How striving for Mothering perfection can lead down the road to addiction to prescription drugs.
There are so many stories in the media today talking about the stressed out Mom. These articles explore and try to make sense of the female culture of “doing it all,” and looking good while doing it. Depending on the family structure and personal ambitions a woman can often be counted upon to work in and out of the home, full time. Managing infants and toddlers on an abbreviated sleep schedule, organizing work, home and school calendars, events, meetings, sports, holidays, and keeping the house clean, food in bellies and also don’t forget, women are required to devote time, love, and affection to their marriages.
Saying the phrase, “I need help” is often one that goes unsaid when you are a woman. This is because inside this request is a notion of defeat, an admission that she cannot do it on her own.
If a woman cannot turn to friends, family or her partner for help, or if she does and is not met with the help or understanding she needs, the result can be abnormally high levels of stress and unending feelings of anxiety. Blood pressure is high. Headaches are often. Colds, flu, stomach aches are a regular occurrence. Emotions run from anger, to depression, to embarrassment and ultimately a total feeling of failure.
It’s a miserable place to be.
So our Mom calls her trusted OBGYN – as most of us do. This doctor understands what it’s like to be female and is likely the doctor we see the most in a year because of required regular check-ups. This doctor prescribes her something to take the edge off.
It’s just a Valium. It’s just Xanax. You know what else it is? Highly addictive, like alcohol or heroin. And that instant feeling of relaxation and freedom from stress and pain is just what the doctor ordered, right? Wrong. Because Mom just treated the symptoms of stress – not the root of the problem. That means the stress never goes away.
And if the stress never goes away – neither does the Mother’s Little Alcohol Helper. All Mom wanted was some relief to her anxiety. All she wanted was to escape the stress. These things made her a grouchy, angry Mom. Not the Mother she dreamed she would be.
Now – she’s even further from the Mother she dreamed she would be.
She’s a drug addict.
What will people think? What will her family think? What kind of horrible Mother becomes a drug addict? She tries to get off the pills on her own to no avail. This makes her negativity and self-loathing spiral down faster and deeper than ever. More pills to stop the stress and pain. More sadness.
Does this sound like anyone you know? Maybe you are that Mom? I need you to know something.
You are not alone.
Many women keep their addictions to themselves until it’s too late. What may have begun as a stress reliever, is now a crutch that you can’t live without. The most difficult thing for you to do is to admit that there is a problem. Fear of judgment, the shame of lying to family and going to treatment can seem insurmountable and terrifying.
And I know the conversations you’re having in your head that are stopping you from getting treatment. If this is you, Mom, read on – I am going to assuage your fears and worries. And I am going to get you help.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions:
This has to be a secret. You’re not going to tell anyone are you?
I’m so glad that you called. It takes a lot of courage to reach out for help. I can tell you that anything you say to me will be kept in complete confidence. I am bound by the same law as a doctor. It’s called HIPPA. This means that your story and your pain stays between us. Also, ethically I would never break your confidence. Your trust and the relationship we are building means everything to me.
My husband doesn’t even know that I’m still taking the prescription. I told him that I stopped on my own, but I haven’t. I’ve been getting them from other people. I hate that I’ve been lying to him. What if he never trusts me again?
You didn’t mean to become addicted. It’s not like this was in the plan or that you’re doing it on purpose. Part of this disease is guilt and shame because it turned from a “want,” to a “need.” Hiding it further makes things worse and honestly, he probably already suspects something isn’t right with you.
Right now you are stepping up to the plate and doing something about it. That is a huge step and the beginning of the end. You need to understand that you are sick. Struggling with a disease. I’m sure that your husband wants you to get better. If he was sick with a disease, I know you would stop at nothing to get him the help that he needs.
We can work on a plan together about how you will tell him. If you need me to, I can call him. I do this all the time to help families heal.
Will he know that you’re checking with the insurance company? Will his work find out?
Absolutely not. Your insurance company is bound by HIPPA too.
When we call them, all we do is a verification of benefits, meaning that we ask the insurance company what kind of coverage you have. This helps us understand how they will support your treatment and helps us determine how to move you forward. Again, no one finds out anything. It is against the law to share any of that information.
I’m so afraid that everyone is going to judge me. What will people think?
You’re not alone. There are more women out there that are fighting this same battle than you can imagine. Addiction is a dark and lonely place to be and it’s normal to feel alone.
That’s why I’m talking with you now, to give you hope. You don’t have to tell anyone where you’re going. It’s none of their business. I often have Moms just tell the neighbors that they are going to help a sick relative or on an extended work trip.
Right now we need to focus on getting you better, not what other people might think.
I can’t go to treatment, I have children to take care of
What I’m about to say is something I bet you already know but are having trouble admitting to yourself.
Mom, if you are using drugs, you’re not taking care of your children. It doesn’t matter if you are waiting until they go to bed at night to take your pills. You’re still trying to manage this disease, and you’re not present. You’re not giving them your all.
Let me ask you this. What if your child finds you overdosed? What if you take one too many and get in the car? What if there is an emergency in the middle of the night and you’re too out of it to help?
Treatment means you can go back to being the mom you were before the addiction. Maybe even a better one with more coping skills. A happy Mom. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? To be happy again? It can happen.
If I go to treatment, who will take care of my children?
It makes sense that children are the biggest reason that Moms don’t want to get into treatment. Your love for your children knows no bounds and you would do anything for them. They rely on you for so much, don’t they? That’s why you need to get help. The longer you go without treating this disease, the less you will be doing anything for them. You won’t even be able to get out of bed let alone be someone they can rely on.
Your child is the reason that you get help. Your family is the reason you should get help.
Remember, you are struggling with a disease. If the disease happened to be cancer instead of addiction I know you would have a network of people who you could rely on for help if you had to stay in the hospital.
So let’s brainstorm and figure out how we can get your sweet children cared for so that you can get better. I will help you do this.
And finally, I want you to know something. You’re not a bad mom. From the bottom of my heart, I really mean that. Again, you didn’t mean for this to happen – if given a choice you wouldn’t be addicted – and if you could stop on your own you would have by now.
Know this – because you have chosen to get help, you’re one of the best Moms in the world.
Don’t be afraid to reach out, you never know how amazing it can be,