Susan Lemere understands that being both a Solo Mom and facing substance abuse can be extremely difficult
In my work as a therapist for people with substance abuse problems, I’ve talked with a lot of brave people. You have to be brave to face a substance abuse problem, which usually has already caused much damage and for which there is no easy solution.
Some of the bravest substance-abuse treatment clients I’ve ever known have been Solo Moms. They have all the same fears, obstacles, and challenges that every other substance abuse client has—and then some. For example, a client I’ll call Julia (not her real name, nor are any of the names that follow) was struggling with chronic sleep deprivation while trying to care for an infant son on her own, and she was using sleep medication too often.
“My doctor says, ‘Nap when the baby naps.’ But there is nobody to help me when the baby keeps me up night after night. And by the time my baby boy is sleeping, I am so stressed out I can’t sit down, let alone nap. If I didn’t take sleeping pills, I don’t think I’d even function.”
I’m a Solo Mom, too. I get it. There were times when my daughter was a baby when I was so sleep deprived, I almost fell asleep at the wheel driving to work. If I had found anything back then to help me with my chronic exhaustion, it would have become my new best friend. But what if my new best friend started causing me problems? How would I pull away from something that helped me make it through the day? And if I couldn’t, would I be able to ask for help?
Another client, whom I’ll call Lena, a Solo Mom of two kids aged 4 and 10, had this to say:
“I know my drinking is getting out of control, but what can I do? I can’t bring my kids to an AA meeting or a group therapy appointment. Besides, if their father ever found out, he’d use this in court to say I’m a bad mother. He’d try to take the kids away from me. I couldn’t live with that.”
For many Solo Moms who grapple with substance abuse, the barriers are not just logistical; they are emotional and psychological. Kate, Solo Mom of a 15-year-old daughter, described her overwhelming shame about her painkiller abuse:
“I look at my daughter sometimes and wonder if she can tell. I don’t think she can, but I wonder, and it worries me. I feel like, what kind of a mother am I? What kind of a role model? I tell myself I should be able to stop. I want to stop. But I try and try, and I just can’t.”
What gave these mothers the courage to start talking about their substance abuse problems, despite all the added pressures and concerns that come from being a Solo Mom? Often, it was their love for their children, along with the growing realization that they needed, and deserved, help and support.
If you are a Solo Mom worried about your use of alcohol or other drugs, you are not alone. Thousands of single mothers like you have begun their recovery from substance abuse. More and more communities are developing specialized programs to meet the needs of mothers who have substance-abuse problems, and websites, online self-help meetings, and books can be important resources, also.
But the best resource of all may be this: Solo Moms helping other Solo Moms. Because whatever difficulty you are facing, whatever obstacles are in your path, there’s another mother like you who knows the terrain.
So reach out. Do it because you matter. Do it because your kids matter. Do it because there’s a better life ahead for you.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Susan Lemere is a Solo Mom of two, as well as a therapist, a writer, and an artist coach.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.