you. It’s just tough to motivate.

I often think of AA as an advanced course in Adulting. We learn to do what we can and not focus so much on what others do. We learn to do our part and let the rest go. As a person who loves to analyze everything to death, the simplicity of saying, “Have I done everything I can do here?” and leaving the rest has been really useful.

You don’t know what is going on in the life of the woman who bailed on your coffee date. If her marriage is falling apart or if she broke her toe, or if she’s had zero sleep and Just. Can’t. Do It. Giving her a little grace and trying again may turn out to be all that is needed. If not? On to the next. Don’t get into the game of, “But why does it always have to be me making the effort?” Because we never know what is going on with anyone else. If you want it, it has to be you.

You will keep meeting more

Don’t sweat it if it takes awhile. When you find the right ones these women will be in your life for a long time. Sometimes something that doesn’t click at first evolves over time. I eventually became friends with a couple of women I never noticed because they were both shy. But with running into each other while picking up our kids at the same time, or chatting at birthday parties we figured out we liked each others company.

Simply having a child exposes you to a whole new community of people, and over time the classes, playgrounds, and parties bring you to wonderful people who will become a part of your life.

And as you find your mom friends, make sure to keep an eye out for that mama who is struggling. The one with deep circles under her eyes at the coffee shop holding a newborn. Tell her she’s doing great, and that it gets easier. Wink at the mom in the supermarket with the kid throwing a tantrum and say, “You’ve got this” as you walk by. You never know when you will make a friend for life.

PS – Want to be my mom friend?  Subscribe in the sidebar.  See?  You’ve got one already.

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

buddha
Oh look, it’s me postpartum.

Meditate

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

praying-mantis
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

journal
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.