Ask a Sober Mom: How do I Support Myself in Early Recovery?
I have been trying to stop drinking for some time. I tried different things—AA, acupuncture, therapy. None worked. Last night I took a good look at myself and realized I can’t do this anymore. I have cut down to minimize withdrawal, started a vitamin program and healthy eating. I’d just like to know what type of support groups that are out there. This morning is day 1. I threw everything out last night. My husband does not drink, so that is not a problem. I am 46, my son is going to college, and I want to have a good summer with him. I never drink in front of him, but he is smart. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thank you.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to recovery. But my experience is that you are going to get out of recovery what you put into it. It may take a lot of stops and starts and trying different things along the way.
It sounds like you’ve tried lots of things that you say didn’t “work.” What didn’t work? What did work? While you were in therapy, what were your goals? Were there any positive takeaways from your previous experiences that can help you find a good fit now? And what about 12-step programs made it feel unsuccessful? Was there any success for you?
I think of my recovery journey like building a house. If I show up with only a hammer, I’m not going to get very far. It’s not going to take long before I am frustrated and quit. I am going to need more and different tools to be successful because my hammer isn’t going to help if I need to cut wood.
I see my recovery the same way—there’s no one tool that worked for me, but I have a “recovery toolbox” that helps me feel supported as I build my new life. While everyone’s story is different and there are different paths for different people, since you asked for my advice, I’m going to share what I have in my own personal toolbox.
5 Tools in My Recovery Toolbox
The first tool I needed was detox, There was no way for me to safely stop using substances without serious withdrawals and I needed medical supervision to detox safely. Many people won’t require this as part of their recovery and for some, other tools work better. I didn’t need this tool for very long and now it stays at the bottom of the toolbox, covered in dust, because I’ve not needed it in years, but it’s comforting for me, because it’s the tool that saved my life.
Local Support Group
Another tool that gets used a lot is my local support group. I have a local Sober Mommies meeting that allows me to connect with other moms in recovery for support, encouragement, and fellowship. If there are no Sober Mommies meetings local to you, there are lots of options—AA or NA, Celebrate Recovery, SMART recovery, Refuge Recovery just to name a few. You can find more 12-step and non-12 step information on our resources page. But regardless of the format or the program, having an in-person support group has been really helpful for me.
Online Support Group
My online support group is probably the most used tool in this box. It’s the tool with all the paint worn off the handle where I’ve used it so much. I reach for this tool several times a day–for encouragement, support, laughter and so much more. In one my favorite TED talks, journalist Johann Hari says that “The opposite of addiction is connection.” I have found this to be profoundly true in my own life—connecting with people who understand and support me is invaluable. There is nothing more healing and inspiring to me than knowing I’m not alone.
Another helpful tool in my toolbox is counseling. Most of us don’t drink in a bubble—there are lots of experiences and feelings that we work to numb. Getting to the core of those emotions and learning how to process them in healthy ways remains critical if I want to continue to grow in my recovery. Trauma-informed therapy has saved my life on multiple occasions and I highly highly recommend it for anyone, in recovery or not.
Mindfulness is what I think of as my sneaky tool. It’s the tool that I thought I wasn’t ever going to need because it’s small and unassuming. It is in fact, by my own lay definition—learning to breathe and be aware. Some people find mindfulness through yoga, meditation, running, etc. I find it in sitting quietly and letting myself breathe deeply. I’m not sure I ever really took one intentional breath until I found recovery. Breath was something that happened, not something I did. Now, I know that I’m always just one single breath away from a new chance.
These five tools are the foundation of my recovery toolbox. They have been the most helpful for me. I use other tools—massage or acupuncture to help me manage pain without narcotics, my physician to help me work through physical and mental health issues safely, books, music, healthy diet and vitamins to keep me well, etc. All of these things are in my toolbox, and it’s helpful to me knowing that I can use them anytime I need support.
Recovery is about so much more than not drinking. It’s about building a life that you don’t have to numb or run from. It is learning to be comfortable with who you are, just how you are. It’s about being present and learning to sit with all the feelings. While that starts with the step to quit using substances to change how you feel or think, it certainly doesn’t stop there.
Only you can know for sure what will be most helpful for you as you build a new life in recovery, but I hope this has helped you start thinking about what tools might be right for you. We would love to help be part of your recovery journey—check out our online support group if you haven’t already!
You can do this! We are here to help support you in any way we can.
Best wishes! Nicole
Nicole is a mama of three and a woman in recovery from the mountains of NC. She is a survivor of incredible things, and uses her gifts on a daily basis to support the members of the Sober Mommies community.