If you do not already have a child but you are thinking that having a baby is one of the things you “should” do in recovery to have a family and a “normal” life, think again. This is one of those decisions that sounds like a no-brainer, something that “everybody” does and has nothing to do with staying sober, but in actuality, it is a huge and life-changing decision that can have a significant impact on your recovery.
Raising children is not for everyone. No matter how many people have shared that having a baby “saved their life” in recovery, this is not a viable methodology for sustained sobriety. More people have been unable to stay sober despite having one or more kids and ultimately hurt themselves and their children.
Here are just a few reasons why choosing not to have kids may be the key to freedom in recovery that you are looking for.
Stress and the ability to avoid relapse in recovery are intricately connected. In fact, a large part of drug rehab and aftercare services focuses specifically on helping you to identify sources of stress and deal with them healthfully. Then, the goal is to keep your overall level of stress as low as possible.
Babies are stressful. Children are stressful. They almost constantly demand your attention, and just when you think you have a moment to yourself, they interrupt and ask for just one more thing or the same thing you’ve said “no” to 100 times. Or they spill something. Or they start climbing on something, touch something toxic, or otherwise make a choice that will threaten their life if you do not intervene. They require 24-hour supervision, and when you are in recovery, the weight of knowing that this little person is dependent on you to stay alive can be heavy indeed.
Everyone knows that kids are expensive. As much as diapers and childcare cost during the baby through preschool years, kids actually get more expensive every year. If you have a child, you can no longer justify crashing on couches, being around anyone who drinks heavily or uses drugs, or making choices that put your job at risk. In addition to staying sober, you have to make sure that you have enough money coming in at all times to ensure that your children have a roof over their heads in a safe neighborhood and, if roommates are a necessity, with sober people. You can’t live off ramen during rent week and expect them to do the same. Kids need stability, which means that, in recovery, you are tasked with creating stability, not just for yourself but for your child as well.
While it is true that pregnancy takes a toll on the body and on your emotions, it is the months and years after the baby comes home that are arguably more treacherous for your physical and mental health. Hormonal changes can last for the first couple years after giving birth, and for mothers and fathers alike, continually interrupted sleep can deeply harm the ability to think clearly, maintain priorities, manage emotion, and otherwise handle the stressors associated with building a new life in recovery. All of this can make it harder to stay sober while simultaneously creating more triggers for relapse.
4. Leaving the House
If you enjoy taking impromptu road trips in the middle of the night, taking long plane rides or car trips anywhere, or even just putting on your shoes and going for a walk with no destination – or a destination that is quiet like a movie theater, a library, or a museum – put those plans on hold. Babies and young children do not travel easily, and there is nothing spontaneous about bringing them anywhere unless you are willing to stop and buy diapers, clothes, food, and whatever else they need as they need it.
Do you want to go back to school and get a degree? Write a book about your experience in addiction? Become a substance abuse treatment counselor and give back to your community? It’s not impossible, but it will be harder and take longer if you have kids. With limited sleep and money, and one more distraction, it will certainly be more of a challenge to get where you want to be in sobriety.
Are you considering having kids in recovery? Have you taken the time to think it through, talk to your therapeutic team, and come up with a plan to make sure it doesn’t interfere with your recovery?