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Mom Off Meth

By: Betsey DeGree

I am trying not to live so hard. I have four children, two dogs, one husband, a tortoise and I'm a recovering addict/alcoholic. I am also the wife of an addict/alcoholic with PTSD. I am an unorganized perfectionist, who is being public with my struggle to save my own life, which in turn saves my family. I hope this helps. - Betsey 

You can learn more about Betsey at her website, Mom Off Meth.

Continuing the Cycle – of Recovery

(not rated)

Nov 06, 2014

With daughter: Betsey with her daughter before addiction hit.Being the mother of teens and tweens while in recovery is pretty much terrifying.  It is like waiting for a scary monster to come get you: you are sure it is coming, but you don’t know when.

I have four of them.  It’s especially frightening because I started my career as an alcoholic and addict pretty young.  Now, working as an alcohol and drug counselor and raising this kid-crew adds even more nervous fuel to my fear fire. 

Luckily for me, I was given the opportunity to face this fear when my first kid was fairly young.  I found out she was drinking, because we have always had an open line of communication.  When the words came out of her mouth that she liked to drink, I thought I was going to throw up, grab her and never let her out of my sight again

For awhile (and probably deep down, still) I was deeply disappointed with myself.  I blamed myself as a parent. I had screwed her up.  But the truth is, our children have their own journey.  And sure, I most likely added some serious issues to her pile of troubles, but it is her pile now. 

I could have made her stay home forever.  I could have never let her out of the house, and made her and the rest of our household miserable.  But I didn’t. I talked with her and her friends.  I talked to other parents (not always a wise choice if they aren’t touched by recovery, trust me). 

I worried a lot.  I reached out to my recovery community, talked to them, and took care of myself.  To some, it seemed selfish and maybe like terrible parenting, but I knew I couldn’t lock my kid in a dungeon.  Keeping myself well was key, and forcing recovery on a teenager rarely works.  It is a painful and scary process.

So, I did nothing really.  I kept the lines of communication open, and paid more attention to the little things.  I stopped giving her money. I waited for her to make the decision about whether she had a drinking problem.  No matter how young they are, it isn’t up to us.  Sure, we can intervene and send them to treatment.  But I was waiting to see if she would decide for herself. 

Which she did. She figured out that she couldn’t drink like her friends.  She couldn’t have a few drinks.  She blacked out, every time.  It started to scare her.  And thank goodness for that. 

Her drinking cost her some serious things.  She lost some friends, a bit of her reputation, and gained a lot of confusion and heartache.  Things I know all too well. 

To have her look at me with tears in her eyes, and say, “Mom, I just want to be able to go to a bonfire and have a few beers like everyone else, but I always take it too far,” was tough.

Oh sweetie, do I understand that.  And it breaks my heart. 

If, as a teenager, I would have realized that my relationship with chemicals was going to cause so much trouble in my life, I would have been devastated.  I wouldn’t have wanted to stop yet.  I mean, who isn’t devastated when they come to terms with the fact they are alcoholic?  It pisses off the part of our brain that tells us to drink.  And while in high school … well it is tough.

My daughter agreed to go to treatment. She was one of the youngest kids there.  It was hard for her, but she did it. She graduated, as a senior peer who people looked up to.  It did a lot for her confidence. 

When she was home, she was willing to go to meetings and find a sober community for herself. 

And there lies the problem.

There isn’t much of a youth recovery community where I live (and I am in Minnesota, a.k.a., Minnesober).  There are some sober schools left, although the waiting lists are long because there aren’t enough spaces. There aren’t teenage meetings, and there aren’t groups.

I looked high and low.  There are “young people’s meetings,” but they often have 20-somethings there, who look like grown adults to a 15-year-old.  I brought her to one of my meetings for awhile, but she needed to find sober friends her age.

With that, her desire to remain sober became more challenging. I wanted to be her best friend and help her, but lets face it, teenagers need other teenagers. And we as a sober community need to figure out how to help these kids.  

Raising teenagers is harder than I thought. It is harder than having toddlers by a long shot. I have three more to get through. I know marijuana is waiting at middle school, and I know who is doing it. It is a double-edged sword to have your kids tell you everything. Some stuff I feel like I don’t want to know, because it is too terrifying. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. My kids tell me everything (well, probably some of everything), and all I can do is set limits, be open and try not to freak out.

Our recovery journey isn’t over yet. We have a family who lives in recovery. If one of our loved ones falls off, we are a light that can show them how to get back on track, or let go with love.

That is the greatest gift I have been able to give as a sober mom: I can show my kids it is possible.

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