ESME spoke to renowned substance-abuse expert Dr. Jeffrey Foote
For the Solo Mom who is looking at the possibility of inpatient detox for substance abuse, it is first necessary to congratulate yourself for taking this courageous step. To take such fearless self-inventory even as one raises children alone is a step few among us would have the courage to take.
Whether admission for substance abuse was prompted by a crisis, was suggested by concerned family members, or initiated by you—these efforts should be seen as nothing less than heroic and honored throughout as such.
For Solo Moms who are seeking inpatient detox, making plans for the care of your child(ren) is clearly the most pressing issue. This article addresses two components in preparing to enter detox. The first is laying the groundwork with a support community, especially as this relates to your child(ren)’s care. The second concerns some of the practical aspects of admission.
If you are a Solo Mom seeking treatment, begin at a point of self-compassion and positivity. Rather than seeing your substance abuse as a weakness, try to see your willingness to address it as a strength. Begin to scaffold, build, and guard this truth. The step that you have taken will have a long-term positive impact both for you and for your child(ren). Consider that, in seeking help, you are modeling behavior that your child(ren) can grow to admire and emulate in any number of ways and circumstances. This is a gift.
When considering who should care for your child(ren), you can and should retain as much autonomy about decision making as possible. It is critical that as the Solo Mom you feel comfortable that your own narrative is being respected by your child(ren)’s caregivers in your absence. You must not be undermined here. If a friend feels more supportive to you than a mother-in-law, ask your friend to take your child(ren). Put your needs and comfort first.
A Solo Mom may feel devastated at the prospect of an absence and a flawed self-perception of “weakness.” It is understandable that you feel that way. You are laboring under the burden of societal stigma regarding substance abuse in general and the particular scarlet letter of shame governing maternal addiction.
This toxic brew makes you vulnerable to self-doubt. As you prepare to enter detox, those who are on your side will help you to remember your own truth—that you are a courageous mom, and a Solo Mom, to boot. You are rewriting your story without a safety net. Those who wish to help you write your own story will do so in positive terms. The more empowered a Solo Mom feels in these vulnerable circumstances, the greater the possibility of long-term psychological health.
Those who are helping you will remember that your voice is—and should remain—the guiding voice concerning what is right for your own kids. Your addiction does not compromise your role as a mother who knows and loves her children.
To be trusted even as one struggles is a gift—the importance of which is difficult to fully convey.
ESME spoke to Dr. Jeffrey Foote, a psychologist with extensive experience in substance-abuse counseling. Foote is the cofounder and executive director of the Center for Motivation & Change in New York City. He advises these Solo Moms to be gentle with themselves. He urges that Solo Moms talk to their kids in a way they know will best help their children. Depending on the ages of the children, they may not be ready to accept complete and total honesty. Less than total honesty can be enough for kids who may just want to know that their mother is going to be OK and is coming back, and keeping it simple is often best.
Foote explained that the length of an inpatient stay will depend on the substance in question and to be aware of the following:
You will be searched when you check in. When checking in to an inpatient situation, know that you will be searched for contraband. Anything found will be confiscated.
Different facilities have different rules about smoking cigarettes. If you smoke and are not planning to quit as one aspect of the detox, ask about a clinic policy. If you smoke and you are uncertain as to whether you wish to commit to quitting during this stay, consider leaving yourself an option. Things can be accomplished one at at a time. If you don’t smoke cigarettes, those who do will smoke in a designated area.
Expect to have your cell phone confiscated. Your cell phone will be taken. Generally speaking, patients are not allowed to make calls from a nursing station. Pay phones are available for patient use, and patients are permitted to call home. This may be a great comfort to a Solo Mom: she does have access to her child(ren) via phone. It is highly advisable that people entering treatment do so with a calling card. A calling card should have unlimited minutes so that the Solo Mom feels empowered to call family members and/or friends for support.
Consider use of medication. Depending on the substance the Solo Mom is being treated for, certain drugs that can help mitigate the uncomfortable physical effects of withdrawal may be offered. Again, the use of these drugs will depend on the treatment facility. This is something to weigh and consider in choosing a facility that feels like a fit. Make sure to ask as many questions as you wish.
If you are struggling with addiction, at ESME you will find a confidential community of Sisters who understand. Join today to be matched with other Solo Moms with similar struggles and interests.
Tara Shafer is the cofounder of Reconceiving Loss, an online resource center for families coping with pregnancy and infant loss. She is a contributing blogger to the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and BabyCenter. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. You can follow her on Twitter at @reconceivinglos.
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