Conversation with Julie Maida, Sober Mommies
This week, Liv has a Kitchen Table Conversation with Julie Maida. She is a married mother of three, and has been sober since May 2, 2000. She founded Sober Mommies in May 2013 after a severe bout of postpartum depression, OCD, and agoraphobia, which made it impossible for her to keep up with her 12 step recovery responsibilities. Having realised how much recovery support often depends on regular meeting attendance, and how lonely it can feel without such support, Julie started thinking about women who, for whatever personal reasons, choose not to attend 12 step meetings or complete abstinence. Julie wondered if they felt as lonely in their process as she did at that moment.
Kitchen Table Conversation with Julie Maida
Liv: As we’re talking in Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, let’s kick off with a question about food! What have you had for breakfast today?
Liv: Moving to your story. You came out in the post I Got Sober Today, in Next Life, NO Kids. It’s a harrowing account of how you entered recovery, as a homeless woman who had just tried to take her life. You said, “I think about those feelings today and cannot imagine how I didn’t realize what alcohol was doing to me or my life. I was just having fun, or trying to unwind, or following others. I didn’t always plan on getting drunk, often I would just head out to have a couple. At first it was fun, really fun to escape and let loose; and at some point it wasn’t. I was running.” What were you running from?
The easy answer is: reality. I’ve experienced a lot of trauma in my life, and spent a lot of my life running from unpredictable feelings of disconnect and overwhelming shame about who and what I am.
These events shaped me into someone I didn’t like, and helped me create a life I wasn’t very happy living. I didn’t understand it was possible to change the parts of myself and my circumstances that I didn’t appreciate, so I did my best to survive them. Drinking helped numb the unbearable feelings and, towards the end of my drinking, I was more and more willing to sacrifice what little freedom from self I had to hold onto the illusion of “okay.”
Liv: What advice would you give to other young mothers who identify with the familiar let’s have a glass of wine to escape/coping mechanism? Who have started to realise that they are having a little more than one glass to unwind, are drinking increasingly more, but haven’t developed full-blown alcoholism, yet?
I’m not really one for giving advice, because I feel like we all have our own walls to run into, often repeatedly, in order to determine which need to come down. I’m more a fan of sharing my experience in hopes that someone might relate. It was vital to my sanity to escape some of those moments in my life. When I was ready to face them, I was able to be honest about my relationship with alcohol. A simple request for help saved and changed the course of my life.
Unique challenges as a mother in recovery? Oh boy, where to start?Firstly, finding appropriate treatment. There aren’t enough female detox beds or long-term treatment options for women with state insurance.Even where placement is available, there aren’t many options for women to remain with or close to their children during the early stages of the recovery process. Addiction is like a fungus, and clings to and infects whole families, directly and indirectly.
There need to be more treatment options for family units, and opportunities for family members and spouses to receive more information and education surrounding the different phases and pathways to recovery.
Finding balance in a recovery routine can also be difficult for mothers. For those who choose 12step, time away from our kids to get to a meeting can be tough, and not all groups are welcoming of children.
Online meetings are great, however they do not offer the same level of intimacy and fellowship that in person groups can. Finding time for self care and childcare can be stressful for everyone, but for women struggling with addiction and/or recovery, it’s vital.
The inability to find balance can cause feelings of frustration and overwhelm, and often lead to use.
Mothers in recovery need to be allowed the space to talk about the stresses and triggers motherhood can often create. Sober Mommies offers support and guidance for women in and out of 12step programs.
The constant support women in our groups provide allow for moms to find support wherever they are and whenever they seek it.
Motherhood and Recovery
Liv: As a mother, tell me about some of the complexities that brings to your recovery? And how to you ensure that your sobriety is one of, I’d imagine, many competing priorities?
I know recovery is the only reason I get to show up for all my kids today. When my daughter calls from college at 3am, she knows I’m going to answer. When my kids are up at the butt crack of dawn every morning, they know where to find me. Recovery has helped me provide a stable and consistent home for my children to grow.
I know I must make time, but sometimes that’s not easy. Having a tribe of powerful women behind me has helped in those times. Knowing that help is one phone call away, even if I don’t always make the call, is what keeps me going.
Liv: I love the emphasis on your site of women finding their tribe. Can you talk about the importance of that in a woman’s journey in recovery? How might that enhance one’s recovery?
Ugh. Having a tribe is vital to my recovery process. No matter where I am, how I feel, or what I’m struggling through, having women in my corner saves me every time. Trusting women isn’t easy for many reasons, however taking the risk has been worth any times my trust was misplaced. I fear women most because they see me, and I’m not always psyched about what they might be looking at.
Finding a tribe full of supportive, understanding, non-judgmental women had helped me grow and change more than I can tell you. Sometimes it has been in subtle ways, and other times it has been painful and messy, but having friends who are encouraging and supportive of my personal growth while also letting me be human and ugly cry or stomp my feet has made all the difference.
Having the opportunity to invite women into that tribe has meant the world to me. The admins in our Sober Mommies groups are hand picked, and keep in constant contact with me to ensure the group remains as safe and inclusive as it can be.
My postpartum depression made it extremely difficult to maintain the same routine on my chosen 12 step recovery path. I was forced to switch things up, and although it felt abnormal and uncomfortable to step outside of my bubble, it was one of the greatest things that could have happened. I found a new appreciation for those who choose other paths, and how lonely they might feel without a network of women to cling to or confide in. Sober Mommies was born of that appreciation, and many hundreds of women now have a soft place to land, regardless of their recovery choices.Personally, I am active with my home group, but have all found countless other ways to nurture my recovery and connection with God. I’m not happy that I suffered so severely with PPD in 2013, but I am forever grateful for all the incredible things that resulted from that pain and isolation.
Recovery has opened my mind and the doors to many opportunities for growth and transformation, and the sky is the limit.
Liv: If you could speak to yourself in 2013, when you were facing those challenges, what would you say?
I actually wrote a post called, “Dear Struggling Mama (sobermommies.com/dear-struggling-mama) for any moms out there who feel even remotely alone in their struggle. In it, I mentioned that if I could go back I would say, ” “Please be kind to you. You are doing the best you can with the tools you have. You are okay even when you’re sure you’re not. Trust yourself. Your gut is usually right on, and in the future you will refer to it as your “God voice.” You will gain shit and you will lose it, and it will all have a positive impact on your life — even if it hurts. Trust in process. The swing of the pendulum always slows in the middle. Enjoy the calm, but don’t stay there too long. There is always more to learn, and the opportunities to grow are endless. You are worth every action taken to improve your situation, whether you feel it or not. Make mistakes, and forgive yourself wherever possible. You are only human, and being human is hard. There are people waiting for you to share all the lessons you’ve learned, and everything will make sense in time, I promise.”
Liv: How has been your relationship with food changed in recovery?
My relationship with food has been interesting since finding recovery. To be honest, my relationships with everything that I can use to feel better has been interesting and challenging since I stopped drinking. I have had to hit a bottom in most everything, and I have grown immensely in ways and in areas I never could have imagined sixteen years ago.I still struggle with food. It’s been tricky, as it’s not a simple black and white solution. I have done a lot of work around it, and have learned to embrace the process.Liv: Penultimate question: what is your favourite meal/dish?
I’m a sucker for chicken parm. It was the very first meal my mother showed me how to make, and I have played with her recipe much to make it my own. I don’t like to brag (okay maybe a little), but it’s pretty spectacular.
Liv: Last, what are your top five recovery tools? Or tools you use to maintain sobriety?
I pray and communicate with God.
I meditate and listen as God responds to my prayers.
I speak to at least one of my recovery sisters daily.
I remain available.
I remain teachable.
Thank you for taking part in Kitchen Table Conversations.
Thank you so much for having me!!!