Parenthood can often prove to be a barrier to getting necessary treatment for addiction. Many mothers in particular believe that it is out of the question for them to leave their families for months at a time in order to enter recovery. They feel an immovable responsibility to stay home and take care of their children, but at what cost?
MARR alumna Sharon M. learned at a young age to keep her feelings bottled up inside. Sexual trauma in her childhood began to create pain and wounds that only got deeper over many years, and she had no outlet for healing.
She got married, had two children, and became an extremely involved typical “soccer mom,” always there for her kids and doing everything she could to help her family thrive. In 2009, due to a medical complication, Sharon wasn’t allowed to drive for six months. All of a sudden, this supermom was spending most of her time alone at home, and wine became a crutch for a lack of purpose.
Then, in 2011, Sharon lost her sister, her grandmother, and her best friend all within a matter of months. As emotions continued to bottle up, she reached a tipping point, and she continued turning to alcohol to numb the pain and push the feelings deeper and deeper away.
When Sharon got a DUI, she was convinced that she could quit drinking. But as her buried emotions continued rising to the surface, the drinking quickly resumed. While her husband was on business trips, Sharon would binge drink and stay in bed for days at a time. As she became increasingly apathetic, her 17-year old daughter, Meghan, began to care for her younger brother, Mitchell.
Finally, her family arranged an intervention. Her daughter threatened to cut her out of her life. Her son told her how scared he was. Her husband threatened to file for divorce. Sharon was convinced that her family could not function without her, and she felt like treatment meant abandoning her family.
Eventually, she reluctantly agreed to come to MARR for the 90-day program. Although she completed the program, she refused to dig into the secrets and the wounds that had caused so much pain throughout her life. She graduated and returned home, and her husband thought that she had been “fixed.” But her refusal to face her true emotions was a hindrance to healing, and she soon relapsed and began another two-year struggle.
After a lot of hopelessness and hurt, Sharon felt an internal push and a will to enter treatment again with a new mindset. She got really honest, and, with the help of her counselors, finally confronted all of the painful emotions that had been buried for so long. But it came at a cost. She would miss half her son’s senior year, and she would be away from her family during the holidays. It was a sacrifice to be absent during such an important time, but ultimately, recovery has allowed her to be ever more present as a wife and mother.
This time, her family made efforts to support her treatment by going to family support groups and getting educated about the disease of addiction, and that changed everything. Addiction is a family disease, and the best way to approach it is together.
Countless women are faced with the same question as Sharon: What about my children? How can I go away to treatment and leave my family for 90 days? Will they survive without me? Will they be able to forgive me?
Sharon made the decision to face these fears and enter treatment at MARR a second time. Her family kept functioning, her husband found his own way of managing the household, and her relationship with her children is now better than ever because she was willing to do this for herself. What once felt selfish turned out to be the least selfish thing that Sharon could do for her family.
The distance that existed during active addiction was replaced with a healthier, more authentic family connection. This year, her children looked on with pride as she celebrated one year of sobriety, and she is now living a free and joyful life in recovery.
Beginning the process of recovery and being away from your children is not an easy choice to make, but it is a brave one. It may seem counterintuitive to motherly instincts, and it may produce a lot of fear. But the only way to become a truly healthy and thriving mother is to get the help and healing that you need and face addiction head on.