When I was using, the one thing I wanted less than getting sober was to have any children. It was a decision I had made in my active addiction, because I could barely take care of myself, let alone another person. It was hard for me to see any good in the world when things had gotten so hard, so bringing another life into the universe seemed not only selfish but nonsensical. Years later, I decided to sober up and shortly after that, found out I was pregnant with my first child.
Can I Do This?
I often asked myself this question, even after I had been sober. Then again, recovering addict or not, I think many future moms ask themselves this question. In a way, it almost felt as if my situation was different than "normal" moms to be. My head was constantly filling itself with questions. What if I relapsed? What if I can't do it? What if it was a mistake? The scariest part about it was the fact that I realized I only had nine months to convince myself I could do it. An essential part of accepting that I was going to be a wonderful parent was reminding myself that all new parents get scared and aren't sure if they can do it. We're scared to get sober but when we do, accomplishing everything else in life may not come easy, but we know it's possible.
What If I Relapse?
This may not be a silly question to some, but in a way, you have to tell yourself it is a silly question. We cannot go through life wondering if we are going to relapse, parent or not. All of the work you put into staying sober on a regular basis does not change once you have a child. Every day I am filled with moments of joy that are unexplainable. Of course sobriety never leaves my mind, but when I look into my daughter's eyes, some days, it seems like the hardships of my life was light years away. It may not actually be easier to remain free from drugs but knowing that I have such a wonderful miracle in my life certainly makes it seem that way.
Facing Harsh Realities
Some days the baby cries a lot and we don't know why, and other days she is covered in poop and it seems overwhelming, but those issues seem so miniscule when you are caught up inside your own head. The fear I continued to struggle with was the question of whether my daughter would face addiction head on as I did, or be well informed on how to take a different path. I wasn't sure if I would ever be comfortable letting her out of the house on her own, granted, she can't walk quite yet, but it was still something I dreaded, even before she was born. It finally took all of me to realize that it was something out of my control. I will love her all the same, keep her informed on how the choices we make can change our lives and let her make her own decisions. I cannot control her, let alone make any decisions for her—I can only try to teach her to take the best courses of action for her life.
Making Time for Yourself
Some days, let's face it, this just isn't possible. I mean it in the best way, of course. It's okay to have Dad or Grandma keep an eye on the little one for awhile and do whatever it is that keeps you zeroed in on your sobriety. Not only a meeting, the big book or meditation times, but even a relaxing bath or 30 minutes of yoga is equally stimulating and helpful to keeping yourself focused on your well being. Remember, your little one comes first but you can't very well take care of your little one without taking care of yourself. Your well being and health is on the same level of your sobriety, as they generally can go hand in hand.
Being a parent in recovery can be a scary, overwhelming and sometimes confusing thing all at once. I never thought doing either was possible, but now that I am doing both, I couldn't imagine my life any different. It is definitely a decision that one must make on a clear, sober mind, but don't doubt yourself— being a parent can be confusing regardless of how much confidence you have. As long as you take care of yourself and your little one, it can be a beautiful learning experience for both of you.
Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.