Balancing Sobriety and Being a Single Parent

Staying sober is a lifelong commitment that can present obstacles every day. The challenges and blessings of being a parent aren’t unique to those with addictions, but the risk of relapse is always present, and parenting challenges can sometimes threaten sobriety. However, parenthood also brings many positives that can influence those struggling with addiction to stay sober or get sober.


Self-care is an important part of staying sober. Finding time for self-care is hard enough for new parents, but being a single parent can make it even more difficult. Setting aside time seems impossible, and even if you do find a way, you might feel guilty for leaving your baby to care for yourself.

Children disrupt our routines in a major way, which can throw an addict off his or her recovery plan. It’s hard to go to work and care for children, and all while making it to their soccer games and ensuring they don’t miss any piano lessons. Doing it as a single parent battling addiction is even harder. Many parents report difficulty in getting to mutual-help group meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), due to a lack of childcare. Parents tend to put their children first, leading an addict to avoid making time for a recovery program.

For mothers, hormones fluctuate majorly during pregnancy and immediately following childbirth, especially if she’s breastfeeding. These hormone fluctuations lead to difficulty in mood and energy level regulation, which can be a hurdle for sobriety. HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) is an acronym commonly used for possible triggers that lead to relapse. These four triggers are hard to avoid as a parent. Also, mental health issues can be exacerbated during parenthood.

The Balancing Act

Parenthood isn’t all bad though! Being a parent brings many joys and can promote sobriety and increase your motivation to get and stay sober.

“Taking care of a baby is the ultimate act of sharing and can increase our selflessness, thus decreasing selfish addictive behaviors,” says Psychology Today.

Spending time with your child teaches you mindfulness. You focus on enjoying being in the moment with them, and don’t worry about the past or future. Children can bring meaning to your life and fulfill you in a way that you didn’t know was possible. They can inspire you to plan for a healthy future, so you can be there for your child and set a good example for him or her.

There are ways to balance recovery and motherhood. First, ask for help from loved ones and friends. Being a parent doesn’t mean you have to be a superhero. It’s okay to need support; even people who aren’t recovering addicts or people who have a spouse need help sometimes. Most parents need a hand from time to time!

Creating a new daily routine will provide predictability and stability. Integrate self-care into your day when taking care of your child. When your child naps, don’t do the dishes. Instead, take a nap too. Sleep deprivation can lead to many mood-related issues. If you desperately need sleep, have a friend or family member watch your child so you can get some rest.

Also, eating regularly is imperative. Make time for something you enjoy at least once a week, such as exercising, reading a book, going to yoga, watching TV, etc. Ask someone to watch your child for a brief time so you can run to the grocery store and cook dinner, spend time reading a book, or exercise.

If you can’t find child care at all, find ways to combine self-care and child care. Put your child in a stroller and go for walk. There are yoga stretches that incorporate your baby. Consider a baby carrier so you can wear baby while you clean and cook. See if you can bring your baby to a mutual-help meeting if you are unable to get childcare.

You can also access recovery resources from home. Read recovery-related books, listen AA meetings online for free, or read blogs written by other parents recovering from addiction. There are many ways you can succeed at staying sober and being a parent. It won’t be easy, but with commitment and a plan, you can make it happen.

About the Author

Michelle Peterson has been in recovery for several years. She started to help eliminate the stigma placed on those who struggle with addiction.