I have been practicing the art of being present for 7,452 days. All of us begin that journey the moment we get sober. Of course, maybe like you, I didn’t know anything about being present or meditation or even that such a journey had begun.
But it did.
Before getting sober, life was about the future: When will I get my next fix? Or the past: Regret, blackouts, sadness, anger. It was never about the now. But once I stopped drinking, life became moment-to-moment, day-to-day. How can I get through this moment without drinking? And as I began to string moments into days and days into years, space opened up in my head and in my life for real and authentic living. I was living in the present.
Becoming a mom after getting sober
Mother’s Day 2019 is only my third Mother’s Day in my 46-year-old life. I started motherhood late because I promised myself that I would never bring a child into my insanity. First, I wanted to get sober and healthy.
But addiction is a funny thing. It sometimes morphs into something else in its fight for survival. For me, it began showing up as perfectionism. After my son’s birth, I never once thought about drinking; that compulsion has been long gone. What happened to me was more subtle. It was like an invisibility washed over me and I lost myself. Who I was before that precious child came out of me was lost among the sheets of sleepless nights, feedings, work-related stress, hormones, and my new post-pregnancy body.
Who I was before that precious child came out of me was lost among the sheets of sleepless nights, feedings, work-related stress, hormones, and my new post-pregnancy body.
At year two of his life, I knew that something needed to change. I felt my joy slipping away. Instead of playing with my son, I was constantly cleaning and straightening the house. Instead of laughing and running around with my kid, I was rehearsing my list of things to do after work and after he went to bed. I was exhausted and an emotional mess. But after so many years of sobriety, I had learned to listen; I had learned when I needed to recharge and when to get help. With my perfectionism in overdrive, I knew that it was time to make a change.
On meditating before baby… and after
Before my son’s birth, I meditated often. I loved learning to still my mind and my body. After I got pregnant, and as I learned to change and shift with my growing belly, sitting in silence seemed even more important; coming back to my breath seemed critical.
But after he was born, my meditation practice fell away. Those first years after a child is born, so many things fall away, because they have to. And that is okay. Your child needs you. And so you rise and love and cry and give them all that you can.
And at year two, I knew that in order to keep giving to my child, I had to come back to myself. It was time to fill my own oxygen tank. It was time to get my voice back. It was time to find my joy.
And at year two, I knew that in order to keep giving to my child, I had to come back to myself.
And I knew just where to start: I needed to remember presence.
What does that mean? What does it mean to be present with yourself and with your child and to live fully in the moment?
First, I had to stop defining my life in terms of diapers and “to do” lists. Once again, I was caught looking back over my shoulder at things past, or scanning the horizon, and worrying about the future of my child (or if my house was clean enough). And second, I needed self-care; I needed to carve out time for myself.
How I became a “present” mama
It all started with meditation and carving out dedicated time for myself. This is where I found the kind of self-care that is needed to not only survive but to thrive. When we are in the throes of addiction, there is never the present moment. But in recovery, we are given the gift of presence. And I knew by now how empowering being fully present with my child would be.
First, I started getting up early, before the sun came up. I love mornings — it’s a time when the house is still quiet and hushed, and the day still holds so much promise. I am refreshed as the birds greet me with their chorus of chirps as the sun rises and the day begins. I’ve never been a night person so, for me, early is what it takes. It might be different for you; but find the time that works, even if it’s 15 minutes in the middle of the day.
Self-care, meditation, and gratitude have given me the gift of presence; and I am one happy mama!
Next, I started meditating again. This is critical. This is where you will learn how to be fully present (with your child and in the rest of your life). Since at its most basic level, this is what meditation is all about: Learning to be fully present with your breath. Your mind will wander (that’s just what it does), but through meditation, you will learn to recognize the wandering and bring your mind back to your breathe more quickly. You will also learn to sit in stillness (even when every fiber of your being is screaming to get up and move).
Yes, life will still happen. Children will still have melt-downs. You will still feel tired. But here’s the difference; now, when I feel like I’m losing myself, I remember to breathe first. I give myself a moment, a real-life meditative moment to come back to my breath, back to myself. And in most cases, that out-of-control feeling lessens, and I’m able to regain my composure. I am able to respond instead from an empowered place of calmness and presence. And I am now also able to recognize more quickly when my mind wanders away from the present moment. I stop and breathe and come back to the now. What a joy!
Finally, I started a gratitude practice. I do this before I go to bed. Either write in a journal or make a list in your head. Begin with three things that you are grateful for and work your way up to ten. It can be anything: Sobriety, electricity, laughter, your blanket, a flower, your child. And as you practice gratitude consistently, you will begin to feel happier since you walk in the direction of your gaze.
Out of the blue, my husband recently commented about how much happier I seem. And you know what, he’s right! I am not perfect… I am a work in progress. How lovely. Self-care, meditation, and gratitude have given me the gift of presence; and I am one happy mama!
Go in peace. Go in presence. Find your voice and breathe!