Mental Meanderings of a Recovering Parent
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Mental Meanderings of a Recovering Parent


Obsessive much? Who me? Yes! I used to be quite comfortable in my obsessive thought patterns until recovery taught me that it’s not normal; and while I thought this behavior was me being in control, the truth was in fact the total opposite.

Apparently I can’t now be left alone to swim in my own personal sea of interconnected obsessions, inventing “what if”s and “but”s and creating the most outrageous scenarios. I now have to share this stuff, according to the old timers. So today I am sharing with you my latest obsessive yet not unfounded mental meandering. And that is: Which one of my children is going to become the next active addict in the long succession of addicts in my family?

Lately it seems that every behavior trait they present is that of a potential addict. My son, for example: he’s 12 and generally finds life a bit baffling. He is a great kid, full of compassion and care, funny and polite but he doesn’t understand things like competition and why people, including his peers, need to beat each other down. He is ambitious and intelligent and knows what he wants in life but he has trouble socialising, is self conscious and feels like he doesn’t quite fit in. ALARM BELLS GOING OFF!  My gut turns summersaults because I relate to all of this ever so much. We have long conversations about his feelings and he comes to me with his worries and thoughts and I reassure him it’s all part of being human, that we all feel insecure at different times in our lives. I sit there trying to be strong but I know he is hurting and I want to protect him and shield him from all the pain. Do I attribute his feelings about himself to the fact that he is entering the teenage years of his life or are they the first signs of an addictive personality? Maybe I didn’t do enough as a mother to help him feel secure and happy. Maybe watching his mother and father destroy each other and seeing his mother drunk and unhappy has been too much for him to cope with. I want to fix it! I want to fix him! But is there in fact, anything wrong with my precious boy at all?

Then there is my daughter. She is the barefoot feral child I was at her age. Unlike me, she can make friends at the drop of a hat and loves to be involved in everything that’s going on. She is full of determination and won’t back down from any challenge or fight and I have seen her get into a scrap with an older boy who pissed her off and let’s just say she was not the one who ended up crying. Still, she is a huge people pleaser in some ways. She finds it difficult to deal with the fact that her Dad doesn’t live with us and I have noticed lately that approval is becoming quite important to her. Like her brother, she hates injustice and can’t understand why everyone just can’t get along. She hasn’t had the best example of how to have relationships with men because her mother is a complete disaster at that and is about as mature as a 16-year-old when it comes to affairs of the heart. Will that damage her chances of ever having a successful relationship when she gets older? She is only seven but isn’t that when girls are the most impressionable regarding the males around them and the relationships those males have with the females in their lives? Her relationship with her Dad is good, which is very reassuring, but what if my example has tarnished her idea of what a male-female relationship should be? Will it trigger active addiction in later life?

Sometimes I feel like they should be parenting me. I feel totally out of my depth on many occasions and the thought of them going through the hell of active addiction just makes me want to die. I understand and believe that addiction is not a choice and even though nothing could have stopped me being an addict, I want to prevent it for my kids so badly that sometimes it consumes me. I don’t want life to be difficult and heartbreaking like it was and still sometimes can be for me.

I know that all I can do is lead by example and be there for them at all times. Today I believe that my striving for a clean and sober life is the best example I can give them. I guess in my home I promote being fully human, with all its good and bad bits, so having intense feelings and talking about them is not alien to my children. They realized from very early on that there is no such thing as generic perfection and that being true to yourself and who you are is the most important thing in the world for personal survival. Be true to who you are, never doubt your inner voice, never let anyone make you doubt yourself, and I am always here for you and love you no matter what are the mantras they hear from me on an almost daily basis.

And yet regardless of all the positive stuff I try to plant in their impressionable minds and hearts, I still want to be better. I still feel I cannot do enough for them. I have major regrets about my choices in the past that have affected them massively and I believe that they deserve a far better mother than I can ever be. But I am their mother. I struggle with parenting in a massive way and am trying so hard to do the right thing but unfortunately I never know what the right thing is until it’s too late and I have already done the wrong thing. I believe that parenting for everyone is challenging and for me parenting and trying to keep myself clean and sober at the same time is, well, not easy. Fucking hell at times.

Of course the upside of  is that those moments of exquisite joy and pride in my offspring far outweigh the difficult times; for example, when my son’s friend’s mother called to tell me that my son is an absolute pleasure to have in her house and that I should be proud of myself for raising such a great kid, and when I see my daughter celebrate at her sports day, not because she won the race—nope, she came last—but she was the only one that didn’t drop that egg off the spoon so in her mind she was a winner.

Maybe, just maybe, I’m doing a better job than I realize?

A version of this post originally appeared on ILoveRecovery

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About Author

Nicola O’Hanlon is part of the blogging community for the recovery website You can see her blogs on She was born and still lives in Wexford, Ireland.