It's tough for me to share this story with you, but if it helps just one person who is suffering from the shame of mental illness like me, I want you to know you are not alone.
When I was six years sober, I had been struggling for months to get out of bed most days.
I was exhausted and felt like I was walking around in cement army boots while sinking in quicksand. Even simple tasks seemed impossible. I felt alone and disconnected with the world.
The days grew darker and darker, and it became difficult to pretend I was okay. I only got out of bed because I was a single mom and needed to go to work to support my three small children.
I had no idea what was wrong with me.
I had many supportive people who loved me, but I didn't discuss this with anyone. My life on the outside was wonderful, and I felt like I had no reason to complain.
I went to doctors, therapists, and psychiatrist looking for help. Some looked at me and offered suggestions like, “eat more carrots and take...
Guilt: The gift that keeps on giving.
Guilt is the constant companion of the alcoholic or addict, maybe even more so for a mom. Every mother feels guilt about her parenting from time to time. That’s doubly true for women who have created drama and caused distress for their children by drinking or using—possibly inflicting psychological damage. Here’s one story from my past that still makes me cringe.
Due to my drinking, I was separated from my husband but was still living in my beautiful Northern California home with my three children, ages two, five, and eight. I was the top salesperson in my company and still getting promoted. I had the perfect job for a drunk, taking clients to lunch and dinner, with lots of drinks on the company dime. Things looked good on the outside but they were rotten within.
I promised myself I was only going out for two drinks. I told the eleven-year-old babysitter I’d be home in a couple of hours—no later...
Fear is the great enemy of intimacy. Fear makes us run away from each other or
cling to each other but does not create true intimacy.
Intimacy is one of the greatest human needs — those longing for someone to truly deeply know and accept us for who we truly are. We all have a primal human desire to connect with another person on a deep spiritual and emotional level, a yearning to be known and understood. We want to know we matter, that our presence on this planet has a purpose.
Before I got sober, I had the false expectation that this yearning for intimacy was fulfilled through having sex. As my friend Diane said, “We go to bed with a man, and the next morning he’s planning golf while we’re shopping for the wedding dress.”
Another fallacy I believed was that if I had a man in my life, it would mean I did matter; I would never feel afraid, lost, or unsettled. I knew nothing about healthy emotional closeness. I was afraid...
LOVE ADDICTION – A MOTHER REVEALS HER SHOCKING STORY
My fear of abandonment is exceeded only by my terror of intimacy.
Ethlie Ann Vare
When I got sober in 1999 – I put down the alcohol and picked up another addiction – Men!
I was a serial dater. I don’t know how many men I dated nor do I remember many of their names. I would spot a man, beeline to him, flirt up a storm, and if he gave me even the slightest bit of attention I was hooked. The shelf lives of these relationships were one to three months. One day I’d be saying, “I love you,” and the next day, out of the blue, I was saying goodbye. I was going from man to man with an empty, bottomless cup, begging for love and attention. It was never enough because I didn’t feel enough.
What makes me cringe the most is how my serial dating affected my children. They witnessed the revolving door. I’d spend hours on the phone with the man of the moment. My five-year-old...
An excerpt from my book “A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery” (Hazelden Publishing, 2015)
"When we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death—ourselves."— EDA LESHAN
Loneliness is one of the most difficult human emotions. It can feel like a hole in the bottom of your gut, or a deep, aching longing in the heart, or both. The addict runs from loneliness in many ways: through drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, bingeing, purging, overeating, gambling, busyness, and overworking. These quick fixes do the trick at first, but as with all addictive behaviors, the high or distraction quickly wears off, and we’re back to feeling lonely and isolated. We pick it up “just one more time”—the drug, the alcohol, the lover, the credit card, the carton of ice cream— and then we’re left with that deeper hole of self-loathing and demoralization.
(An excerpt from my book, A Sober Mom's Guide to Recovery (Hazelden 2015)
HAVE YOU EVER REACHED THE POINT OF COMPLETE EXHAUSTION?
Of course you have—you’re a woman. And as a mother you are an expert in the exhaustion department. Add to that being a mother trying to recover from addiction, and exhaustion becomes a way of life.
One day when I was newly sober and working full time, going through a divorce, and raising three kids, I was complaining to my therapist about how tired I was. He suggested I take a twenty-minute nap in the afternoon, between work and picking up the kids. I truly thought this man was from Mars: he might as well suggest I fly to the moon.
I rarely took time to go to the doctor because I always said I didn’t have enough time. I had been feeling ill for about two weeks but I had promised my boys I’d take them to the Giants game that night. I told myself I’d go to the doctor tomorrow; tonight...
Money Money Money
By Rosemary O’Connor
Edited excerpt from A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery (Hazelden 2015)
A woman’s best protection is a little money of her own.
— CLARE BOOTHE LCCE
Two of the most prominent relapse triggers I see with my clients are romance and finance. As addicts and alcoholics, most of us have money issues. Just as we learn to have healthy relationships with people, we also need to learn to have a healthy relationship with money. Most people would rather tell you their deepest, darkest secrets or about their sex life than tell you about their dysfunctional relationship with money.
My relationship with money was definitely dysfunctional! I went mindlessly shopping for clothes, shoes, cars; you name it. I often padded the grocery bill, and I even stole money from the kids’ piggy banks.
When I was about five years sober, I hit my bottom with money. I was $60,000 in debt, and I could hardly breathe. I was a single mom trying...
Recovering from an addiction is tough enough, but when you throw in the tremendous responsibilities of motherhood, resisting cravings and remaining abstinent—much less enjoying the rewards of the holidays—can seem like an impossible challenge.
The holidays can bring up many uncomfortable feelings of stress, loneliness, financial fear and overwhelm which can often trigger a relapse. For the alcoholic or addicted mom trying to get sober or stay sober, it’s vital we know what our triggers are and step-up our recovery plan to avoid a relapse. I heard someone once say, “we are either working on our recovery or working on a relapse.”
Once we know what our danger signs are, we can watch out for them. So when we identify the triggers, we can see them as highway signs that say Danger Ahead with flashing red lights.
For many, one of the most challenging places during the holidays can be at home. I once saw a bumper sticker which read, “Good news: The...
I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.
Penny, the people-pleaser will say, do, and be whoever you want her to be. She’s like a chameleon that takes on the color of whom she is with at the moment. Penny just wants you to love her, adore her, and give her credit for all her selfless devotion, all the while resenting who you have made her become. She avoids conflict and confrontation at any cost as to not upset anyone. Penny feels guilty for saying “no” when asked to do something for someone else.
On some rare occasions when she does say no, she over-apologizes and usually comes up with a long story about why she can’t. Penny has no idea what she likes or dislikes. Poor Penny watches what other people do and tries to mimic them. You mentioned you’ve always wanted a pool, next morning you’ll wake up to the sound of Penny operating a bulldozer, it’s only 6:00 a.m. and it’s...
Bells are ringing, chestnuts are roasting, and Santa’s on his way, and you smile to all passersby, saying “Happy holidays” when really you want to vomit up fruitcake.
The holidays can be so stressful. The shopping, traffic, lines at the stores, events at work and school can turn the Hallmark holiday into Hallmark hell. The feeling of loneliness can trigger the dis-ease if you sit home by yourself romanticize the holiday; thinking everyone is having the picture perfect holiday without you. And to top it off, there is alcohol everywhere you look.
I got sober November 13, 1999. I was separated from my then husband. Our children were two, five, and eight years old. Within the next six weeks, I had to face Thanksgiving, my daughter’s birthday, my son’s birthday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the new millennium! I prayed that the holidays would just be over with. "How the hell am I not going to drink through all of this?" I wondered. In the end, I did...
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