Self-Care for the Sober Woman

Today we have a guest post from entrepreneur Amanda Fales.

Take it away Amanda…

Parents know — of all life’s achievements –nothing is as rewarding and fulfilling as raising children. Nothing provides such joy and happy memories as time with the kids. But it’s also incomparably challenging.  One minute your little one is cuddling you like a soft and fuzzy koala, saying, “I love you, Mommy” as he gazes into your eyes. And the next? He is attempting to pull knives out of the silverware drawer or dump veggie straws all over the floor.  These moments are inevitable and at times out of our control. Sometimes I can take these moments in stride, with patience and tolerance; a behavior correction made with love and understanding. Other times, I find myself unable to control my fear and anger and I react in ways I’m not proud of, with an angry countenance and unkind words.

Why is my reaction so unpredictable? It depends on many factors. But primarily I find that my practice of self-care has a lot to do with how well I can handle life.

What does self-care look like?

It takes many forms. But for many people, it includes a drink at the end of the day.  Nowadays, some may even choose to medicate with marijuana or prescription pills to unwind after bedtime. Mommies and wine seem to go hand in hand, at least that’s what social media will have me believe. “Mommy Needs Vodka” was the first page that came up when I typed the word “Mommy” into my Facebook search bar.

For most people, this is perfectly fine. For me, though; I am an alcoholic — sober for over 8 years and counting. This means not only that I must find other means to cope, but also that self-care becomes that much more essential so that I can maintain my sobriety.

What my life looks like before and after I got sober is a long story (but a good story) for another day.  Like you, my life is full and busy trying to balance all the things a parent has to do — family, exercise, keep the house, and maintain a social life.  Sometimes I feel I am “too busy” to practice self-care, but this is a paradox because if I do not MAKE the time for self-care, I begin to struggle in all aspects of my life. I experienced that first hand when my first son Noel was born.

I became a Mama on July 29, 2015. I had begun slacking in self-care with respect to my recovery and sobriety in the few months prior; I was just “too busy and too tired.”  This lack of self care manifested into overwhelming fear and anxiety that did not begin to subside until Noel was about 3 months old. I was angry, tired, irritable, overwhelmed, full of self-pity, resentful, and had a mind full of worry that just wouldn’t quit.  It’s funny — I was working full time in child protective services then, and I always said to myself, if I had more free time I would make self-care a priority. Fast forward to present day, I have taken the past 18 months off from work to be home with my family, and I still fail at times to make self-care a priority. Point being, if something is important to us, we will make is a priority regardless of time constraints.

Self-care is critical to my success as a mother, as a person in long term recovery, and in my future career as a substance abuse counselor. In fact, it’s critical to my success in all my relationships. If I don’t take care of myself, I cannot be useful to anyone else.  It starts with a personal inventory of body, mind, and spirit. Where am I at right now? How do I feel? How am I acting? How are my thoughts — positive or negative? Starting with the body I have to make sure that I am eating and sleeping properly and exercising as often as I can. If I don’t get a good night’s sleep and nourish my body with nutritional food, there is little hope for anything else going right. It’s such an important foundation of self care, and not taking care of ourselves physically can lead to so many more problems presently and also down the road.  I take care of my mind by reading a book, listening to or reading the news (quality news; not the local report) and trying to exercise my brain with puzzles or games. Most importantly for me, though, is self-care of the spirit.

Spiritual growth is the underlying principle of the 12 step fellowship to which I belong. It is vital to my continued sobriety and I have found that it enriches every other aspect of my life as well. For me it starts with regular attendance at 12 step meetings, trying to be in service always to my fellow man and especially woman, and above all, prayer and meditation. I was told that prayer is talking to God (or whatever you believe in, or don’t believe in) and meditation is listening.  Prayer for me is not too serious or ritualized. It is, however, an acknowledgement that there is a spirit in the universe that’s running the show, and it’s not me in control. Letting go of that control is very liberating and relaxing for me. I am only responsible for my own actions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Curious, but not sure where to start for yourself? I recommend looking up St Francis’ Prayer.

I know that busy women struggle with the idea of meditation. I know, because I’m one of them. I wrote it off because I believed I’d never be able to do it.  In fact, it’s busy, type A people like me that need meditation the most. I thought meditation meant sitting in a quiet room, for 30 minutes or more, with a totally silent mind and no distractions. It was taught to me recently that thankfully, I was wrong.  

Typically, meditation for me looks like a 5 minute YouTube guided meditation (I just search for 5 minute mediation and try what comes up). Usually there is outside noise, and always my mind wanders. This is OK, and to be expected. I try to gently guide myself back to the listening. It doesn’t matter what meditation looks like or how well I do it. It just matters that I do it. I challenge you to meditate each morning, only 5 minutes, for 7 days straight. Keep a journal of how you feel, think, and act on those days. I would be so surprised if you didn’t notice a change by the end of the week. Prayer and meditation are a requirement for me to cope with life as a sober alcoholic. It may not be a requirement for you, but I bet you’ll find it helpful.

I spend a lot of time talking with other moms, in sobriety or not, to have conversations like this. By reaching out to hear how others are doing, it takes my mind off of my troubles, either real or fancied. Our kids play and we chat about what’s going on and how we’re feeling — it’s comforting to know we aren’t alone in our struggles. We all seem to be going through the same feelings — the mom guilt, the exhaustion, the feeling that we’ve lost a piece of ourselves.  Those parts of being a mom are very sad, and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean we are ungrateful for our blessings. We are allowed to feel both. I cannot stress enough how beneficial it is for mind and spirit to talk about how we feel! 

Cliche, but true: “A burden shared is cut in half; a joy shared is doubled.”

Full disclosure? I wrote this essay in the nooks and crannies of a couple bad spiritual days. I’ve been irritable and self-centered. I do not believe this makes me a hypocrite. I believe this makes me human. Imperfect. I know what works for me, and I do my best to practice what I preach, and most days I do. But some days I do not. And that is OK — I give myself permission to be human.  I give myself permission to let these bad days go and try to be better tomorrow.



  • Dr Katie Elder

    Amanda—-I LOVE your vulnerability and willingness to be transparent with others. I believe that real-ness is how we truly connect to help others. A HUGE thank you for taking the time to share.

  • J. K.

    What a thoughtfully composed essay. Thank you for sharing your insights, and for the reminder that it’s ok to be an imperfect mom. Congrats on your 8+-year sobriety!

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