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Sober Mommies Ask A Sober Mom Posts

Ask A Sober Mom—Should I Fight for Custody?

I have lost my kids for the second time due to alcohol use. I am so sad. Their dad has them now and I am trying to decide if I should fight for them. I am in rehab again and get out in 14 days. I don’t know what to do. Any advice?


Signed, Shandy

Dear Shandy,

What you are doing now is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. You are taking care of you right now so that you can be around to take care of other people. When you are on a plane, the flight attendant goes over safety rules and instructs parents to put on their air masks before they try to put masks on their children in case of emergency. This seems counter-intuitive to us as parents, because we would give our lives to protect our children. But sometimes we have to save our lives to protect our children. Sometimes those masks are necessary.

You are not abandoning your children by spending this time in rehab getting better. You are taking care of yourself and learning how to put your own air mask on. You are learning how to breathe and how to feel without numbing. This is no small feat sister, this is the hardest work ever. Their father has custody right now so that you can learn how to take care of yourself again, and there is no shame in that.

I can’t answer whether or not you should fight for custody, because I don’t know what’s best for your family. But I can tell you with confidence that it is a noble thing to fight for you right now. You say you have fourteen days left of rehab, but I would also ask you to think about what time you will need once you are back home. Can you spend time working on your recovery and learning how to cope with stress in healthy ways before you go back to being a full-time custodial parent?

If your children are safe and taken care of with their father, I would strongly encourage you to take the time you need, even if that extends beyond your fourteen remaining days. Recovery is hard. Parenting is hard. Put them together and it can be pretty overwhelming. I would challenge you to ask yourself what is best for them, but also what is best for you, because it’s not necessarily what others tell you is best for you.

You are able to be a better mother when you are strong in your recovery and when you can take care of yourself. There’s no shame in asking for support or taking the time you need to recover. Recovery is not a linear path and it doesn’t follow a formula. It takes the time it takes. If your children are safe and taken care of, I want to encourage you to take whatever time you need to get back on your feet before you start making changes.

For my family, shared co-parenting worked once I was able to take care of myself. For some, full custodial parenting is not the solution and admitting that is the most unselfish act. The only one who can make those decisions is you. I would strongly encourage you not to rush into any decision early in your recovery.

I can’t think of a more emotionally-charged issue than parenting and there is no easy answer here, but I want to make sure you know that there is no shame in any choice you make. You are taking care of you and your children by allowing this time to take care of yourself. That is a brave choice and I hope you will take the time you need. You are strong and brave in reaching out and I hope that you know we are here to help support you in whatever you decide.

Best wishes! Nicole


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