…what happened… (Mother’s Day 2010)

My kids first met Biggie (feels weird to call him that, but that’s how Munch refers to him, so I’m going with it.) over Spring Break 2009. He was between jobs at the time, so he spent each day with them while I was at work. Now, when I met Biggie, he wore boots & braces, had a mohawk, a goatee, a badass full sleeve tattoo and was always listening to some sort of loud angry music on his headphones. He was obviously the sickest man in the room… so, of course, that meant I was immediately drawn to him. By the time the kids met him, he had about a year sober and he had toned it down some – not a whole lot, but some. He got rid of the braces, but still wore the boots & the mohawk (for about another month, before he shaved it for his brother’s wedding).Bigs & the littles This was not exactly the picture of a family man. He really had no idea how to deal with children, but by the end of the week they were completely in love with him. That one week is the only time they ever saw him with his mohawk, but that time was so etched in their minds that they can distinctly remember him that way and often ask if he’s ever going to grow it back. As we took the kids back to their dad, for the first time since they moved away, I truly believed that they would come back to me and we would rebuild our relationship.

‘Wait, who’s Biggie, and why were you in a relationship within your first year sober… and weren’t you still married?’ Yeah, hello, everyone. My name is Laurie and I am an alcoholic. I’ve never exactly been one to follow rules, nor to necessarily be very considerate of others. On June 18th, 2008, Bobby was arrested for theft & possession and I went to my first AA meeting the very next day. My second meeting wasn’t until July 1st and I engaged in quite a bit of foolishness between those two dates. I felt so great after my second meeting that I went out and drank and nearly got myself raped. I spent the next day sobering up and, through the Grace of God, I have not felt it necessary to take a drink or a drug since July 3, 2008. And we all lived happily ever after… yeah, right.

Bobby was sentenced to a year in jail and as glad as I was to be free of him, I did care for him and I did NOT want to be twice divorced by 30 (or at any age, for that matter). I did my 90 in 90. For a while there, I was regularly hitting 8 meetings a week, plus church, so I actually did more than 90 meetings in those first 3 months. I was growing by leaps and bounds. Contrarily, Bobby was sitting in a cell with no one but me talking recovery to him. I wrote him often, visited weekly, but the healthier I got, the crazier he sounded. Right around 4 months sober, right around that 4th step, fear kicked in big time. I don’t think I consciously sought out Biggie to protect my from Bobby, but I had come to the realization that I needed a reason to leave Bobby and… well… finding a new dude to replace the old was my go-to move for many years.

I was hanging on by my fingernails.

I was hanging on by my fingernails.

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! For the next six months, I was a textbook example of how NOT to work a program. I did so many things I was advised against and didn’t follow many of the suggestions given me. I burned through a couple of sponsors and largely sponsored myself during this time. I didn’t hit many meetings & I definitely didn’t crack the book. The only thing keeping me from going back out was my sheer stubbornness and God’s grace. Plus, you know how they say you should stay single that first year? Trust me, you definitely want to wait before jumping into a relationship. There was no kind of hell Biggie & I didn’t go through during our first year together (aside from drinking – miraculously, we both stayed sober). Medical issues, unemployment, serious money problems, breaking up… and a nice little bout with complete insanity right around my first birthday (but I won’t get into that just now)… then to top it all off, we became the proud owners of a long distance relationship. You have no idea how much it costs to call here from Kuwait.

A couple of months before Biggie left to go work halfway around the world, my ex moved my kids back to Texas. Slowly, I began rebuilding trust with the munchkins. I learned how to hold my head high through humiliating circumstances. I taught my children the value of honesty, humility and sacrificing now to make a better life for yourself later. I demonstrated perseverance in overcoming past mistakes, and finding your own value instead of allowing others to tell you that you have none. Most importantly, I loved on them and they loved on me. We hugged and played and talked and ate lots of Arby’s. They didn’t care that I was living in a tiny bedroom in some strange woman’s house (not to say she’s odd, but that I really didn’t know her much at all before I moved in to her house) and that they were sleeping in tiny air mattresses on the floor of my room when they were with me. They were giddy to help make Christmas cookies with her daughters home from college, or to kick the soccer ball around the backyard. I only spent 5 months there, but again, my kids have very vivid memories of that time. This was where we reformed that mother/child bond.

Biggie came home in April 2010 and I had found a nice little apartment for us with room for the kids. We both had gotten back into AA a few months before he left, but while he was away I really threw myself into the program. Once again, I was growing tremendously. I was doing my daily tenth & eleventh steps. I got involved with service work. I spoke in front of my home group for the first time (crying in front of 80 people is always fun); I picked up a sponsee or two; I discovered conventions and all kinds of AA extracurriculars like the Fun Fair, dances and whatnot. And for the first time in my life, I learned how to be alone. From the very first time a boy paid attention to me, I knew I never wanted to be without that sort of attention. I can’t remember any length of time I was single since I was 15, maybe 14, even. I didn’t want to hang on to that sort of codependence anymore, so I learned how to love myself and to be okay even when there’s no one there to tell me how awesome I am.

calvin_arguing

It was kind of like this…

As Biggie’s time overseas neared the end, I began to engage in some serious discussion with him. My life was different now. I was very focused on recovery and the kids. Their dad had just left their stepmom and baby sister, then moved in another woman and knocked her up – when all their combined children were there at the same time, there were five kids in one little bedroom. I was quickly realizing I had somehow become the stable parent (which was simply frightening, given where I had so recently been). I decided that I was not going to prance men in and out of my kids’ lives. If Biggie wanted to date when he got back, that was cool, but if we were to move back in together, we were going to have to have a commitment. If we hadn’t made that commitment, we certainly wouldn’t be together today. When he came home, it was great… for about a week. Then the changes really became noticeable, and while they were mostly for the good, they were quite dramatic. Then it took longer than anticipated for his job to come through. Things got really tense, really quick and we both wanted to give up many times. We were not the same people we were when he left, so it wasn’t like picking up where we left off; we had to rework our relationship to fit who we had become. Somehow, we made it through. We relearned how to be a couple and being a stepdad came natural to him (though it took him a while to realize it). By Mother’s Day 2010, things were far from perfect, but family life was starting to take shape. I finally had a stable place for my kids and me to live. I had a good job, a good man, and I was starting to get a real toehold on life.

See those green volunteer shirts all grouped together just this side of the black thing in the middle? That's me and my homies.

See those green volunteer shirts all grouped together just this side of the black thing in the middle? That’s me and my homies.

And, oh yeah… so, all that time getting immersed in service work and the program lifestyle served me fantastically a couple of months later. I got to serve as a team leader on the airport committee for AA’s 75th anniversary at the International Convention. Best. Service. Work. EVER! For a couple of days, I got to spend a few hours greeting crazy, giddy alcoholics from all over the globe (and I did meet one famous one, but I can’t tell you who) as they descended upon my home to wish me happy birthday. What do you mean it’s not all about me? Seriously, I celebrated my second birthday holding hands with over 50,000 of my best friends, reciting the Serenity Prayer. WOW! It was the most amazing, humbling, spiritual experience ever. Yes, 2010 was a big turning point. I was not yet who I wanted to be, but I had come a long way… and my kids were getting their mother back more and more each day.

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