Dealing With Substance Abuse as a Single Mom

Single Parent Households & Substance Abuse Struggles

This article is for any single mom that is struggling with substance abuse. Unfortunately–and this is VERY unfortunate–in single parent households, substance abuse is TOO COMMON. For the safety of you, your kids and your parenting rights it is vitally important that substance abuse issues be addressed immediately. If you are a single mom that is co-parenting with a person that struggles with substance abuse (alcohol and/or drugs) it can be extremely scary to comply with visitation schedules when YOU KNOW that the other parent struggles with addiction.

Whatever your situation with substance abuse and how it impacts the lives of you and your children, we really the hope, healing and coping skills so that you and your children can thrive. Single Mom Spot™ is an online community for offline change. Single Mom Spot™ is a community for single moms that strives to equip and empower women to live their best lives now.  

When you’re a parent, the center of your universe is not just about you anymore. It’s your duty and obligation to keep your kids safe from harm—even if that harm means yourself or your child’s parent. We live in a culture which praises wine moms, with t-shirts to coffee cups glorifying moms desperately needing a drink. And worse, almost everywhere we turn there’s a commercial or advertisement for a carb-friendly alcohol which encourages us to imbibe while not having the guilt looming over our heads about the extra calories. Alcohol is only the start, as many parents find themselves abusing subscription pills, narcotics, or marijuana as a means to escape the pressures of everyday life.

And worst of all, the pandemic has caused a great number of people to relapse. The universe is most stressful right now, and substance abuse is a part of many parents’ lives these days. If you, or your coparent is dealing with substance abuse, know that you’re not alone. But, there are ways to get help, and we’d love to provide you with some helpful resources and proven tips to support your sobriety, recovery, and journey towards a clean life that your kids deserve.

If you or your coparent is combating substance abuse, allow these tips and resources to support you in your journey to understanding your addiction…

First, establish your clear “why”

When you’re getting sober yourself or trying to help a coparent to get sober, it’s crucial to establish your/their why in doing so. This is because it will help you to envision just how much better your life could by choosing to put that why in front of your urges. You can do this with daily affirmations, journaling, therapy, attending group sessions, or even rewarding yourself for staying sober. Keep the focus on the “why” always, because this sense of clarity will drown out the urges and temptations to give in to the negative. For parents with substance abuse issues, a clear “why” can always begin with wanting to be a better version of yourself for your children’s sake.

Understand that relapse is part of recovery

If the substance of choice is alcohol, know that for certain that relapse is an important part of the recovery process. Many people who quit cold turkey will relapse. And learning to do anything in moderation takes time. And, for most addicts, moderation is a slippery slope and simply not an option. With that being said, recovery is a process. It’s a winding journey that often takes several attempts to get right. Do not beat yourself up for slipping, because you are human and at least you’re making a conscious effort to get better, even if that means there are some hiccups along the way.

Deeply understand the importance of accountability

This is HUGE if you or your coparent is attempting to get sober. You don’t need to make it Facebook official or sing your sobriety mission from the rooftops, but holding yourself/someone else accountable will better the chances of success. Here are two trips you can try:

  1. Make a sober calendar

For each day that you stick to staying sober, you can mark an ex on the date on the calendar. And most importantly, put this calendar in a visible location so that your children can see. I do this myself for staying sober from alcohol, and I like that my children can observe this. It gives us we’re in this together sort of vibe. Strength in numbers is huge for recovery and staying sober, and seeing how proud you’re making your children is a wonderful source of inspiration.

  1. Once you’re serious, tell others

When people care about someone, they want to see them happy. You will shine brightest when you allow others to be a part of your sobriety journey, and they will also help you to stay accountable.

Celebrate your little wins

Like I mentioned above, sobriety is a journey. It has its ups and downs, but it also has its triumphs along the way. If you find yourself/your coparent wanting to stay on the sobriety bandwagon, it’s important to celebrate all the little wins along the way. This could be as small as celebrating weekly sober milestones with an ice cream with the kiddos, or rewarding yourself with a little shopping for staying sober. (You’re bound to be saving money, so why not treat yourself to a little something nice as some motivation!) Whatever it is that would make you feel special, enjoy it when you hit your sober milestones, because this will help to keep you feeling rewarded for all the hard work you’re putting in. Getting your kids in on the little wins is good too, as it proves to them that you are doing this for their benefit and that their support means the world to you.

Allow yourself to feel emotions, and don’t shy away from them

Whenever you’re battling with substance abuse, oftentimes, those substances are a coping mechanism used as a means to avoid dealing/feeling/embracing the pain you have inside. At the start of your sober journey, you’re bound to have a mixed bag of emotions which will confront you at different times. You could be having your morning coffee, you could be in the car running errands, you could even be sitting at the dinner table with your kids and suddenly feel a wave of emotions hitting you all at once.

This is perfectly normal, and you should do your very best to allow yourself to embrace these emotions. Make time for yourself to be emotional about this healing journey you’re going through. It could be done on long walks, while meditating, or even put on a sappy movie that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Whatever it is that’s your preference, you need to have this outlet to face these emotions that you’ve been bottling up for too long. (If you’re coaching a coparent on getting sober, try helping them with this!)

Avoid temptation when possible

This tip for dealing with substance abuse might be a lot easier said than done. If you’re a social person and you fear being social because it will lead to temptation, take a social break for a bit. Once you feel ready to face the world again, choose times when it’s healthiest and most convenient for your sobriety. For example, meeting during the day and instead of at night provides an excuse for you to stay sober with little questioning. Meet for coffee, go shopping, go on a hike, anything that doesn’t include going for drinks is key to avoid temptation while being social.

In addition to this, you must learn to practice giving into temptation at home, too. If you don’t trust yourself at home, be sure that none of your vices are present. Out of sight out of mind goes a long way. Don’t keep alcohol or other tempting vices in your home if you’re worried about self-control. The same can be said for the negative influences in a person’s life that might give them the urge to drink/use drugs. Block these contacts and then do yourself the favor of deleting them out of your phone.

Find other things to do “for fun”

I remember thinking to myself on multiple occasions, “if people don’t drink, then what do they do for fun?” Sad, I know. But it seems from a drinking age we have been conditioned by the media to think we must live our best lives and be carefree. But at what consequence are we doing this? For most people dealing with substance abuse, things escalated over time. And for most of us, this is due to the fact that our tolerances increased—as did our need to drink/use drugs. A lot of times this feeling is like a chase, we want to feel that buzz, but over time, it takes a lot more to get us to this point. Sometimes frustratingly so…which heads us straight to binging.

Remember: you are fun without using. And life is so much sweeter when you’re not hungover, sick, cranky, tired, and feeling miserable. And this is especially true for the little ones that want nothing more than to have you alert, coherent, and ready to spend time with them. Remember, you are more fun sober to your kids than you ever will be drunk or high. Always.

Find support—and stick with it

Whether it’s an AA chapter, a church group, or even a Facebook group, going at sobriety alone is painfully difficult and often highly unrealistic. You also might be the type to be too embarrassed to put your name out there, and that’s okay too. If you have health insurance, you can utilize options to get treatment for your addictions.

There are also a great number of resources available online to help you or someone you love to navigate your sober journey.

For immediate help, consider reaching out to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration. It’s free, confidential, and always open to provide treatment referral information.

American Addiction Center is another wonderful resource that can provide you with a multitude or resources and online options to help you so you can get better or help your coparent to get better.

Therapy, whether in person or online via a popular therapy platform like Better Help or Sondermind, is also an essential tool in getting sober and staying sober for the long-term. For Sondermind, they do offer affordable private pay options should you not have insurance, just FYI.

Make it a point to absorb materials on the power of sober living via podcasts/books. Consider this like research you are putting towards the work you are doing staying sober. iHeartRadio and Audible have many amazing podcasts and audiobooks which can serve as daily reminders, affirmations, and help to keep you/your coparent in check with their recovery.

A recent book that I’ve listened to that’s getting a lot of buzz is Holly Whitaker’s New York Times Bestseller, Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice To Not Drink In A Culture Obsessed With Alcohol. It’s a very raw and candid look on what got her to where she is today, our society’s obsession with women’s drinking, the struggles along the way, and her goal of helping others to achieve a better life without booze wreaking havoc on it.

If podcasts are more your thing, Sober Powered is a good listen filled with valuable insight into the science of alcohol and what it does to our minds and bodies.

For blogs on mental health and wellness and the value being sober can add to your life, you can check out Very Well Mind for some inspiring reads.

Whatever your reason for getting sober, or for wanting your coparent to get sober, know that this is the right choice towards a better life for your children. Our kids don’t choose their parents, and although life can be difficult, it’s our job to do our best to make their lives complete and worth living. And if you’re battling substance abuse, it’s pretty hard to make that happen.

Do it for yourself, first, but know that when you’re getting the help you need, and making the changes in your life to put you on a better path, they are going to be your biggest supporters in the process. And although the journey is hard, and at times daunting, being sober is such a gratifying feeling that gets better with each and every day.

Is substance abuse impacting your household in some way?

Are you struggling with substance abuse or co-parenting with an ex that has addiction issues?

Please feel free to share your experience below. Or better yet…connect in the forum to meet other moms and see how they are handling such issues. As you share please remember that Single Mom Spot™ is a community for single moms that encourages peaceful, positive and personal engagement.


My name is Jenna and I am the founder of Single Mom Spot. I've been a single mom for almost 10 years now. I'm a Christian and mama to two kids that I love like crazy. I started this site because I know how difficult single motherhood can be...and also, how beautiful. I believe that single motherhood helped make me into the best version of myself as a woman and mom. My hope, is that through a connection point like Single Mom Spot, women can share their experiences and grow together. What an amazing thing if every single mom could live her best life as a woman and mother right now, in the middle of her most challenging life circumstance. How bold. How beautiful. How unforgettable. Thank you for reading and supporting Single Mom Spot.