More than 7 million American women struggle with alcohol and drug abuse, and many of them are mothers. Eventually, some will seek recovery — for the sake of themselves and their children. However, going through rehab and raising kids at the same time is difficult — if not impossible — at least not without some outside support.
Whether that person in recovery is your mom, your mother-in-law, a fellow parent or the mother of your children, there are plenty of ways you can support them on their journey to a more fulfilling life.
1. Be a Good Listener
One of the best ways to support a mom in recovery is to listen when they speak. If they feel comfortable and safe enough to open up and share their struggles, be quiet and practice good listening skills. Pay attention to their words and validate their feelings, regardless of how you’d respond if you were in their shoes. Allowing them the space to vent will help them voice anxieties, confusion and disappointment that could otherwise cause them to relapse if they don’t release them.
2. Watch the Kids
Moms in recovery may struggle to keep appointments with doctors, therapists and lawyers because there’s no one available to watch their kids. Unfortunately, this can cause them to miss out on medication-assisted treatment and other necessary therapies, leaving them more prone to relapse.
Luckily, you can help them free up some time to attend appointments by offering to watch the kids. Babysit them for a few hours after school, schedule weekly playdates at your house, or take turns carpooling to save time and money and ensure your loved one gets the help they need.
3. Lend a Helping Hand
Lending a helping hand in terms of chores and yard work is another excellent way to support moms in recovery. After all, if they don’t have time to keep appointments, they probably don’t have much time for household chores, either.
Encourage recovering moms to invest in self-care and take some time for themselves by dropping off frozen meals, mowing their lawn once a week or shoveling their driveway whenever it snows. When all else fails, ask them directly how you can help shorten their to-do list and alleviate stress. Odds are they already have a few ideas in mind.
4. Offer Accountability
If your spouse or fellow parent is the one in recovery, offer to be their accountability partner. This arrangement only works if there is a mutual sense of respect and trust between you. Otherwise, they might be inclined to lie or withhold information about their struggle to stay sober.
Of course, they’ll be more apt to share their journey and choose you as an accountability partner if you’ve gone through the same struggle and overcame it. If you can’t provide that level of support, try pointing them to someone who can.
5. Recommend Resources
Recovery is an ongoing process, and many people continue to attend therapy and receive treatment for many years after becoming sober. Others need many of these resources early on in their journey to recovery. Thus, the mom in your life could use some recommendations, regardless of which recovery stage they’re in.
Offer to attend a group therapy session together or suggest uplifting communities they might enjoy being a part of. Religious organizations, nonprofits and volunteer groups are all great places to get involved and experience a sense of community, self-worth and belonging.
6. Provide Encouragement
Moms often feel like they should have everything put together 24/7, so unresolved shame is a significant issue for many women in recovery. Some think their addiction has made them terrible mothers. Others fear it has ruined their career or marriage. These women need encouragement more than anything else you could offer. Remind them they’re moving in the right direction, and change takes time. If they’re doing the best they can, then that is enough.
7. Be a Safe Place
In the U.S., wine moms are real and they are everywhere. These women are the current archetype of mom culture, which can make sober mothers feel unsafe, alone or ashamed whenever they’re around others.
If you’re a mom, too, choose to go against the grain and forego alcohol when you and your sober pal are together. Better yet, talk about ways you both can keep your sanity without the help of a little tipple. Maybe meditation has been working wonders for you or yoga is your new go-to when things get overwhelming. Sharing these coping strategies with your friend will remind her that not everyone is a wine mom, after all.
The Long Road to Recovery
The road to recovery is anything but easy, and many people falter along the way. Whenever a relapse occurs, it’s important to extend grace and keep offering support. If the cycle of abuse continues, supporting them can be a long, exhausting journey. Therefore, you must frequently check in with yourself and remember to put your health and well-being first. After all, you can’t adequately help others until you’re strong enough to do so.