Last week I had the amazing opportunity to attend the S.A.Lifeline Women’s Retreat. It was such a gift to be able to rub shoulders with 30 amazing women–each one of us courageously facing our difficulties with courage, a willing heart, and a growing number of tools.
As I returned home and Mother’s Day was quickly approaching, I asked some of the SAL women who inspire me to share how recovery has blessed them in their ability to be mothers.
Their responses knocked my socks off and blessed my life all week.
Mother’s Day is usually a triggering day for me. For whatever reason, it is just one of those days that carries the weight of unspoken expectations, and trauma usually comes bubbling up. I was so grateful for the strength, hope, and experience I had been given throughout the week by my SAL sisters.
Please add YOUR strength, hope, and experience. Our greatest strength in this community is one another’s honest and God-centered voices.
Question: How does working SAL recovery make you a better Mom?
A: One of the first things I learned when I started working recovery (12 step meetings, therapy, education, etc) was that feelings are not bad. It was a huge revelation to me. For years I had tried to ignore any negative feelings (eventually blowing up), because I thought I was a bad person for having negative feelings. I learned to look at my negative feelings and get curious with them.
I also learned from my therapist that the core of any addiction is an “inability to handle, in healthy way, one’s negative emotions.”
Putting those two thing together I committed to trying to teach my kids how to look at their feelings and get curious with them. When they would feel sad, angry, frustrated, etc. we would talk about it. I wasn’t perfect, but I dived in as often as I felt I could. Fast forward 9 years…my kids are able to identify what they are feeling (sometimes only after some quiet time), and make amends if needed. This truth changed the way I parented and I am so grateful!
A: I am grateful for recovery because I feel it’s one more tool that I have that helps me to calm down, and not freak out the way I used to. To let go of things/people that I can’t control…I can only control me. To take it a day at a time, to remember my worth, to see others’ worth, to keep God and Christ at my center….and that definitely helps me to be a better Mom!
A: Working recovery has helped heal what hurts. When the focus is not on the hurt, I am a more effective mother. I can love better, teach better, and soak up every special moment with my kids. I will be able to show them that hope and strength aren’t just things we talk about but they are attainable. And ultimately, that God is the foundation and source of every good virtue and His love can lift us all.
A: Since I was a little girl I had always dreamed of becoming a Mom. I had all these ideas and expectations of what that would be and feel like. It was going to be perfect and easy because all things would fall into place how they were supposed to be.
Then I got married, discovered my husband’s addiction and married life started off not how I imagined. A few years later still experiencing trauma (not knowing that’s what it was called), I had my first baby. There was so much joy from that experience, but I was still in a lot of trauma and I had no tools, so feeling joy seemed almost impossible most days. It wasn’t until seven and a half years after being married, 3 kids, and trauma was a huge part of my life that we both found a small light at the end of the tunnel.
Our recovery paths started. Working the 12 steps, having a sponsor and going to therapy helped me truly see how unmanageable my life really was. The hard truth of where I was as a mother and how I was treating my kids was not the easy perfect way I had always dreamed and imagined as a young girl. Finding joy in motherhood has been a huge part of my recovery journey. It’s been almost 5 years since starting my recovery path and I am starting to feel that love and joy towards my family that has been missing for so long. Recovery has taught me that God has perfect timing. Patience, hard work through working the 12 steps, surrendering, and practicing being present is what I need everyday to grow as a mother for my myself and my amazing 3 little humans I have been blessed with. Although this path has been tough I feel it has brought me closer to God and as I trust in Him He will continue to guide me.
A: I’m a young mother and right now my real stress is potty training! It is actually one of my daily surrenders. I have this idea of how it “should” look and the ideal time for it all to happen. Unfortunately–or maybe not so unfortunately–my little one is not potty trained. So, I am learning to let it all happen in God’s timing and place. After all, she was His daughter before she was mine, so why can’t He do it? He knows how to potty train her and He knows when it will take place. I can’t potty train, but He can, so I will let Him.
I think working recovery has helped me continue to learn over and over how to “let go and let God.” I have a crazy obsession with trying to control everything around me. This is really not the way for a life of serenity. So, as I continue to learn how to “let go and let God” I begin to see life in the eyes of a child–pure trust and enjoyment in each moment. I’m a better mother now than I ever was before because I can laugh with her in the seemingly ugly moments, relax in the undesired chaos, and smile through the pain.
I know God is good and He wants to give me good gifts, if I am willing to open my heart to receive them. Sometimes that gift is covered up with a lot of mud and sticks and gunk, and it takes time to uncover and receive it. I may even break a few nails or cut up my hands and that is painful, but when the gift in uncovered, all of the difficulty, pain and time was worth receiving the most desirable and beautiful gift that God has been wanting to give me. Receiving these good gifts are important to me because they help me be a better mother. Working these steps helps me let go of my old way of coping with things and opens up to me new and better ways to cope. Things like anger, impatience, and manipulation are left at the wayside and new ideas are opened up to me: patience, kindness, even silliness. New, whole ways to be a mother.
A: Last night, the gifts of recovery came and hit me hard. My daughter was sobbing because she felt that she had made her father angry. My husband and I were able to explain that our feelings are our own and we are in charge of them, not her. We told her we loved her no matter what and that she doesn’t have to fix us or be responsible for how we feel.
She then asked, “So I can surrender Dad’s feelings to God?” I was shocked at her response as I realized she had been learning from my example of living a life of surrendering to God. After she got an affirmed yes to her question, she fell into our arms and cried again. I asked her what she was feeling and she replied, “I truly believe you both love me unconditionally.”
A: The biggest way the 12 steps and recovery principles have affected my parenting is by providing me with personal serenity. The first few years that I parented I was not emotionally well. I was trying to be all the good things, juggle it all with newborns and toddlers attached to me, but no matter how I tried I just wasn’t enough. I felt like a bad mom and a bad person for not being able to figure it out. My husband’s sex addiction only deepened my feelings of personal failure. I started to feel like succeeding at life was impossible for me.
As I worked the steps, I learned how to let go of the shame and anger. I learned how to give my unmanageability to God. I learned how to healthily interact with my defects. For a time my husband’s addiction worsened, but my serenity increased. I am so grateful for the steps and recovery. My children had already suffered losing much of their father to addiction. They had mostly lost me too, to raging constant unmanageability. But because of recovery and the steps, I began to be capable of maintaining serenity, which meant I could be available to them. I still make all kinds of mistakes and lose my serenity all the time, but I know what to do to get it back. A healthy me is the greatest gift I can give to the people I love.
A: My “children” are 35 and 37. I wouldn’t have guessed how much my recovery would improve my relationship with my grown children. When I talk to them now I use principles that I have learned in recovery. Things like knowing when it’s time to surrender and when there is something that can be done about a problem. The skills I am gaining in recovery have helped me to hang in there with my kids when things are going rough between us because I now have the strength and confidence in myself that I’ve gained through recovery to calm and centered in my Heavenly Father rather than in panic mode when things are tough. Recovery is helping me in every relationship I have. Overall, when there are difficulties in relationships– my children or my husband or my sister or anyone– I look at it as a way to improve the relationship instead of looking at it in a despairing kind of way.
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