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Ask a Sober Mom: I Did Not Sober Up For This

I'm eighty days sober. When will my kids stop irritating the shit out of me? They are six and four, and I have a hard time dealing with them. I didn't sober up for this!

“I’m 80 days sober. When will my kids stop irritating the shit out of me? They are six and four, I stayed sober through my pregnancies and nursing but after then went back to drinking too much wine every night. I have a hard time dealing with them and I just want to escape and not deal with it. They never do things when I tell them, everything is a fight or argument. I hate it. I didn’t sober up for this!” ~ Signed, Sober Rachel

Dear Rachel,

First of all, CONGRATS ON 80 DAYS! That’s amazing! Secondly (and hang with me here for a minute because it may not be what you want to hear) but you DID sober up for this.  You sobered up for exactly this—to be present for yourself and for them, through all this crap behavior now, through the bad and the long days but also for the GOOD. Because you are present, you’re having to feel all the hard frustrations of parenting crashing down on you. At once. And that’s intense and hard and awful—no way around it.

The good news is, you also get to be there for the hugs and the kisses and the moments of, “Oh wow, is this for real happening?” good times that will come.

I promise they will come. Even if it doesn’t seem like it. I have three littles, two of which have spent most of the week puking in my floor with a stomach bug, and I want to cry and pull my hair out and yell. And I do. I’m not perfect, and I argue and lose my cool, but you know what? I’m here. I’m present and able to keep them from killing themselves or each other and some days, it honestly feels like that’s all I do.

But then something happens, and I get a glimpse of the good, like being sober and aware and getting to watch my daughter sing “Fight Song” at a school talent show and tell me later, “I wanted to surprise you because that song makes me think of how strong you are in hard times.” I got to feel and cherish the goosebumps on my arms and tears down my cheeks that day.  I got to feel what it was to have someone PROUD of me, instead of ashamed or making excuses like, “My mom just doesn’t feel good.”

I’ve been able to show up and feel every single frustration with homework, but also feel every single hug that comes home with an improved grade on a reading test. The long sleepless nights with a fussy baby have felt soul-sucking and lonely, but being able to really feel his little hand in mine as we walk down the driveway feels nothing less than miraculous.

When I quit numbing all the pain, I realized that my life was FULL of it—frustration, pain, irritation and hell.

But I also got to see that it was full of good things too that I’d been numbing. I thought I really enjoyed my life when I was using, but when I experience those things without that haze now, I see I was only getting a fraction of the good. When I numbed the bad, I was also numbing the good.

I know that sometimes the days feel endless and like all you are doing is keeping them alive, but you know what? That’s a win, Mama. You are there. You are showing up and being there for yourself and them and that’s a miracle all on its own.

So find some things to do that feel good for you; that nurture YOU. Self-care is critical to motherhood, and recovery makes it even more so. Self-care doesn’t have to be bubble baths or hot tea or pedicures, though if that feels good to you, go for it. For me, self-care sometimes looks like shutting the bathroom door and eating a brownie while I hide from my kids, or taking fifteen minutes to read or have an actual phone conversation with a friend. You can’t pour from an empty cup, mama and if you’ll take care of yourself and your soul—you will find you have more to give them too.

But mostly, know for sure that you are not alone. This motherhood gig is HARD.

You are nothing short of a badass for rocking this in your early recovery. Find a community of other moms in recovery (we’d love to have you join our online group) and lean in—and be so proud. You’ve got this.

Much love and support,


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