“My relationship with drugs and alcohol started at a young age. Around the rooms of recovery, you will hear people say your social, mental, and emotional growth stop around the time you begin using heavily. Which means when I got sober in 2013 at the age of 24, I was working through a failing marriage, being a mom to four daughters, and trauma with the mental capacity of a 17-year-old. At 16, I was smoking pot and drinking periodically with friends but shortly after graduating from high school things progressed dangerously quickly to harder drugs and more frequent using. The days I spent sober became few and far in between and before I knew it, I was using and drinking daily. By 18 I had worked my way up the scale to cocaine, pills, and excessive vodka consumption. During the chaos of my life I met and started dating a man named Mark, we fell quickly and deeply in love and were married four days after my 20th birthday. Addiction bleeds on everyone it comes into contact with and shortly after my drug use came to light, Mark was stuck in the same deadly trap I had found myself in.
My husband and I began this torturous game of back and forth sobriety. I would go to rehab and get cleaned up and come out and use with him then he would go to rehab, clean up and go home and use with me. Another dynamic came into play when I went to rehab in 2010 and found out I was pregnant at 21 with our first daughter. Pregnancy doesn’t produce recovery, so I continued to use as the pieces of our lives we needed to balance incessantly grew and became less manageable. Our addictions became too heavy for us as it evolved to a heroin dependence, so we slowly drifted and in 2011 I found myself alone trying to keep what little life I had left afloat. Once I no longer had to be accountable to anyone, I turned to the streets where a darkness that had not found me yet swallowed me whole. I was working at a strip club in Detroit, trading my body for drugs, and deteriorating into nothingness. By 2012 there was not a recognizable piece of me left and the last bit of malevolence I would come across before sobriety nearly killed me. I will not go into details over that significant moment in my life, but I will say there is evil hiding in the corners of the world, taking woman, brutalizing them, then leaving them just alive enough to wish for death. By the grace of the Universe, there go I, clinging onto life with my last bit of willingness while simultaneously accepting that I was going to die, in that house without anyone who loves me around.
I sought refuge in another rehab facility and shortly after leaving there I found out again I was pregnant, morning sickness was killing me, I was drained of all energy, and I knew there was something wrong or different with this pregnancy. Around 13 weeks I went in to see my OBGYN, cried over the possibility of an evil man being the baby’s father, screamed in terror that I would never maintain sobriety, and begged the Gods above to end my life or take from me the burden I had been carrying. She came calmly into the room, sat next to my small hospital bed, and handed me the ultrasound pictures she just took of my growing belly. Written in small white letters beside the foggy circular blob was ‘HI MOMMY I’M BABY A.’ I moved onto the next picture and ‘HI MOMMY I’M BABY B’ was written and I laid my hands down and shook my head. The next picture was placed in front of me and my eyes landed on ‘HI MOMMY I’M BABY C.’ The blood rushed to my head and a million emotions and fears flooded my thoughts. There was no way this was a feasible task for me. My oldest daughter, Meadow, needs me and I need to be there for her. But triplets, they deserved more.
I called my husband who knew the circumstances of my life and our relationship, but he was willing to be there for me in whatever way he could. He had found some success in the 12 steps and wanted me to find it as well. I began going to meetings around my mom’s house where my daughter and I were living. I began to listen and with the help of some strong recovering people I was able to chip away at the walls of trauma had been built up around me. I went into a facility for pregnant women and lived there for a large portion of my pregnancy where I was able to get therapy and prenatal care for a high-risk pregnancy. At 28 weeks I gave birth to my three tiny daughters and named them Summer, Autumn, and Winter. When they were 2 months old, on a life changing day, I gave up drugs and alcohol for the final time. I have not found a reason to drink or use in over 5 years and with a strong foundation of recovery I have been able to continuously heal, grow, and find faith. Mark and I decided to work on our relationship for the sake of our children and each other. Boundaries saved us in the beginning, we didn’t move back in with each other until we both had a year sober, we stayed out of one another’s recovery life, and we allowed ourselves to grow individually with the common goal of our growth bringing us closer.
Throughout the years we have experienced the ‘normal’ up and downs of marriage and parenthood. Mix in the subtleties of being recovering addicts and the lifestyle we must maintain to stay sober and things can get complicated. We both still go to multiple meetings a week, I still see my therapist regularly, I work avidly with other women coming into sobriety, and I stay constantly aware of my healing journey and what needs to be worked on. Balance has been a key characteristic in our lives together with work, children, sobriety, school, and extracurriculars activities. All these things keep us in a state of growth and togetherness. What is good for the goose is good for the gander so if we both do what keeps us centered, we will continue to have a fairly conflict free household. There are days where one or both of us are off our square and tensions rise, what would seem ridiculous to the average couple explodes like wildfire if we don’t stay cautious and consistent in our recovery program. The areas in our lives that were once broken down by addiction have become solid again and we have worked our way through issues such as finances and intimacy. It is hard to fully grasp what the addict next to you has gone through or withstood but with his support I have been able to face my past head on which in turn has strengthened our relationship and trust.
Our daughters are all thriving, and we frequently look at them in disbelief despite all our wrongs we have been granted this beautiful opportunity. To raise and nurture four girls is a task on its own and I have no doubts that without Mark I wouldn’t be able to do it. Relationships are complicated and as humans we sometimes forget the needs and wants of the very people, we share our lives with. We fall complacent and comfortable in our daily routine and the monotony of family life sometimes seems dull. In those moments all I need to do is take a step back and remind myself how far we have come as a couple, as people, and as parents. It was no easy task to come from nothing and get to where we are. In early recovery we set our sights on what was achievable at the time, never did we believe one day we would not only accomplish those goals, but we would be able to provide a life for our kids we never imagined. We bought out first home this past summer, neither of us have had legal issues since we got sober, our girls are doing well in school, I am back in college, and my husband owns a flooring business that he dedicates his life to. Our relationship has grown leaps and bounds since coming into sobriety and I look forward to what the future has in store for us.
Celebrating five years sober felt monumental to me. The anniversaries before were huge milestone markers in the evolution of Bree, but five years was the milestone I needed to lay my past, my suffering, my burden, and my unworthiness down for good. I was free from the consequences of my using. My marriage was strong and growing stronger, I was officially off all legal papers, I had custody of my kids back for multiple years, I owned a home, I was doing things I once believed were impossible for me, and I felt secure in my life. At 5 years I found forgiveness and peace. What a feeling, to look at myself for the first time in a long time and be happy and confident with who I am. What a feeling to look my husband and see strength, loyalty, forgiveness, and courage. What an opportunity to be a part of raising individual, resilient, young minds. Lastly, it’s remarkable that I can witness, on any level, another person finding sobriety.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction, recovery, or the perils of marriage and parenthood, stay strong. Stand firm in hope and compassion. The kind words from those around me helped me tremendously and I remember vividly being torn down with abusive words and feelings of being forgotten. Too often I see family members and loved ones choose the route of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ I will readily admit to not knowing the rights and wrongs of dealing with addicts on a clinical level, but my experience and the experience of many others shows empathy goes a long way.
For now, I will enjoy what little private time I have with my husband, I will soak up the years of laughter I have with my girls, and I will hang on to my sisters in recovery. Cheers to many more years.”
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