Raising children is a high-pressure job, and every parent deserves support and relief. Unfortunately, using alcohol to cope has been glorified in our culture. It’s no wonder people have a hard time getting sober. Jokes about parenting with alcohol are everywhere. It’s celebrated. It’s considered normal to have a glass of wine during a playdate, or beers with your neighbor while the kids play in the yard. When you see everyone else doing it, it can be difficult to get through your day without imbibing.
But much of life is about perspective, isn’t it? Parenting in recovery can be challenging, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. In sobriety, you evolve into a better version of yourself. After a while, you’ll start to notice your parenting change for the better too.
Life Lessons I Learned From Being a Sober Parent
My son was very young when I quit drinking. I learned how to be a parent and how to be sober at the same time. I discovered so much about myself from parenting in recovery. And I’ve learned plenty of life lessons along the way. Here are a few that stand out to me the most:
- Notice the Little Moments
- Reflect Before Reacting
- Appreciate Bedtime
- Embrace your Inner Child
Notice The Little Moments
Mindfulness is one of my favorite benefits of sobriety. When I first quit drinking, I started to see little things around me that I hadn’t noticed before. I recognized how my body was feeling in different situations. For the first time in my adult life, I was present.
I try to be a mindful parent. It’s not easy. Removing alcohol from my life allowed that space in my mind to open up, but I can easily slip into filling it with other things. That’s where mindfulness comes in.
The key is to be aware of when your mind starts to wander. You have to make a conscious effort at this. Put your phone down, turn off the TV, and give your kids your full attention. Play with them. Have valuable conversations, and look them in the eyes when you talk to them.
It’s OK if you find this difficult. It might feel unnatural at first. Start small, and set a timer. Tell yourself that you’re going to be present with them for fifteen minutes. Small goals are easier to achieve and will be more rewarding. Add more time as you go, and soon you won’t have to think about it as much.
Reflect Before Reacting
I haven’t perfected this yet but I’m working on it. Remember, sobriety doesn’t fix everything all at once (or ever). But it does give you a strong foundation for getting to know your truest self.
Being sober removed a haze from my life. It allowed me to recognize my thoughts and feelings before acting on them. Now that my mind is clear, I notice when I’m getting overwhelmed. I remind myself to take a deep breath and try to think before reacting.
Reflection requires you to be aware of your feelings. Many of us have spent the majority of our adult lives drinking and never learned how to do this. If that’s you, know that you’re not alone. Therapy can provide support and guidance. Monument offers alcohol therapy plans, where you can connect with a therapist specialized in helping people change their drinking habits. They’ll help you figure out why you may be reacting a certain way, and teach you how to work through your feelings without drinking. This self-work is so important and will also benefit your parenting.
When I was drinking, I anticipated my child’s bedtime. Bedtime meant that I got to enjoy what felt like time off from my parenting responsibilities. If I was hungover, it meant that I would finally get the sleep that I needed. If I was drinking, I was able to keep drinking the way I wanted to.
Like most parents, sober or not, I still like when my child’s bedtime comes. The days can get long and I like that time-off feeling that comes with him falling asleep.
But now, I can fully appreciate bedtime.
Before he falls asleep, my son and I lay together and talk about our days. We’ve named these moments “snuggle-chats,” and if you want to steal that idea, it’s OK with me. After I leave his room, I get to enjoy some authentic me-time or time with my husband. I’m able to decompress, without the threat of a hangover. It’s part of my self-care.
Now that I don’t drink, I also appreciate my own bedtime. Sleep is a priority for me now. I make sure I get as much rest as I need. Without alcohol impacting my sleep, I actually fall asleep instead of passing out, and I’m getting more restorative sleep each night. This also allows me to be more present for my child.
Embrace Your Inner Child
As adults, we can lose sight of our carefree nature. Often we’re so busy with daily life that we miss things happening right in front of us.
Being a child comes with fewer responsibilities. They get to play and learn about the world. They’re allowed to make big mistakes because they don’t know any better.
As adults we are taught that we’re supposed to avoid mistakes. Life doesn’t feel as carefree anymore. There is so much pressure on us to know what’s right, that we can lose touch with our inner child and simple joys.
When I quit drinking, I started to learn about myself and figure out how I actually liked to spend my time. I had used alcohol for enjoyment for so long that I didn’t know what true joy looked like. Today, joy for me looks like spending quality time doing things that I love. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends as much as I enjoy my time alone. I like to write and work on creative projects, but I also like to lay on the couch and catch up on trashy reality TV. Since quitting drinking, I’ve found joy in doing much less and I’ve gained a new appreciation for the small things that make me feel most content.
Take a moment to think about how this relates to your life. Make a list of things you enjoy doing. Try adding carefree moments into your daily life. Drink some coffee and go all-in on playing with your kids. Play pretend and let your guard down. Have fun. Act like a kid again. This will benefit you and them.
To all you parents in recovery: I see you, I know it’s hard, but keep going. Do it for your kids and do it for yourself. And be kind to yourself, you’re doing the best you can.