With Steps, coffee and baskets of toys, some California mothers stay sober together
Having been around these rooms for some time, I have formed and rejected many opinions regarding special-interest groups in the hallowed halls of Alcoholics Anonymous. I would like to share an experience that began as a special-interest group, but has grown into something none of us ever imagined—a very important anchor in the lives of a bunch of moms trying to stay sober!
I found the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous, and a couple of months later found that I was to be a mother for the first time. There was no direct connection between those two events except that my sponsor and I shared the joke that this must be my Higher Power’s way of having healthier babies enter this world, and teaching me some lessons in humility.
As a newcomer, I was showered with love, attention and mottos about “keep coming back, no matter what!” I grew, matured, leveled out and loved back while becoming a devoted member of my home group.
When my baby was born, and my need for meetings was even greater, I began to run into a problem: children aren’t always welcome in AA meetings. That includes women’s groups!
Financially and practically speaking, there are conditions to being a parent that are not unique to me that can challenge a meeting schedule. Childcare, for one, is very expensive. Many newly sober mothers have husbands who are in the program as well and have meeting schedule problems of their own. Still others are single parents with tight budgets.
I know that it is disconcerting for some people to be around small children anywhere, let alone in a meeting. For a new mother, intolerance toward her children can be frightening at times, maddening at others and frustrating at best. Guilty and angry from time to time over this intolerance, I finally found it necessary to practice the principles of the program in one more area of my life. I decided to take positive action! I began a meeting we call Mothers in Sobriety. It is a closed, nonsmoking meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. We have everything every other meeting has, including the Twelve Steps, Traditions, coffee, and lots of love. We also have anywhere from two to 12 kids running around the room at any given time.
Our format is simple. After the Steps are read, prayers prayed, announcements made, we pass out a basket of toys, paper, coloring books, crayons, cookies and kisses for all. If things get too loud or crazy during the meeting, someone takes the offending party for a walk, a hug, a visit to the powder room. It is a special meeting indeed. It is a place where a mother can come where she is always welcomed with open arms in spite of the fact that her arms are filled with a loud, sticky two-year-old who is cutting teeth. There is more love in this particular room than at any other meeting I have ever been in—and I have been in a few thousand of them over the years.
We even have a rather special meeting time: 10:00 a.m. We found that this is a good time for mothers and children alike. We are fresher and calmer at this time than at the usual meeting times.
Being sober mothers is important to most of us and we are determined to give the mothering part our best shot. Bedtimes, mealtimes and bathtimes are special times for us and make for some of the more demanding parts of the job. When we are always racing off to a nighttime meeting this competes unfavorably with those intimate times with our children that fly by too quickly and are so important for healthy relationships. This may sound selfish up to this point, but this is a selfish program. I now have to confess that the joke is on me. Though my motives for beginning the mothers’ group were a bit murky, I have to tell you all about the wonderful by-products of this meeting.
We have had a daddy show up who needed to talk to a bunch of mothers about some difficulty he was having being a single dad trying to make it in the program and raise his kids in a loving atmosphere.
We have single women come to our group on a regular basis. They want to know “how it works” living with these children as sober alcoholic mothers. It is no easy road for any mother. An alcoholic mother often brings skills to parenting that are better left behind. These single women have the presence of mind to know that they can use some “hands on” experience before venturing into parenthood.
We have had retired preschool teachers and nurses who come because they miss the honest, open-minded and noisy sharing that only small children seem to have naturally. We have grandmas with absentee grandchildren that they miss and so they are able to unload some of their experience, strength, hope, hugs, kisses and common sense on the grateful mothers and babies in our group.
We have mothers learning to love themselves by watching other mothers deal with their own children in a loving, caring way. We are seeing each other grow in ways that would be skirted in more traditional settings in AA.
Last, but certainly not least, we have newcomers and old-timers alike coming to us just to be “mothered” a little. They know that we always have a lot of kissing, hugging, slobbering and crying at our meetings. The babies aren’t the only ones getting into the act!
Sure we are a “unique” bunch. Sure we live in southern California where we have the reputation for being a little “off the wall”! Like many things from the sunshine state we think we have something special. We encourage and challenge you all to reach out to the mothers in your group and let them know how very special they are! The idea of having a group such as this is not new. Having families get sober and learn this program together goes back to the first meetings at Bill and Lois’ house. We like to think that our meeting is smiled upon by our Higher Power and the founders of this wonderful gift called Alcoholics Anonymous.