Hello fellow travelers and welcome to the next installment of my review of Rosemary O’Connor’s book dealing with multiple issues facing moms in recovery, with a focus on taking care of both yourself and your children.
This week my reading partner and I tackled two chapters. The first focused on the Love Relationship in recovery, especially in early recovery. The second chapter deals with a mother’s obsessive attempts to be Supermom, both before and during recovery.
The primary theme of both chapters is that relationships can be very dysfunctional if we don’t work at them all the time. The primary automatic negative thought from both chapters that we have told ourselves throughout our lives is that we are not enough. Time to stop both dysfunctional behaviors.
Rosemary begins her chapter on love relationships telling the story of relationships among people in early recovery. While there have been anecdotal instances of such relationships working, there is more than enough evidence to support our sponsors’ mantra to not get involved in a relationship for the first year of recovery.
It is difficult to give yourself fully to another person when you are still learning who you are. Like many of us, Rosemary heard her sponsor’s entreaty and proceeded to ignore it, thinking that it really didn’t apply to her. And so she proceeded to walk through numerous relationships in early recovery.
What this activity shows us is that when we do this, we are searching for some type of validity and security outside ourselves. Why do we do this? Because during our lives we have believed that we are not good enough. Whether that arose as a result of a dysfunctional home life as a child, actual mental, physical or sexual abuse, or insecurities that allowed us as adults to make long term commitments to relationships for which we should have been committed is of no consequence.
The point to recognize is that we need to take the time to find ourselves, and grow to love ourselves, before we try to commit to loving someone else. In fact, expecting a potential partner who is also in early recovery to be able to make such a commitment is equally unfair to both ourselves and these other tortured souls.
Many of us use relationships as a substitute addiction. We put down the alcohol or the needles and we pick up a partner. As I have mentioned before, how many times have we heard a woman’s lead in a meeting and at some point in her story she says, “And then I met this guy….” And we proceed to issue a unified “UGH” as we all know what is coming next.
Rosemary suggested that readers who find themselves searching for love in any place early in recovery consider the 40 question self-diagnosis to determine if you have become a sex and/or love addict. (The questionnaire can be found at the website for sex and love addicts anonymous https://slaafws.org.) Many of us used just such a questionnaire to determine if we were REALLY an alcoholic or addict. There is nothing different here.
The most dangerous aspect of this love addiction is the impact it can have on our children. For years they have had to take second priority to our drug of choice and have watched us try to juggle being a mom and an addict. This obsession with love is no less damaging for them. In fact, if we start to fall in love in early recovery, we are putting our children to second priority yet again…just the addiction has changed.
If we see ourselves slipping into this behavior, Rosemary suggests that we not date, flirt or even dress to feel sexy for a full year. For those younger women who can’t imagine not getting psychological hits or belts from the looks of other men or women, consider that there is more to you than how you look to other people. Use this year (only a year in an otherwise very long life) to focus on learning to love yourself, like yourself and be available for your children.
The second chapter is about being a Supermom.
Many may remember a commercial for Enjoli perfume from television years ago…”I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man…” How many of us grew up believing that we had to be the best at everything? Need to work in an executive position outside the home to be valuable. Need to keep a spotless house that would make Martha Stewart stop in her tracks. Cook and bake like an Iron Chef. Relate to our children with the skill of a Dr. Phil. And put a Playmate to shame in the bedroom.
Think for a minute. Have you EVER thought about a Playmate cooking a 5 course meal? Have you EVER thought of Martha Stewart in a thong under satin sheets? Have you ever thought about Dr. Phil scrubbing toilets? Have you ever thought of Bobby Flay relating to children? Of course not. None of these experts are good at EVERYTHING. Why on earth should we expect ourselves to be? Why on earth should we allow anyone else to set that goal for us? It is a recipe for disaster.
We have been fed a line of crap from mainstream media that this is what we should strive to attain. Bullpuckey!!! We need to set our priorities and focus on them. Especially in early recovery, there are days we feel blessed to get out of bed, get a coffee and shower and be able to speak clearly to our children when they return from school for the day. Even in later recovery, when we are again trying to be the best Mom we can be, we need to remember that sometimes it is more important to spend time cuddling with our kids than washing the dishes.
And sometimes our kids can be unruly and downright difficult. We wonder who these monsters are and what they did with our children. We may be exhausted from the rest of our day and have one nerve left….and the kids are getting on it.
Rosemary makes some great suggestions. First, it is alright to take a short Mommy “time out.” Get the kids settled watching a video or playing a video game. Close them in a room and close yourself in another room…for even just 15 minutes. It’s like an executive “power nap” and is very cathartic.
The other valuable suggestion Rosemary makes is to make a list of all the things that you want to do on a given day. Beside each one place a checkmark if the end of the world will occur if you don’t get to that item today. I am guessing that there are no checkmarks. Some days you just have to let it go and focus on what is REALLY important…your relationship with your kids.
Tell the kids that if they get their homework done, you will spend time watching their favorite TV show with them. Order pizza and use paper plates. Look how much time you have just created for your kids. Can you do this every day? Probably not, but if you do it periodically, it frees you from your list and gives your kids something they need more than anything else….your time.