Thriving as a Mom of a Child with Special Needs 

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(Hint: Removing Alcohol Works Magic!)

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Raising a neurodiverse or special needs child brings unique joys and challenges. The additional needs of our child(ren) can place extra demands on mothers, leaving us feeling totally overwhelmed and depleted.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t relate to seeking relief through alcohol. “Chardonnay please,” used to be my go-to reward after getting through really hard days with my daughter who has Down Syndrome.


However, relying on alcohol is not a healthy coping mechanism. Us moms can better care for our kids and ourselves by ditching alcohol and finding alternative ways to thrive. Here are some tips for moms ready to make a change.

Practical Tips to Drink Less and Embrace a Healthier Lifestyle

Understand Your Motivations and Triggers for Drinking

Take time to reflect on when and why you drink. Do you reach for wine when feeling stressed or isolated? Does a sense of guilt or inadequacy lead you to numb emotions with alcohol? Is alcohol a reward for getting through a challenging day? Or perhaps it’s just because there’s an open bottle of wine in the fridge and your brain is on auto-pilot.  Pinpointing motivations and triggers can help you find healthier replacements. Be compassionate with yourself in this process. Raising a child with special needs is difficult, and you deserve support.

Connect with Other Moms Going Through Similar Experiences

Sharing stories, resources and encouragement with those who understand can provide relief. Having a judgment-free space to voice struggles can curb isolation and the urge to drink. 

I’ve founded “The Extraordinary Moms Resilience Collaborative (EMRC)”  for this exact purpose. The EMRC is a product of the combined expertise and personal experiences of myself and fellow alcohol freedom life coach Amber Glover. Our specialization lies in assisting mothers of children with additional needs to skillfully manage stress, anxiety, and overwhelm while steering clear of detrimental coping mechanisms. 

Our mission is to provide a community where moms of high-needs children come together to support and connect with one another. In this space, we find strength in our shared experiences, solutions in our collective wisdom, and inspiration in each other’s resilience. Together, we choose connection over escaping and numbing with alcohol and other unhealthy habits. 

Prioritize Self-Care and Wellness

With the demands of special needs parenting, self-care often falls by the wayside. But preserving your mental, emotional and physical health enables you to be fully present. Make time each day for activities like exercise, meditation, enjoying nature or reading. Even 5 minutes a few times throughout the day to sit and breathe can be extremely helpful to relax and reset your nervous system. Treat yourself to a massage or chat with a friend. Start a new hobby that engages your creativity. Taking care of yourself renews your energy for caregiving.

Explore Healthy Ways to Unwind and Have Fun

This may feel impossible, yet it’s crucial we prioritize time for fun. Make time for hobbies you enjoy, watch a comedy or have a dance party with your kids. Laughter relieves stress. Schedule regular date nights with your partner or with a friend to take time away from home. What activities did you do before having kids? Cultivate outlets for your unique interests. You’ll be a happier, healthier, more energized mother.

Let Go of Perfectionism

The myth of the perfect parent paralyzes moms of neurodiverse kids. Focus on being a “good enough” parent. You’ll make mistakes, and that’s ok. Some days will be chaotic disasters, and that’s normal. Let go of comparison and unrealistic expectations. Do your best with each new day, learn and grow. The goal is progress, not perfection. Your child needs your authentic, imperfect self.

Manage Your Stress Level

Kids with special needs often have frequent doctor appointments, therapy sessions, behaviors, emotional meltdowns, sensory issues and other exceptional demands. This stress can become overwhelming for us moms if not managed well. Try deep breathing, getting outdoors, or saying no to nonessentials to lower anxiety. Hobbies, socializing and laughter reduce stress. Set aside dedicated family time. Simplify schedules. Accept help from others. Know your stress limits. Perhaps take an electronics detox… (you got this!)

Practice Positive Self-Talk and Gratitude

Negative self-talk drags you down, while gratitude lifts you up. Counter pessimism with affirmations of your strengths. When frustrations mount, write a gratitude list of your child’s gifts to restore perspective. Share encouraging notes with other special needs moms. Express thanks to those who help your family, however small. Focus on the progress made, not just problems ahead. Positivity fuels resilience.

Reach Out for Professional Help 

No mother can do this alone – it is a sign of strength to get assistance. Prioritize your mental health with the same vigor as your child’s needs. You are the foundation of your family. My coaching offers a guilt free space and time just for you. I will cheer you on and support you as you gain strength on your alcohol-free journey. Click here to book your first session!

Mindful Consumption and Gradual Lifestyle Changes

If quitting alcohol altogether seems daunting, ease into it through incremental steps. Being aware of what and how much you’re drinking is the first step towards moderation. Try setting clear limits for yourself on the number of drinks per occasion. Sip slowly, savoring each drink, and give your body time to register the effects. Choose beverages with lower alcohol content or opt for non-alcoholic alternatives.

Hydration and Alternatives

Staying hydrated and exploring non-alcoholic options can help reduce overall alcohol intake.

  • Alternate between alcoholic drinks and water to stay hydrated and pace yourself.
  • Experiment with refreshing mocktails or alcohol-free beer to diversify your beverage choices.
  • Having a non-alcoholic drink in hand during social situations can reduce the urge to consume alcohol.

Create Alcohol-Free Zones

Designate specific times and places where alcohol is off-limits.

  • Establish alcohol-free days during the week to give your body a break.
  • Designate certain areas in your home as alcohol-free zones to reshape habits.
  • Plan activities that don’t involve alcohol, fostering a more balanced and diverse lifestyle.

Set Clear Goals and Track Progress

Define achievable objectives and monitor your journey towards drinking less.

  • Set realistic and specific goals, such as reducing the number of drinks per week.
  • Keep a journal to track your drinking patterns, helping you stay accountable.
  • Celebrate milestones and reflect on the positive changes in your overall well-being.

Remember, these tips are not about deprivation but rather fostering a healthier relationship with alcohol. By incorporating mindful practices and making conscious choices, you can enjoy a balanced and fulfilling life while reducing your alcohol consumption. If you find it challenging to make these changes independently, seeking support from friends, family, or a professional can make the journey more manageable.

Remove Temptation and Add Support

Get rid of alcohol in your home so it’s not readily available when cravings hit. Avoid social events centered on drinking while you build resilience. Enlist your partner, friends and family to support your choice through check-ins and alcohol-free activities. Coaching can be an excellent way to reduce drinking or quit altogether.

Notice and Celebrate Successes

Mark your milestones, such as days without alcohol, with a special treat or fun outing. Even small wins deserve acknowledgment. Look back on how far you’ve come when challenged. Hold yourself accountable to a support group. Write down or share positive changes you notice in yourself. Give yourself credit for each step forward on your path to sobriety. Progress builds motivation.

Be Gentle With Yourself If You Stumble

New habits take time to cement. If you slip up, don’t let guilt derail you. Reflect on what triggered the setback and make a plan to avoid it. Then get back on track with your next alcohol-free day. Forgive yourself – you’re human. Talk to supportive friends and focus on the bigger picture of long-term change rather than one mistake. Persistence through ups and downs leads to lasting success.

With commitment and support, moms can thrive in their caregiving while quitting alcohol. Replace drinking with self-care, community and positive coping strategies. Be patient and celebrate small victories. In time, you’ll establish new habits that benefit your whole family. Your children need you at your best – you can do this, one day at a time.

About Julie Lively Coaching | Certified Life Coach for Parents of Neurodiverse Kids

Julie Lively is a certified alcohol free lifestyle and sobriety coach who specializes in supporting moms of neurodiverse or special needs kids through her business, Julie Lively Coaching. As a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, she recognized a need for judgment-free support for overwhelmed special needs moms. Julie understands firsthand the unique challenges moms raising neurodiverse kids face, and how alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism.  

Julie is a certified sobriety coach through This Naked Mind and achieved a Master Grey Area Drinking coach certification through Jolene Park. 

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At Julie Lively Coaching, Julie offers 1-on-1 coaching to help special needs moms achieve ultimate freedom from alcohol. As a sober coach for moms, Julie helps you overcome obstacles, manage stress, practice self-care and experience more ease and joy in parenting neurodiverse kids. Julie’s approach is grounded in compassion, free of perfectionism and focused on manageable progress.  

Ready to meet the challenges and celebrate the joys in life without desiring alcohol? Julie’s science-backed, compassion-based coaching methodology is the key to help you drink less and create a life you’ll have no desire to numb.

Whether your beloved family member has Down Syndrome, Autism, ADD/ADHD, intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, struggles with mental health issues or other challenges, her heart is with you. She’s got you, you’re at the right place.