The next two chapters of Rosemary O’Connor’s book, “A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery — Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Kids”, deal with very important topics for anyone in sobriety, but maybe more so for Moms than anyone else. Without good communication skills, our relationships with our kids can be severely damaged. And if we are overwrought, our kids pick up on that and are severely affected. Being a Mom ain’t easy, but it is so worth it.
One of the best things about 12 step programs is that we learn all the good and bad ways to communicate. I have often thought that the world would be a better place if everyone had a 12 step program. Communication is a vital part of working the steps. Before recovery, my communication skills were relegated to loud and raucous arguments or intense silence.
I didn’t understand that there could be a communication without confrontation. I’m not talking about idle chatter. I am talking about being able to confront someone without ending up in fisticuffs. If I felt wronged, I would tell anyone and everyone about my righteous indignation, but talking to the person with whom I was upset was an impossibility.
I would avoid having a conversation with anyone who did me wrong because I could not face the person and just have a discussion. I knew it would dissolve into an argument and so my best effort was to go completely silent around that person and just stew in my own juices. Resentment and righteous indignation are the surest way back to the bottle or the pill. And what does it teach my children if I am unable to have a reasonable conversation with someone without brawling?
Rosemary outlines some very valuable tools that we can use in having uncomfortable conversations. This will show our kids that it is possible to communicate with someone, even if you are coming from different positions. First, I do not have to try to control the situation. I can allow the other person to know that I value the relationship and do not want it to dissolve into ugliness.
Second, I do not award blame to the other person, nor do I claim to know how they feel about the situation. I merely state what was done and how it made me feel. Then I explain how I respond when I feel this way, keeping it about my reaction and not casting blame on the other person. Then I restate how important the relationship is to me.
I need to be prepared for several possibilities. One is that the other person will not be willing to participate in the conversation. I have no control over that. As they teach us in the eighth and ninth steps, all we can do is keep our side of the street clean.
We also need to be aware that the other person may feel a need to share one or more things we have done that have upset them as well. We need to be willing to hear what they have to say and be willing to consider that they may have merit.
A final note about communication. Trying to have a conversation when you are very angry is almost impossible. Maintaining clear thoughts and avoiding raised voices or righteous indignation are highly improbable. In those situations, consider what you would do with your kids if they were out of control. Moms always need to consider giving themselves a “time out”. Communication is so important. It is not always easy but it is very much worth it.
This of course takes me to the subject of worry. As Moms in recovery, we are championship worriers. We operate from a position of fear, afraid of everything and anything. Now that we are sober, we are afraid of things that we never thought much about when we were using. This is especially true where our kids are concerned.
The problem with worry is that it paralyzes us. We are like deer caught in headlights, frozen in place, accomplishing nothing. I have often heard the phrase, “Nothing changes if nothing changes,” in the rooms. In fact, if we allow ourselves to be stopped by worry and fear, we can’t take any steps to change our circumstances and allow ourselves to rise from the depths of despair.
One of our principal issues is known as “future tripping,” which amounts to worrying about things that haven’t happened yet and may never happen. And yet, we worry about those things. There is a difference between worrying about and preparing for an unwanted occurrence. If we spend all of our time worrying about it, we spend no time preparing for it.
This is very common when we worry about things that involve our children. We worry about getting them into the best schools, the best colleges, when they are still six years old. Part of the issue is that we hate to not be in control of everything and accepting that we can’t control everything makes us worry. I once had a sponsor who said that if you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, you are pissing on the present. So, let’s focus on the present.
So what tools does Rosemary recommend? First and foremost, create and maintain a God Box. I know many people think it is trite, but I will tell you that it was very symbolic for me. I found a shoe box and decorated it with felt and confetti sparkles. Whenever I was starting to worry intensely about something, I would write it on a piece of paper and put it in my God Box.
At the end of the day, it was my way of accepting that there is a Higher Power in this world and it is not me. I am not always in control and when I am not, I turn it over. Sometimes I take it back but if it starts to make me crazy again, I turn it over again.
The other important thing I learned was to put some credence in the slogan….let go and let God. If I found myself worrying about something, I would stop and ask myself if there is anything I can do to change the situation right now. If yes, I get busy doing it. If not, I let it go and turn it over to a power greater than myself.
If we want to be truly healthy for our kids and create a place of calm and support for our kids, we need to learn to communicate properly, both with them and with others. Additionally, we need to set a good example for our kids when it comes to worry and fear. Kids are sponges and as Moms we have to accept that they soak up everything they see us do. Let’s be the best examples we can be.
I will be away from the blog for the month of November as I focus my attention on my kids (and my soon to be new grand baby). It’s only because of sobriety that I am able to do this and I do it gratefully. I will see you all in December.