Sober Moms: Parenting is Scary, Really!
Fear was a huge obstacle for me before I got sober. Life was just too scary; I feared the past, I feared the future, and I especially feared getting sober. Everything about life scared me, and every bad event was a huge catastrophe. Then I got sober, and there was no covering it up with booze – I had to finally deal with my fears. In the beginning, the only thing that kept me somewhat stable was my strong belief that if I just remained sober I would get through the difficulties, and my life would eventually get better. And because I was willing to walk through fears, my life has gotten so much better.
But… back than I though that I would never again have to go through such an excruciatingly difficult experience as getting sober, but to my dismay, there has been others. I have now learned that this is just a part of life. With each experience I grow and get stronger. I also get better at bring myself into balance when I have fallen out of it, and I continuously practice maintaining my emotional sobriety so that I am not paralyzed by my fears.
Nevertheless, I have once again found myself stuck in fear and out of balance – I am struggling to process what is going on with my five-year old son. He is a bright and very affectionate young child who has some great difficulties socializing and dealing with everyday life. His behavior is quite challenging, and we have been trying to manage it for about a year now. We have tried numerous methods to help him, and nothing seems to work. We thought that maybe when he starts kindergarten he would be engaged and busy enough that it would keep him focused, but things actually got worse.
For the last several months, I have been getting at least 3-4 calls a week from the school concerning his behavior. It’s really painful to listen to the teacher describing the situations and his reactions. I also get calls from the principal of the school when my son’s behavior is above the manageable level for the teacher. In the last incident the principal called to tell me that he had punched a “little” boy in the stomach for no reason. The boy was taken to the nurse for evaluation and then sent home. His parents wanted to know my son’s name and were angry that nothing was being done to stop him. The principal said that my son seems to “have it out” for this particular child, and if he continues to hit him, he will be suspended. I felt horrible; embarrassed, guilty and confused. When I asked my son about this incident he explained that he punched the boy because the he touched his paper. That just doesn’t sound right. Is my child a bully? OMG! I didn’t even know what to say. I just have been so overwhelmed with worry.
Of course the school is constantly looking for answers and I don’t have any. We don’t hit him and no one abuses him, he has normal routines, and we use normal punishment practices like time out. He is not aggressive toward us or anyone in the household. Nothing traumatic has happened to him, or in his life. We have not moved, or acquired new pets, or drastically changed anything about our life in over 4 years.
I don’t have any answers.
He is now close to suspension and we had to meet with the school counselor, the assistant principal and his teacher to put a plan into motion that might help him, and help us with managing his impulsive hitting, his crying outburst, and the temper tantrums.
And I am scared. I am scared that I have not been a good parent. I am scared that I do not know how to help him. I am scared that I am just not equipped to deal with this. I am scared that he will have a difficult life. I am scared that there is something really wrong with him.
In my mommy gut instinct I know that there is something not quite right, but I don’t know what yet. I have researched the shit out of Google, and read every article about behavioral issues of 5-year-old boys. I have talked to several of my sober mom friends and I Have received huge amounts of advice, and amazing support, but no answers. I know that I have done, and continue to do the best I can as his mommy, yet I can’t help but take his struggles onto myself. I have internalized all of it while trying to figure out where did I go wrong! But I can’t figure out the past and there is not point in looking back there. I need to keep moving forward.
So, I am really trying to stay in the middle and be proactive with all of this, because I seem to be swaying from pretending that this is not happening, to wanting to pack up and run! I’ve been mentally exhausted by all of this, but I know that he needs me, and I need to continue to support him, and love him, and guide him.
Last week I took him to our pediatrician’s office to visit the practice therapist. We had a great session and my son was happy to talk to the doctor. I also had a great conversation with the therapist, but I did not get any answers. I did get some more helpful information, and a suggestion to take him to a family therapy practice. I felt better and optimistic. I felt like my son was going to be OK.
Coincidentally, this week I was asked to lead a meeting. It was the perfect timing, because it was the day before the big meeting with the school and I was horribly nervous. I shared about this experience with the group, and asked people to share their experience strength and hope, and how do they stay sober during the difficult times. And of course I got a huge amount of feedback. Here are a few of the much needed reminders:
- Take on one day at a time
- Go to more meetings
- Read recovery literature
- Stay connected with your sober network
- Do not sit in self-pity
- Do not project into the future
- Be proactive and not reactive
- Stay positive and grateful
I walked out of the meeting with renewed strength. I was reminded that being a sober parent today is really the greatest gift, and that only because I am sober, I am able to suit up and show up for life, and for all that it has to bring. It has been a huge challenge to stay balanced through all of this. I am still learning how to tolerate my intense emotions without acting out in dysfunctional ways. But the bottom line is that no matter what happens, and what difficult time I am going through, I know for sure, that if I don’t drink, it will all work out.
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