Substance abuse and parenting don’t mix. Nobody sets out to become a parent with an addiction, but cultural trends that normalize and even encourage alcohol use for stressed out moms and dads are giving addiction an insidious outlet from which to take hold. Recently there has been a pushback against playdate cocktails and “wine mom” culture by parents who understand the value of sobriety in fostering effective and compassionate parenting. If you are considering becoming sober, or think you may have an addiction, the love you have for your children can be one of the greatest motivators to seek professional help. Choosing to quit drinking has the potential to improve many aspects of your life, but you will certainly find that it transforms your ability to be there wholly and completely for your children. By understanding the ways in which sobriety will enhance your life and your parenting, you can begin to incorporate your parental goals into your recovery.
We help people with addictions and substance use disorders recover. Get mindfulness training and learn the 12 Steps for deeper healing.
The most obvious and immediate way being sober will turn you into a better parent is by allowing you to be present with your children in all the precious moments you would otherwise miss. Alcohol causes you to become self-absorbed and unaware of your surroundings. Even with the best of intentions, your children will notice when you begin to become intoxicated and mentally check out from your interactions with them. Being sober means that you can focus on your children as they tell you about their day, or play a game with them and actually remember the experience. The best part of being a parent is watching your child grow and creating memories that will last a lifetime, and being sober allows you to parent with mindfulness and intention.
Having More Energy
Parenting requires a lot of energy, from the moment your kids wake up until far past their bedtime as you pack lunches and prepare for another day. Nothing feels quite as lousy as attempting to be present for your children with a hangover, or trying to keep your energy up at sporting events and school functions while you are drowsy and sleep deprived. When you are deep in active addiction, it is common to only feel energized when you are drunk, and only be preoccupied with where and when you will find your next drink when you are sober. Being sober will give you the stamina you need to keep up with your children’s demanding schedule and enthusiasm for life. Your kids will notice your increased energy and alertness, and they are sure to thoroughly enjoy your newfound ability to keep up with them.
Keeping Your Children Safe
Being a good parent requires constant vigilance and attentiveness when it comes to your children’s safety. Unfortunately, alcohol use often leads to some form of child neglect, and in some cases, child endangerment. Parents under the influence have been known to lose track of their children in public places, not notice their child as they fall into a pool or walk into the street, and even drink and drive with their children in the car. One of the greatest gifts of sobriety you can give yourself and your children is the knowledge that they will be safe in your care, and never again will you have to feel the guilt and shame that comes from drinking when you should be caring for your child.
Setting an Example
For those of us who struggle with addiction, the thought of our children following in our footsteps can be one of our biggest fears. Children who are raised by addicted parents are far more likely to fall into addiction themselves, due to both genetic and environmental factors. Becoming sober will not only model for your children what a healthy lifestyle can look like, but will also set an example of perseverance and strength in the face of major obstacles. If your children are still young, they may not fully understand the implications of your sobriety, but as they grow they will surely come to admire your ability to pull yourself out of a difficult situation and thrive in a life of sobriety.
Building Healthy Relationships
Children learn through example, and that includes the relationships they witness between their caregivers. If you are in a relationship with your child’s other parent, becoming sober will improve that relationship exponentially by facilitating healthy communication and eliminating the many stressful consequences of addiction. If you aren’t in a co-parenting relationship, you will still have the opportunity to model healthy relationships with friends and family, and functional romantic relationships going forward, if you so choose. Living a sober lifestyle takes the toxicity of alcohol out of all your relationship choices, and gives your children a shot at creating healthy relationships themselves.