While being a parent can be the most rewarding aspect of your life, it can also be the most challenging. It is easy to turn to alcohol or other substances to relax and ease the stress that comes with raising children.
Along with the stress of taking care of your children, societal pressures to consume alcohol are everywhere you turn, including social settings, television, or social media platforms. There are parenting jokes circulating about needing wine to function or waiting for “wine-o-clock.” While funny for many people, it can create unnecessary pressure around your recovery, making parenting feel even more challenging.
Turning to alcohol or drugs as an escape or way to relax if the kids are being stressful is an easy quick fix in the moment, but the consequences can be dire for both you and your children in the long term.
It is vital to demonstrate positive and safe habits to your children and be coherent and present for them when they need you. There are many ways to enjoy and explore the journey of becoming a sober parent and the rewards that come with it.
Looking at Negatives to Inspire Positive Change
Research has found that parents who have issues with using alcohol risk raising children who will suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. Children with parents who abuse alcohol or narcotics are also four times more likely to misuse alcohol themselves in the future.
Not only does this directly impact your child, but drinking and using drugs also affects your own physical and mental health ranging from cardiovascular issues to depression. A recent study found that cutting out drinking can significantly improve mental wellbeing.
Wanting the best for your children is natural, and these difficult statistics illustrate the importance of raising a child as a sober parent.
Get the Support You Need
The transition from being dependent on alcohol or drugs can be difficult, and using different support methods can make the transition to sober life easier. Utilizing therapy is an excellent tool to help understand where your dependence on substances originated and provides ways to deal with triggers. Whether it is one-on-one therapy or in a group, it is helpful to have someone hold you accountable in a supportive environment.
Having the ability to speak with someone or a group about your fears, struggles, and questions gives a sense of hope and sustainability that you can carry into your personal life and share with friends or your partner.
While it may seem like parents around you are also drinking, try to find a friend or family member who is also sober to share your journey. Go on walks together, meet for coffee, or plan activities that do not involve alcohol.
Self-Care Without Substances
Self-care is crucial to positive parenting. Having a plan and finding ways to replace alcohol or drugs as a stress reliever is important so that you do not feel tempted to reach for it in a moment of anxiety after a potentially difficult day with your child.
Make a list of activities or things that bring you peace and calm. This could be a cup of relaxing tea in the evening to replace a glass of wine. Take a warm bath and read a book after your child is asleep. Try to find a moment of quiet to meditate before bed.
Use sports or physical activities to release stress and give yourself that time to be alone or share it with friends. Use methods such as art therapy to express yourself creatively. Pick out a new series to watch alone or with your partner that captivates and relaxes you, taking your mind off missing your evening drink.
There are many ways to unwind and soothe anxiety that have better long term effects. Look at this as getting creative with new pathways to becoming sober.
Lean into Being Present
Using substances can take away time and headspace that you could be using to spend with your family. Instead of using alcohol in the evening to “tune-out” after a stressful day, focus on being present with your child.
Though this might feel like the last thing you want to do if the day has been emotionally difficult, bonding and feeling the connection with them can relieve stress, and also help you manage challenging behaviors. Being available to help your child with their homework with a clear and present mind will be rewarding for both of you.
Make a scheduled time in the evening to be present with your child as well as your partner, where you focus all your attention on them for 30 minutes, an hour, or more. Use this time to hear about their day at school, what they struggled with, who their friends are, what made them laugh, or which class they enjoyed the most. This will give them a long-lasting feeling of being heard and connected to you.
If they do not feel like talking or are struggling emotionally, use this time to color with them or play a game. This can take both their mind and yours off the stress. Also, spend time reading them a bedtime story if they are still young and then enjoy the quietness when they have gone to sleep.
The Final Word
While it may feel like you are giving something up to become a sober parent, reframe it as something you gain. You sleep better, improve your physical and mental condition, have more time with your family, and set a good example for your child and those around you.
The step toward becoming a sober parent might seem big and unmanageable, but with the positive coping strategies, patience, and the right support from the team at Right Path Addiction Treatment Centers, it is not only possible but rewarding.
Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.