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Tips for Detoxing Moms

Part of healthy recovery is reaching out to others in need, passing on the good word, so to speak. That’s why I, Sober Sam, became excited when I heard our next guest blogger was going to be the one and only Guinevere. Being a Sober Dad, I am moved by her compelling story. Guinevere is not a ‘graduate’ of Pat Moore Foundation, but I’m thinking if she was she would have experienced a Suboxone detox similar to my own.

Guinevere has a great blog, and offers some excellent tips!

Welcome Guinevere.

Thanks so much to Pat Moore Foundation for asking me to contribute to this blog. I’m happy to be here.

In thinking about a subject for this first post, I was remembering how long it took me to get up the courage to detox. This was partly because I was so ashamed to ask for help. I spent at least seven years on daily prescription painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin, and for a lot of that time I knew I had a problem. But I also had a young child—an active, noisy little boy—and I didn’t know what to do with him while I was detoxing and sick. I couldn’t imagine taking him to meetings.

What if he made a ruckus? What would everyone think of me??

These days, I’m highly aware of the mothers of young children I see in meetings. I figure that, for each one of these women, there are probably at least five more still out there who are afraid to bring their kids. And they can’t imagine how to detox from drugs with little kids to take care of. One of the miracles of recovery is this: When we ask for help, help comes. Detox and recovery are best done in community. Isolation and shame only help addiction thrive.

Inpatient, Outpatient, or Home Detox?

Because I was on such a high level of opiates, I wanted to do an inpatient detox plus a rehab program, but I didn’t want to spend that much time away from my young son. So I asked a doctor to medically manage my detox on an outpatient basis. Detoxing from opiates is medically safer than detoxing from alcohol or benzodiazepines, which can require medical oversight. For some, inpatient will be the best route; others will choose outpatient detox; and still others will be able to detox on their own at home. If you have questions about which option might be best for you, call Pat Moore Foundation’s hotline (888-426-6086), or check out this interview with one of the intake coordinators.

So here are some ideas I’ve put together for moms who want to detox and don’t know what to do with their kids. These tips come from my own experience and the experiences of others I’ve known who are sober. I hope they help you find your way.

Seven Tips for Detoxing Moms with Young Kids and No Child Care

Consider Step 1—whether you are powerless over drugs/alcohol. If “Yes,” then:

  1. Find three vibrant women’s 12-step meetings with babysitting. Try to do this before detoxing. (It’s OK to go to meetings before detoxing—it means you’re preparing to get sober.)
  2. If you can’t find meetings with babysitting, then take your kids to meetings. Women’s meetings, which usually include some moms, are generally tolerant of kids, and someone may be willing to hold or walk a restless baby.
  3. Get a sponsor right away. If you’re unsure about how to get a sponsor, try this: Raise your hand, say you’re a newcomer, that wants to get sober, and you want to begin the steps with someone who lives in the solution. Many meetings offer temporary sponsors.
  4. Ask for phone numbers of women who are sober and have kids your age, or an older kid who can babysit. Also ask the meeting’s babysitter if they can help. Tell these new friends that you’re getting ready to detox and would like some backup help with your kids while you’re detoxing. If you can’t find women who are able to offer help like this (I would, if a new mom came to me in such a way, but not every person can), then ask them if you could spend five minutes after the meeting brainstorming other suggestions about child care with them. They might know of others who can babysit. Sober moms are usually willing to go the extra mile to help other moms get sober.
  5. Find three women who would be willing to take phone calls from you at crisis moments. If you’re afraid of asking for these numbers—it’s OK to be afraid, but ask for them anyway! The way we get help is to ask.
  6. Before detox, stock your cupboards. Buy prepared foods and helpful nutritional supplements—Gatorade, protein bars, ibuprofen or aspirin, magnesium for muscle aches, etc. Also kid-food: mac-and-cheese, chicken nuggets, quesadillas, French fries. Stock the fridge and pantry.
  7. During detox, while your kids are on play-dates, do the following, especially during cravings: read the basic text of your program; call your sponsor; call your support contacts for morale boosts or rides to meetings. If you can, take a fast half-hour walk around the neighborhood to get your body moving again—this begins to restore the physical systems that were damaged by drugs and alcohol. Eat, pray, and love yourself.

Remember YOU ONLY HAVE TO DO THIS ONCE. Remember that once you get clean and sober, your kids will have a mom again who is open and present for them.

And you will have your ‘self’ again.

Begin to think about what you can contribute.  

As women with families, we have a great opportunity to help others. In detox, even while feeling small and weak, I got on my knees every morning and asked how I could help my family. One important way, I discovered, was just to help my son get ready for school: making his breakfast, packing his lunch, sitting with him at the breakfast table and talking.

These small goals can be helpful in teaching us we are not Superwomen—and aren’t supposed to be. I allowed extra time for my body to move more slowly than I wanted it to. It took me a while to ease up and have compassion for myself, but this was the beginning of my recovery.


//Bionote:// Guinevere is the pseudonym of a 46-year-old wife and mother who detoxed from a high level of prescription painkillers in November 2008. After a very short relapse 14 months later, she has been sober since January 3, 2010. A professional writer, she has published two books of nonfiction, as well as essays and journalism, and she has written about health issues for 15 years. She covers news, reviews, and stories about addiction and recovery at her high-ranking blog, Guinevere Gets Sober.