The word "mother" conjures up a wholesome image – a life-giver, a caretaker, one who is all-giving. Sadly, these images and expectations put on mothers are unrealistic. Mothers are held to old values of homemaker, caregiver, and wage earner. In 2022, we are not only expected to run a family; we are expected to support the family financially. Add substance use, and you have a recipe for disaster.
I have battled addiction my entire life. One thing clear to me is that you can't use drugs and drink and be a functional parent. Mothers are the glue that holds the family system together. And when mothers need help, it is often met with anger and shame:
How will our family survive if mom gets treatment?
Who will care for the kids, do the shopping, and arrange activities?
In many families, the addiction is overlooked or ignored because the mom still holds the family together even when she is sick.
So, what do we moms do?
We hide it and detonate more destruction on the family. Or, we run, never to return.
When a mother chooses help and reaches out, many arrangements must be made to accommodate her time in treatment. This can create anger and resentment on the part of the family. There is often an attitude of "we did this for you; so, you better stay sober, and we can only give you that one shot." This is not how addiction works. Addiction knows no treatment time. Five, thirty, or ninety days doesn't cure addiction, but it's a start. It is a colossal mistake for families to assume that when mom comes home, she is cured. The end of treatment is the start of the real battle – a battle where the mom needs to assert her boundaries and treat herself and her addiction with respect.
Parenting is going to look very different if she takes her recovery seriously. The family structure will change. Mom might not be able to be a full-time mom right away. This is okay because the mom must treat herself like a child until she becomes stronger. She has to learn and understand what it is like to care for herself before she can care for others. So many mothers run at this thought. They never want to see their kids because of the guilt of not being the perfect full-time mom.
The great mom is the mom who knows her limits. She embraces her addiction and works with it step by step until she is stronger. This is all her children need. They need a sober mom, not a perfect mom. So take care of sobriety, and herself and the rest will follow.