Dealing with Addiction While Pregnant

Staying Healthy
Group meetings allow fellow patients to shoulder each other's burdens -- and share each other's triumphs.
Group meetings allow fellow patients to shoulder each other's burdens -- and share each other's triumphs.
Paul Sutherland/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Once an expecting mother has enacted a treatment plan to mitigate the damages of addiction to her baby and herself, it's time to make her commitment stick. After the initial push to become clean and sober, she can expect to face a lifetime of temptations. The adage "take it one day at a time" offers apt advice as she continues to recover -- and as she encounters the many thrills and stresses of motherhood.

There are many things that a recovering addict can do to help prevent a relapse. For starters, she should encircle herself with support. Staying clean and sober, especially during the first few months, requires a daily (sometimes hourly) recommitment. There's no shame in leaning on the people who are there to help, whether they're friends, family, fellow members of a 12-step group or addiction treatment professionals, counselors and psychologists. It's equally important to steer clear of the people, events or activities that could trigger old habits [source: Borchard].

In the inevitable moments when she's alone with her thoughts, it may help to take several minutes of quiet time to visualize her life as a drug-free mother [source: Mater Mothers' Hospital]. Alternatively, she could take daily breaks from her thoughts and embrace an activity that moves her literally and physically toward good health, such as walking or swimming [source: Borchard].

To bolster her resolve, she can visit recovery Web sites with chat forums moderated by addiction professionals. If she finds herself itching to use drugs or alcohol, she should reach out to volunteer-staffed hotlines like the National Drug Help Hotline (800-662-44357) or the National Alcohol and Drug Dependence Hopeline (800-622-2255).

The stack of books on her bedside table can reflect her new focus, too. Books like "7 Tools to Beat Addiction," by Stanton Peele, and "Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book," by AA Services, are good places to start.

Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous offer tools, resources and meetings that can help as she transitions from intensive treatment to real life. In addition, many treatment facilities offer aftercare programs that help a recovering addict adjust to her new life. These programs can include supervised living arrangements, counseling and group meetings.

Aftercare should include mental health therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the premise that when you change the way you think about your circumstances, you change the way you react to them [source: Kadden]. Dialectic behavioral therapy also relies on mental reframing, but focuses on simultaneously promoting good behavior and accepting lapses in it without losing hope [source: National Institutes on Drug Abuse].

As a recovering addict's new life as a mom takes hold, she should congratulate herself on how far she's come. Battling addiction is difficult, but no one is in it alone. By asking for help, an expecting mother will have the support necessary to ensure that both her and her baby can embrace the health and happiness they deserve.

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