A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak on an upcoming, six-person panel for my 12-step community. The theme of the panel is “Motherhood in Recovery.” I agreed without a thought, because I’ve been taught to never deny a call into service. This isn’t my first time speaking, but I feel much more apprehension than I have ever in the past.
In the past, it has always been my goal to provide a “clear message” of 12-step recovery. The thing is, my recovery doesn’t necessarily resemble the overall 12-step picture of what “works.” Honestly I am torn between sharing the truth about my current life as a mom in recovery, and the message I feel I am “expected” to project. I am afraid that if I share the truth, I will be met with confusion and judgment.
I project others might think, “Who is this chick? I never even see her around anymore.”
“How is she going to tell me it’s okay to have kids at a meeting, when she’s too busy with hers to show up?”
“Wait, this message contradicts what I have been reading.”
“Where is her desire for service?”
No one has said these things to me. In fact, when I expressed my trepidation to another recovering mom, she assured me I absolutely do have a clear message to share – that the way I live my life is an example of what motherhood in recovery looks like.
As I reread the passages in my literature suggesting ways to continue to thrive in recovery, I realize I do not practice all of them. The idea that we sell is that “the first thing you put before your recovery is the first thing you lose.” I have lost count of how many times I have said those words out loud, and I find myself living beyond that idea. I have found a delicate balance in my recovery, that allows me to be both a responsible mother and recovering addict.
We often speak of open-mindedness in 12-step meetings, and I always thought that it applied only to the new ideas and suggestions introduced when we first arrive in the rooms. Over the last two years however, due mostly to the diverse nature of the Sober Mommies mission, that open-mindedness means so much more than the 12-step definition I was given. To be truly open-minded in recovery, means being open to recovery in all its forms; not just the 12-step version.
Being open-minded means letting go of the words “should” and “only.”
The 12 steps changed my life. That is my personal experience. I understand today that it is not the only avenue to recovery.
I struggle, very much, with what I’ve learned in the rooms and what my personal experience has taught me. There is a part of me very dedicated to keeping my message “pure” and not straying from the literature. There is another part that understands that recovery doesn’t live in a box. My fear is that sharing honestly on that 12-step panel about my feelings – my experience living outside of the “box,” will result in my message not being taken seriously. I worry that my recovery will be judged against the standard suggested around our tables. This fear is very real, and stems mostly from the judgment I feel towards myself. I am living proof that 12-step recovery works. I have an incredible life because I continue to work the principles in my life, even if I’m not at a meeting every night. I got clean to be a better mom to my kids, and the balance I have found works for me.
I made a #Mommitment to stop judging other moms harshly because their parenting choices are different than mine. I made a #Mommitment to myself to not second-guess my truths based on what you may think of my choices. Now it’s time that I applied that #Mommitment to my recovery.
I do not get to decide what “successful recovery” means for another mother.
It’s okay to choose not to do things, “by the book.”
It’s okay when you can’t do things, “by the book.”
“Motherhood in Recovery” is inclusive. There is room enough for all of us.
This post originally appeared on Sober Mommies in April 2015.