by Jaclyn B.
I am a mother to a bright, beautiful 4-year-old girl. I wake up with her every morning, I get her dressed for school, feed her, teach her, love her, tuck her in at night, and do it all over again the next morning. The amount of gratitude it brings me is insurmountable, regardless of how challenging some days may be because I know it is a gift of recovery, and a privilege I nearly lost.
I think most mothers would like to believe that loving their children is enough to get and keep them sober. However, my experience has been that no amount of love is an adequate contender for alcoholism and drug addiction. This is a fact that used to bring shame and guilt and one that I find peace and direction in now.
Every good thing in my life is a byproduct of the work I put into my recovery, not the other way around. When my daughter was about 18 months old, I started going to less AA meetings and speaking to my sponsor and support network less. Meetings and sponsorship are two of the most important parts of my recovery, but I couldn’t see the significance in my behavior as I couldn’t imagine relapsing or doing anything that would put my daughter at risk. When I first got sober, I could see clearly that I was powerless over my addiction and it was calling the shots, not me. Somewhere along the line though, I lost my grasp on what it means to be truly powerless, just like any other person with any other disease is without the proper treatment to combat it. It didn’t take long for the fateful day to come. I found myself with the opportunity to drink, and I had no defense against it. It was as if my history with alcohol and drugs had been completely erased from my memory. I saw no threat, just the drink. I had no ability to see what was to come, even though anyone with a brief history of my addiction and two eyes could see the imminent danger I was in.
The last time I took a drink or a drug I looked at my daughter and knew I would lose her. I knew that no matter how much I loved her and how much it would hurt both of us, if I used, I would no longer be able to wake up with her, feed her, hold her or tuck her in at night. My heart broke because I also knew that I could not make any decision other than the one I made, which was to use. I was fortunate enough to go to residential treatment, but she did not live with me for almost a year after that.
The guilt and shame I carried with me was almost unbearable. I couldn’t believe that I was the kind of woman that would choose to use drugs in that final moment. I relived that moment a million times in my head. I loved her so much, why did I make that choice? I struggled to believe my decision was the result of active addiction, and not my character, but I continued to ask for help from other members of AA, go to meetings, worked the steps and showed up for my daughter, as a good mother would, regardless of how bad I felt. I held on to the painful memory of having no choice but to use knowing that my daughter would lose her mother. I shared my experience with other women that felt the shame that I once felt. When I didn’t feel like going to a meeting, I was reminded that my relapse didn’t start with that moment I chose drugs over being a mother, it started with decisions like not going to meetings when I didn’t feel like it. I began to treat every decision I made as if my life depended on it, because it does!
It has been three years since I took a drink or a drug. My daughter is now 4 and lives with me full time. She does not remember our time apart, and never doubts whether I love her or if her needs will be met. I continue to make decisions as if my life depends on it, and as a result I have the privilege of being a good mother.