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Mothers have unique challenges that can aggravate drinking issues in those with susceptibility. However, it is important not to blame external circumstances exclusively for leading mother’s to drink heavily, also are also biological and physiological factors at play.
There are many challenges and blessings of motherhood that are not unique to alcoholics, as other mothers experience them. However, it is important to acknowledge them and support other mothers in finding strategies to address the challenges in order to enjoy the blessings:
- It can be challenging to find time for self-care without the support of loved ones, as an example alone time, massage, exercise, nap, read)
- Mothers may experience “mommy guilt” for leaving their babies in order to take care of themselves.
- Hormones are unstable during pregnancy and after, especially if a mother is breastfeeding. Mood and energy can be effected and difficult to regulate.
- The extreme change in routine with a baby can throw off the recovery plan a mother may have had previously, one of the most difficult stages in life.
- HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired) is an abbreviation for possible causes that lead to decline. These 4 triggers are sometimes hard to avoid as a new mother and it is important to stay aware of how vulnerable they can leave you to fading.
- Mental health issues as anxiety, and depression can be intensified during early motherhood for reasons that include: stopping psychotropic medications due to pregnancy, hormone variations, sleep deprivation, mood issues, stress. For those women who used to drink to self-medicate mood issues in the past this can be a difficult and causing time to learn to handle without turning to alcohol.
- Loss of freedom: drinking alcohol can be an escape and lead one to forget about their responsibilities for a short time. Parenting can lead some to feel locked and trapped.
- Mothers put their child first and this can lead them to ignore recovery suggestions and to avoid taking the time to fit their recovery program into their new busy life.
- Motherhood is continuous in a non stop routine. Alcohol can offer a quick escape and sober mothers need to find other options that may require support from others.
- Marriages and partnership dynamics inevitably change after a baby enters the family, and there may be an increase in tension for a long period of time.
- Motherhood is the opposite of a lifestyle and feeling responsible for another human being can lead some mothers to long for a time when they were independent and spontaneous.
- Motherhood involves delayed gratification and patience in the process. For those who require immediate gratification and rewards, they may look to other sources as alcohol, and food.
- Many alcoholics’ desire excitement and stimulation in their life, becoming a mother requires a quieter existence and a monotonous routine.
But don’t be discouraged there are many protective positive factors that motherhood can add
- Taking care of a baby is the ultimate act of sharing and can increase our selflessness therefore, decreasing selfish addictive behaviors
- Being a mother may increase motivation to get and stay sober, so that you have something to offer to your child.
- Being in recovery can prevent feelings that parenting is “getting in the way” of your drinking life.
- Motherhood brings new meaning to your life and can fulfill you in a way that you may have been searching for through alcohol.
- Motherhood can inspire you to plan for a healthy future and excessive alcohol would not fit into that type of lifestyle
- Mothers want to set good examples for their children, and being a mother in recovery is an admirable
- Genetics account for 50% of the chance of developing alcoholism. Therefore, it is vital that alcoholic parents take responsibility for getting sober and staying in recovery in order to increase the chances that their children either don’t develop alcoholism or have role models to support them if they do.
- Drinking alcohol in excess inevitably brings an element of danger into your own life (health, drinking and driving, blackouts, etc.). Therefore, as a mother, you would not want to bring these issues into your child’s life.
Recovery involves more than just “not drinking”. It also includes living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Here are some suggestions of ways to balance recovery and motherhood:
- Ask for help! Mothers are not superwomen and need support in parenting from their spouse, partner, loved ones and friends.
- Make sure that you are eating regularly and if you need help getting groceries or cooking, then reach out to others.
- Be sure to integrate self-care into your day when taking care of your child: take a nap, exercise, read a good book, watch a fun T.V. show, meditate pray, etc. Cultivate a hobby.
- Find ways to combine self-care and childcare: get a jogging stroller so that you can walk/run with your child; do yoga stretches while they are playing in an activity center on the floor; get a seat or “pack and play” that will allow you to shower, cook, clean, etc. Be sure to get outside each day, especially if there is sunshine. A lack of vitamin D from the sun can contribute to depressed moods.
- Ask a loved one to watch your child or pay for a babysitter so that you can do something good for yourself at least once a week: therapy mutual-help group meeting, yoga, exercise, massage, manicure, etc.
- Join a Mom’s support group such as “Mommy and Me” or library affiliated mother’s groups
- Begin to create a daily routine that can bring some predictability and stability to your days.
- Get sleep!!! Sleep deprivation can lead to many mood-related issues. If you are having insomnia or constantly interrupted sleep, then it is important to find some support and solutions:
- Take a nap while your child is napping even if you have chores and other tasks to accomplish, have your partner alternate getting up to feed the baby at night, sleep with ear plugs and have your partner be “on call” alternate nights, listen to a guided relaxation before bed, turn off all electronics 1 hour before bedtime, go to bed first so that you are asleep before your partner comes to bed and have them be “on duty” so that you can sleep, have a night off and sleep at a loved one’s house so that you partner can cover for you (even one night of good sleep could help to recharge your battery).
- NOT drink caffeine after 4:00pm, “Sleepy time” tea, consult with your physician about getting a blood test for your Thyroid or other post-partum imbalances that could lead to sleep issues, talk with your physician about non-habit forming sleep aid options if all other techniques do not help you.