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Recovery Lessons Learned After Moving in with Grandma

After I finished court-ordered recovery, my family asked me to move in with my grandma, to help take care of her as her dementia progressed. I jumped at the opportunity to be able to help my family and get to know my grandma a little bit better. I had been praying for months on a way to make things right with my grandpa who had already passed. Taking care of grandma was my answer to these prayers.

Grandma lived in the perfect house to start over again with my boys and was in the best school district in the county. It 20 minutes away from my hometown, which put some distance between me, my father’s bar, and that whole bar lifestyle my dad and sisters were living. The cherry on top was that I was going to be able to make payments on my grandma’s car since she could no longer drive.

After a few rough weeks getting settled in, I felt as if I’d been treading water for days and could drown at any minute. I didn’t understand why I felt so overwhelmed until I did a feeling download in my journal.

Reading in my own handwriting I saw all the warning signs of relapse.

Panic set in, along with hopelessness, and self-pity. I found myself frozen in fear, I was sinking fast by feeding into other people’s expectations and opinions of me. I kept sinking lower and lower until I felt as if I couldn’t breathe.

Finally, some light shone through and I remembered that I had a toolbox full of tools that I could use to help me pull through situations just like this. I took out my textbook of recovery and starting skimming through the pages. I landed on one that talks about us having to accept the world and people in it just as they are. Every struggle has merit. After some reflection, I called my sponsor, and then a support group member to see if she wanted me to come gets her for a meeting that night.

I used the tools that were given to me, and I started to feel better.

I took from this whole situation some valuable life in recovery lessons.

  1. Tools don’t work themselves. I must swing the hammer to get the nail to go into the board.
  2. Other people’s opinions and judgments of me are none of my business. It’s best to look at them but there is no need to take them as fact.
  3. Setting healthy boundaries is vital to my survival.  I need to consistently check in with my internal self and not be afraid to make necessary changes, even if people I care about don’t understand my decisions.
  4. Feelings and moods are temporary. Nothing is permanent unless you make it so. It’s hard not to be positive when you are finding gratitude and choosing happiness instead of feeding into your negative thoughts, this generates hope, and a start to a solid foundation to build upon.

I must remind myself daily that even though life makes me want to throw up my white surrender flag, the blessings I have today are worth every fire I have to walk thru to get there.

This post was submitted by Brooke McKinley.

This Could Be The Year

I spent my very first sober holidays away from my daughter. It broke my heart into a million pieces and made me feel like a terrible mother.

I remember having a fit when the counselor at my program told me I would not be allowed to go home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s. She said the holidays were a time they held the reigns a little tighter because of the high relapse rate. They had let women go in the past who never returned.

I understood, in my head, that my sobriety had to come first, but it still sucked beyond words and made my heart hurt.

I had been absent for so long. Even though I had been physically present for some, I was often emotionally absent or mentally somewhere else. Once I got sober, I actually wanted to be there and I couldn’t that year.

It is because I spent those first holidays away from my daughter, that I have been able to be present for the last eighteen. Because I took the time away to work on myself and build my sober foundation, I have had the opportunity to also build beautiful sober memories with her. It wasn’t easy to accept then because I couldn’t see the future or understand how valuable that first year would turn out to be.

If you are in treatment this year, away from your children, I hope you will allow my experience to give you hope.

I hope you’ll give yourself a chance to experience all the incredible things to come. I hope you will reach out to us and let us assure you that you are not alone; that’s it’s okay to feel sad or angry or whatever you’re feeling. I hope you will share these feelings with us, and let us share our experiences with you.

Regardless of what your head or heart may be screaming, you don’t have to drink and/or use over the feelings or situations you may face this new year…if you don’t want to.

We will love you through whatever you’re going through…without judgment. Even if you cannot imagine getting through this holiday without a drink in your hand or a drug in your system, we are here to support you wherever you’re at.

There are no conditions for membership in the Sober Mommies community.

Whether you’ve been sober/clean for less than a minute or decades, we look forward to connecting with you this year.

We are here to listen to you, and make sure you know that you never have to be alone with your addiction and/or recovery ever again. We will tell you that we love and understand you. We will ask that you be gentle with yourself. We will point out the positive actions you are taking for yourself and family when it seems you can’t give yourself that credit. We will celebrate you…all of you, even the parts you may think are completely unlovable. We will love you unconditionally and help you any way we can…if you let us.

I hope you will let us.

If you are in need of support in your area, please feel free to visit our resources page to find an organization (12-step or non-12-step) to help. If you do not find what you’re looking for or have other suggestions for us, please contact us via email or on our Facebook Page.

On behalf of the Sober Mommies family, I want to wish you a very happy new year!!

I Am Thankful for my Court-Ordered Recovery

I open the door and look back at a now half-empty, dorm-style room and think about all the memories I’ve created over the last four months. A nightly routine of journaling, talking to my roommate our day, saying our prayers, and moments of gut-wrenching, might-of-just-peed-a-little, laughter. I reflect on how grateful I am that my judge court-ordered me to complete a six to nine-month peer-evaluated, behavioral modification program at a 12-step recovery center. I chuckle to myself at the thought of “six to nine months”—it took me over a year to complete.

I walk down the hallway, down the stairs, until I’m face to face with facility’s double doors. I recall the evil, depraved, imposter, hiding under her shell of human skin and bones who arrived here. Her arms and legs were shackled and cuffed, chains smacking the ground clink, clink, clink.

I can almost feel the desperation again, the crippling fear, the absolute hopelessness. I was mangled, completely broken. I silently thank God for keeping me when I didn’t want to be kept. I head towards the sound of my sobriety sisters’ voices echoing thru the hallway singing our farewell song…

“Lean on me when you’re not strong…”

Smiling, I feel my cheeks warm from embarrassment. My heart is overflowing with the love I have for these ladies and this program. They meet me at the door one by one leaving me with words of wisdom. After many hugs and goodbyes, I walk out the doors for the last time. With our windows rolled down and sunglasses on, my little sister and I drive as the notes of Lean on Me begin to fade. It’s a bittersweet moment; tears of happiness, disbelief, and sadness run down my cheeks as the reality sinks in.

I did it! I completed my program!

I feel able to conquer anything in my path because I have arrested my desire to use. I push to find my footing in a world that is strangely familiar, but altogether different somehow too.

This post was submitted by Brooke McKinley.

To Resent Or Rejoice…It’s My Choice

The holiday season is upon us and although it ’tis the season to be merry, it can also be quite concerning for alcoholics. At least it was for me when I was newly sober. There is no easy way through the holidays or recovery. I mean, staying sober is hard enough when there isn’t an overindulgence of Christmas parties, family gatherings, and Holiday Happy Hours.

My first year sober, the memories of past Christmases and New Year’s celebrations came creeping in.

I found myself resenting recovery. Watching my friends and family enjoy their cocktails, “responsibly”, sent me into a rage. What the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t drink like a normal person? All I could think about was how boring the rest of my life was going to be because I couldn’t get my shit together.

I knew early on in my recovery that it was important for me to have a plan, a touchstone to keep me focused on staying sober, and not on all the fun I thought I would be missing. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my husband or family about how I was feeling. I mean, how could I? They were the “responsible” drinkers I mentioned, who were still considerably intolerant of my mere presence. So it was nice to have a sponsor to talk to. Someone who had been where I was, and felt all the same resentments and frustrations I was feeling. I found the more I stayed connected to sober people, places and things, the less tempted I was to drink.

That year I started my own set of guidelines for the holiday season.

I call them my “survival tactics.” Little things I can do to help me cope and release the aggravation that sometimes accompanies recovery.

My holiday, “How To Stay Sober Guide”, takes me right back to the basics every year. The first thing I do with the start of the holiday season is up my meetings. I make an exaggerated effort to stay connected to my support system as much as possible. Simple enough right?

Then, I always find something else to occupy a good bit of my time. For example, my two older children and I joined a community theatre two years ago. So, each holiday season I am busy, busy, busy rehearsing and preparing for our production of A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. It is a wonderful distraction and great way to spend time with my kids.

I am also careful how I plan outings. If I know that a certain restaurant is frequented by my old drinking buddies, I don’t go there. Who needs the reminder? My husband and I take day trips skiing or visiting friends. We find new places to dine and spend quality time together. After all, this is a whole new relationship.

Why on Earth would I ever want to go back to the places I spent my time drinking instead of living in?

The holiday season is intended to fill all of us with a sense of togetherness and compassion. Unfortunately, the merriment that surrounds this festive season can also put us at risk of a relapse whether we are ten days sober or ten years sober. I do my best to ensure my sobriety as best I can, and with each passing year it’s gotten easier. That’s not to say that I don’t have my moments self-doubtubt, but after four years sober, I can honestly say that those moments are fewer and further between. I owe that to working my program. My disease never takes a day off, so I know that I can’t either. Regardless of the holiday, season, or event, I am well aware that I am only one drink away from falling right back into my old ways. I enjoy living a sober life far more than I endured a drunken one. So what if that means not having a champagne toast at midnight! I would much rather give up booze for everything else I have working in my life today then give up all of my blessings for a drink.

Happy holidays!

Sometimes “Coparenting” Just Isn’t Possible

I keep seeing social media posts and memes stressing how co-parenting is the best for the child. There are parents bragging how they’ve put aside jealousy and anger to develop relationships with their ex’s new partner—and how they’re all trying to be one big happy family.

I think that’s awesome. I have seen it work and it makes my heart full.

But a few of those posts seem to shame those who have been unsuccessful at co-parenting as if they aren’t trying hard enough. “If you just put your jealousy aside and do what’s best for your child you could have a great co-parenting relationship.”

A positive co-parenting relationship is not possible if the only one parent is putting in an effort.

I am unapologetically done trying to co-parent.

This is a decision not made lightly or out of jealousy or anger. I am done trying to force co-parenting because I have realized that it is not healthy for my child.

I have spent three years trying to engage someone who does not have the desire or capability to parent a child. It has been EXHAUSTING.

I have initiated every phone call, FaceTime or meetup. I have driven across the state to bring my child for visits. I have dealt with consistently late or missing child support payments because I was trying to be “reasonable” and deal with child support out of the courts. The only consistent thing that my “co-parent” has done is display inconsistency to my child.

In trying to be patient, understanding and empathetic about the situation of my daughter’s other parent—I am hurting my child.

I want my daughter to know that these types of one-sided relationships are not acceptable. She needs to understand that you can and must hold the people in your life accountable. I don’t want her to think that it is acceptable to be a doormat because of some societal ideal that a child should have both parents in their life.

Am I sad? Am I frustrated? Absolutely. But I am putting my child’s emotional well-being first.

I hope that one day my child will have a healthy relationship with her other parent. As someone who grew up with a single parent, I know the feelings and challenges that my child may have. I am angry that she will have to suffer through this—but I also know that it is out of my control. All I can do is parent to the best of my ability and show my daughter that sometimes we just have to walk away from things that do not serve us.