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Sober Parenting

Amy Cooper
| October 10, 2017

“I am a survivor.”

This phrase is used in many songs, positive quotes, term for illnesses. It often describes strength after struggles.

I was recently given a gold bracelet  from my youngest child with this inscription on the outside: “I AM A SURVIVOR”.

It is so dainty and simple and I was so shocked she got it for me. Well, not really shocked. She loves giving gifts. She recently brought her sister home a shirt with a dog on it that resembled Miller, my “grand-dog” that belongs to my oldest. She has a big heart and enjoys getting things for people. She also likes receiving. What young girl doesn’t?

I am grateful.

I am grateful because I believe this bracelet has huge significance in our relationship, as it is a turning point in our communication with one another. We shared a night a few weeks ago of just talking, crying and purging a lot of emotions such as anger, resentment, and frustration. It led to peace, love, joy and relief.

I will honestly tell you communication has been something I have really had to work on since I became sober.

I was “zero to 100” in a few seconds and aggressive with my conversations most of the time. I was always defensive, pissed off, miserable and all the other synonyms that go along with anger. Sometimes I would clam up and wouldn’t express what was bothering me, good or bad. During those times, I would have no expression and I would not even speak about what was going on. That led to isolation or extremely erratic behavior. I acted in all polar opposites when it came to communication and I had no clue what being assertive meant. I had two speeds: aggressive or passive.

In the beginning, I would go home newly sober and scared. I am also a parent to two daughters who were pretty angry with me. I used to remember praying about it and asking God to give me the strength not to throw in the towel, to listen actually hear what they had to say, and then NOT react, but respond to what I was hearing.

Parenting sober has been one of my biggest challenges. Why?

Well, honestly, I didn’t know how to really be a mom. I resented my mother for most of my life because I had this picture of what she was supposed to be. I guess I watched too many movies. I felt like I didn’t get the attention “I deserved” and the heck with the other siblings. Looking back, I see my character defect of selfishness began at a very young age.

My communication with my mom consisted of yelling and screaming most of my teen years before I moved out at the age of 18. I was mad because she was too strict– yet I didn’t give her a reason to trust me, so that vicious cycle continued for a while. I ran errands or went on needed shopping trips with my grandmother because she and I had that bond. I don’t remember a healthy bond with my mom, with the exception of helping her care for my younger brother and sister, or Saturday house cleaning, or yard work. I know we both liked to get sun and we laid out sometimes.

So as a mother myself, I only knew what I didn’t want to be like. So I thought, “This should be easy, right? Do everything the opposite, right?” Well, not exactly.

I have made my own mistakes. Over the past seven years, I have tried to make up for the times I screwed up the previous ten-plus years. This all stems from shame and guilt and me beating myself up regularly about having been a crappy mom.

As I am writing this now, I remember a time with my oldest (gosh, several times with my oldest) when I just didn’t fit the “June Cleaver” mold. It’s taken a while to earn the trust of both my daughters. It has taken a lot longer than I expected– but then again, I was not on the receiving end of my bull crap, they were. I was giving it, actually slinging it. If I could only go back…if I could turn back the clock. (If I continue on with this, I’ll be back wallowing in self-pity, so enough of this.)

So, where were we? Yes, communication.

The conversations I have shared recently with my youngest have been about some very intimate events in my life. My surviving childhood drama/trauma; my marriages and divorces (yes, plural); my education; my own goals; my fears; my desires and dreams for her and her beautiful sister.

I can’t stress enough how blessed and grateful I am for the gift of sobriety.

When I fall short of what is important, I can look down at this bracelet and know just for today, I am a survivor. I can also grab my two-heart necklace that I wear daily around my neck from my girls, and know I can do this.

I can and will survive. Sooner than later, I will thrive in this mission I am on to help others.

Life is a gift to open every day. It’s called “the present”. Sobriety is teaching me how to communicate, live life on life’s terms, have meaningful relationships, and so much more. All I have to do is keep coming back one day a time! Thank you for allowing me to share my life with y’all…

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