How Do You Help a Young Mother Struggling with Addiction?
Recovery is hard for everyone. However, some people face additional challenges on top of the ones we all face in recovery. Since Mother’s Day is this month, let’s think of the moms in our lives. Can you imagine what it must be like to battle addiction when you’re the mother of a young child?
When your daughter, sister, friend, or other loved one is navigating recovery as a young mom, she’s making two of the most difficult journeys a person can make—at the same time. She deserves all the help she can get. Babysitting is a no-brainer, so what else can you do to support a new mom in recovery?
This Mother’s Day, try out these three ways to help out a young mother recovering from addiction.
Understand the Unique Challenges She Faces
As we said, recovery is hard for everyone. However, everyone also faces their own challenges particular to their situation. To support them, you have to understand their circumstances and needs. So, the first step to helping a new mom in recovery is to appreciate the unique challenges she has to face.
Compounding Financial Hardships
New moms in recovery are especially vulnerable to financial hardship. Addictions are expensive, and treatment can be too. Bringing a child into the world and providing for it is even more expensive. Combine these factors, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to make ends meet.
This issue is compounded by the fact that many young mothers struggling with addiction don’t have the support of their child’s father. Left on her own support herself and her child (or children), a single mom in recovery may not be able to afford baby supplies, living expenses, and recovery treatment all at once.
She may have to take multiple jobs to make it work, if she can find them. In that case, she’ll have to pay a babysitter if she doesn’t have a family member to watch her kid(s), incurring even more expenses.
Inability to Attend Recovery Group Meetings
Between trying to stay afloat financially and doing the hard work of motherhood at home, it can be impossible for a new mom to find time for recovery group meetings and other treatments.
A young mom may need to rush home to feed and care for her kids between work and other things that need doing. She may not have time to go to multiple meetings per week, if she even has the gas money.
Sometimes, the only way she’d be able to make it happen is if she brings her child with her. When she does that, she may face stares from people around her while she’s nursing, or glares if the baby or toddler cries.
On the other hand, if she can’t make those meetings, insensitive recovery groups may say, “Well, if you were serious about your addiction you’d make time. You must not really want to stay sober.”
These factors can make regular participation in recovery groups alienating or impossible for new moms.
Attempts to Separate Her from Her Children
From the very beginning, the Department of Child Services will often target a mom dealing with addiction and monitor her to see whether her kids are well taken care of. If they decide they aren’t, her kids could be taken away.
The previous issues we’ve discussed only make this worse. Her compounding financial hardships provide evidence that she can’t support her child and give it a good life. Her inability to attend recovery meetings implies that she isn’t serious about her recovery and can’t be trusted to stay sober.
A new mom in recovery has to live with a constant fear: the fear that at any given time, if she slips up even once or doesn’t do everything right, she could lose access to her children. To avoid that, she has to run herself ragged doing everything she can to prove she even deserves to be a mom.
That fear could also make her scared to get treatment if her addiction gets bad again, because revealing that she relapsed could mean she loses her kids. This is yet another barrier between moms and treatment.
The “Wine Mom” Culture
Here in the US, there’s a certain “mom culture” that you see all the time in online communities and media. Lately, this culture has become dominated by the archetype of the “wine mom”. As a result, sober moms may feel unsafe or alienated in spaces and communities with other moms.
It’s most prevalent online. Moms these days use online spaces to participate in all sorts of communities where they can share their experiences of motherhood and commiserate with other moms.
However, you’ll often see these Facebook groups and message boards full of moms posting about “wine o’clock” and other such jokes. The prevalent view of moms now in the US is one that makes light of using a drinking habit to cope with motherhood—in fact, it almost treats it as a given.
Because of this, a new mom trying to work on her recovery may not feel safe or accepted in these spaces. As a result, she misses out on the resources, advice, and sense of community that they provide.
Recommend Recovery Resources that Cater to Moms
There are numerous recovery support groups out there for all sorts of people. Alateen for teenagers, Not One More for families, Refuge Recovery for people interested in a Buddhist approach, and more. So, what resources can you recommend to assist a sober mom with her unique needs?
Here’s a list of some organizations and resources to which you can refer a mom in recovery:
- Sober Mommies: This nonprofit organization provides moms in recovery with a “safe, understanding, all-encompassing, judgment-free platform” where they can get support, encouragement, and resources from other moms like them. They get access to an online community, peer support, and in-person mentorship where they can learn healthy coping skills, advocate for themselves, or ask for help.
- The Grace Project: This program’s main focus is to work with expecting mothers dealing with addiction and recovery. They help pay for healthcare, rent, utilities, gas, meals, baby supplies, and even parenting classes. It’s available through the Franciscan Health Foundation at locations in south suburban Chicago and Indiana.
- Fresh Start Recovery Center: This free residential addiction treatment program admits pregnant women and new mothers in Indiana dealing with opioid, heroin, and other drug addictions. Mothers and children are allowed to remain together while the mother receives treatment, and mothers working to regain custody of their children participate as well.
- American Addiction Centers: This organization has drug rehab centers in a handful of states across the US. Aware of the unique issues facing parents in recovery, these centers ensure that clients’ children are taken care of during treatment. They even involve them in family therapy sessions.
- Sober Mom’s Guide: This is the website of Rosemary O’Connor, author of A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery: Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Kids. The book itself is a great resource, but the site also features a webinar, ecourses, and more.
Assure Her that She’s a Good Mom
From the get-go, a mom who’s trying to overcome addiction faces constant criticism. As we’ve discussed, DCS will often try to prove that she’s unfit to be a mother and that her kids need to be protected from her.
At the same time, she’ll face the scorn of everyone around her who finds out she’s struggled with addiction during or after pregnancy—especially from other moms. “How could you do that to your child? How can you live with herself?” As if she doesn’t probably shoulder that guilt already.
These attacks on her motherhood can cripple her self-esteem and make her feel totally alone. It’s the sort of looming fear that could make relapse look like an escape.
This is why one of the most powerful ways you can help a new mom in recovery this Mother’s Day is to reassure her that she’s a good mom and a worthy person. Take some time to come up with thoughtful ways to tell her this. Write it out for her if you want, even list out the reasons she’s a good mom. Having it somewhere to look at might really help her, and could mean the world to her.
If you know a mom or anyone else struggling with drug addiction, call New Directions Addiction Recovery Services. We’ll do our best to refer you to the right places to get the help you need. Being a mom is hard enough—we want to make it a bit easier.