By Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC
As Women’s History month winds down and Mother’s Day is around the corner, this is a perfect time to focus on the specific needs of mothers struggling with substance use disorders. This is the first blog in a series for mothers who may be in active addiction or early recovery.
The past few years have led to unique challenges and stressors for parents. While some of these issues may have quieted, the significant increase in alcohol and substance use has not necessarily been resolved. Having a child(ren) adds layers to a parent’s life that can bring both joy and pressure. Some mothers are more comfortable talking about these challenges while others may feel shame around their personal struggles. These challenges and blessings of motherhood are not unique to those with substance use disorders, as other mothers experience them. The following list describes variable that may elevate the risk of relapse for mothers who are trying to get sober or are in early sobriety:
· It can be challenging to find time for self-care without the support of loved ones (ie, alone time, massage, exercise, nap, read)
· Mothers may experience “mommy guilt” for leaving their babies in order to take care of themselves
· Hormones are fluctuating during pregnancy and after, especially if a mother is breastfeeding. Therefore, mood and energy can be affected and difficult to regulate.
· The extreme change in routine with a baby can through off the recovery plan a mother may have had previously
· Many mothers report that it is difficult for them to get to mutual-help group meetings (ie, A.A., SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, She Recovers) due to a lack of childcare coverage
· HALTS (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Sick) is an acronym for possible triggers that lead to relapse. These 4 triggers are sometimes hard to avoid as a new mother and it is important to stay aware of how vulnerable they can leave you towards relapse.
· Mental health issues (ie, anxiety, depression) can be exacerbated during early motherhood for reasons that include: stopping psychotropic medications due to pregnancy, hormone fluctuations, sleep deprivation, postpartum mood issues, stress. For those women who used to drink to self-medicate mood issues in the past—this can be a difficult time to learn to cope without turning to alcohol
· Loss of freedom: drinking alcohol or using substances can be an escape and lead one to forget about their responsibilities for a short time. Parenting can become an “anchor” that can lead some to feel trapped and to romanticize “the good-ole carefree days” of drinking without responsibilities
· Many mothers put their child first and this can lead them to ignore recovery suggestions and to avoid taking the time to fit their recovery program into their new busy life
· Motherhood is constant and mothers may long for time to “check out”.
· Stay at home mothers in particular may feel socially isolated
· Marriages and partnership dynamics inevitably change after a baby enters the family, and there may be an increase in tension as a new equilibrium is formed
· Motherhood is the opposite of an active using lifestyle and feeling responsible for another human being can lead some mother’s to long for a time when they could be irresponsible and spontaneous
· Motherhood involves delayed gratification and patience in the process. For those who crave immediate gratification and rewards, they may look to other sources (ie, alcohol, food)
But don’t be discouraged—there are many protective positive factors that motherhood can add to one’s recovery or desire to get sober.
· Taking care of a baby is the ultimate act of sharing and can increase our selflessness—therefore, decreasing selfish addictive behaviors
· Being with a baby and young child is the ultimate “mindfulness” exercise of being in the moment—not worrying about the future or being sad about the past—just BEING.
· Being a mother may increase motivation to get and stay sober, so that you have something to offer your child
· Being in recovery can prevent feelings that parenting is “getting in the way” of your drinking life
· Motherhood brings new meaning to your life and can fulfill you in a way that you may have been searching for through substance
· Motherhood can inspire you to plan for a healthy future
· Mothers want to set good examples for their children, and being a mother in recovery is an admirable trait
The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) model is able to support mothers with Substance Use Disorders in their home environment. Many parents would not want to go away to treatment, and this treatment model allows for care to be provided in the home. It can be life changing to have trained professionals who can effectively support them in navigating life and parenting stressors in real time in a familiar environment.
The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) Institute is offering healthcare professionals an assessment based certificate that enables them to support individuals in the recovery process through this unique and innovative modality. It’s a great time for healthcare professionals to try something different! This certificate for IHAT providers is available in CT, MA, RI, NH, ME, VA, FL, IN and most recently in Kentucky.