Today’s article is re-posted from the I Love Recovery Cafe blog. Author Jackie S. discusses the book, A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery: Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Kids, by Rosemary O’Connor. You may read the original post here.
In gratitude, harmony and support,
A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery: Exhaustion and Loneliness
by Jackie S.
Exhaustion is a state of being that most moms understand all too well, even if they are not dealing with addiction or recovery therefrom. We have been conditioned to believe that we need to be able to be and do everything…work, raise children, keep a neat and tidy house, be involved in the children’s schoolwork and extracurricular activities and be a seductress in the bedroom. Wonder Woman incarnate. We get tired just thinking about it. Exhaustion affects us physically, mentally and emotionally. And we always seem to put ourselves last.
Rosemary O’Connor tells of one delightful story where she neglected her own health for so long, taking care of everyone else first, that her kidneys almost shut down. That episode woke her to the reality that she needed to make a change. She recalled the directions offered by airline flight attendants when facing an emergency: always put your mask on first before helping others around you.
Loneliness is also identified by O’Connor as an emotional state that affects the mind, body and soul. After giving up our addictions, we feel empty and we seek to fill that emptiness with other people because we don’t have any trust in ourselves. We can be lonely in a room full of people, but when we are physically alone, we become frightened. Rosemary described it as being chilling.
In recovery, we are facing all sorts of fears and the fear of the unknown is paramount. When we find out that one unknown is ourselves, our fear escalates. But as usual, when we face the boogey man, his power is reduced. Just as with pain, fear shared is fear reduced.
When thinking about my own story of recovery, it became clear that these two topics were connected. Not only was I an alcoholic and prescription drug addict, but I also was a workaholic. I didn’t want to be alone with me, so I had to keep myself preoccupied. I often stayed late at work and came home to help with homework and put the kids to bed. (Their father gave them dinner that I had prepared the night before.)
While preparing lunches and dinner for the next day, I would take a little something to take the edge off. Once my “chores” were done, and my then-husband had gone to bed for the night, I would retire to the basement steps with my bottle of wine and drink until I passed out. Then I would come to and go up to my bed. This was both a state of exhaustion and loneliness. I had to stay busy to keep from feeling my feelings.
Once the recovery process began, I started to see the exhaustion but felt helpless to do anything differently. Likewise, when I started to feel lonely even in the company of others, I wanted to be alone but I was terrified. In all my life I had been somebody’s daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife or mother. I had never been just me. I had never lived on my own. I didn’t know what I liked or didn’t like because my desires were never important. I didn’t even know my favorite color.
Rosemary gives us many tools to help with both the issues of exhaustion and loneliness, many of which I have used in recovery and can highly recommend. First, she suggests that we learn that the word “No” is a complete sentence. We don’t have to do everything for everyone. Unless our children are very young, they can start to do things to help us.
Rosemary uses the phrase “That’s not in my job description.” My two favorites are “That is outside my hula hoop” and “Not my circus…not my monkeys.” You get the idea. She also recommends naps. I know that sounds bizarre to many but I can verify that a “power nap” in the middle of the afternoon works wonders. It can truly change the way you interact with others, especially your kids.
Another of the tools Rosemary suggests is learning to be peaceful in being alone. That can start with something as simple as some deep breathing exercises and short periods of meditation. But for those who have trouble being alone with their thoughts, we share another suggestion….go for a drive…with no destination…by yourself. Crank up the stereo with your favorite music and jam. I listen to my favorite acappella band, Home Free. I open the windows, turn up the music and sing at the top of my lungs.
Yes, I know that people can see me and no, I don’t give a damn. It took a while to get to that point but it is the most freeing thing I ever did. Now, with my kids older and more self-reliant, I take myself places. I have been known to go to the movies or a concert by myself. I smile when a restaurant hostess looks puzzled and says “Just one?” I am purchasing a cottage and go there often on weekends…sometimes with my son but most often by myself…and I LOVE IT. I am learning to be my own best friend and that is the greatest gift recovery has given me.