My ex and I bought another house after having moved six times in seven years. The kids were approximately six and three years old, and I was about seven years sober.
Fear of financial insecurity had been something that was always with me. Looking back at my story, I see that it was probably human to be afraid when I was a mother of babies and toddlers, and my ex had lost a few jobs and at times we’d lived on savings. During at least one of those times, I had read a book about homelessness and, selfishly, realized with relief that people such as myself, educated with family ties intact, seldom ended up homeless. The young families I saw on TV who were in a shelter were the exception, chosen by the reporter for that reason. Their family ties had broken down and they didn’t have help or support. I had a mother and inlaws who would help and support me if I needed them to.
I guess I also have to be easy on myself looking back and remember that I was young, a young mother, and some anxiety in these situations was normal.
All that is to explain that I felt more secure financially when I owned a house rather than paid rent. And it was at this point that I got to fulfill that again. My ex had gotten promotions and of course the paid for move of a huge distance was enormous. I was about three hours by car from my hometown and family, and that was a good distance.
Within a few months of that move and that purchase, he left me.
I won’t recount details because all of the people involved are still very much alive, though I hope on some level they don’t read this. But they might. He wasn’t a bad person and neither was I. I don’t know what I would have done had he not left me. It wasn’t a healthy marriage, though it wasn’t awful, and the children were very young.
The young children were the first source of my anxiety. I felt very strongly that I didn’t want them in day care.
I asked my ex to reconsider for a very short time. Then I got on with it.
I took some of the many meditation books I had a placed them around the house, and read them when I was near them. I made a list of people I could call, and I went down the list and called them. I often did that right after I put the kids to bed, since that was a particularly anxious time for me. Some were program people, some were friends, and some were relatives. Some knew what was going on in my life, and some didn’t. I called two of my aunts, for example. One was an English teacher, and I talked to her about the English classes I was taking. My other aunt had a kitten my kitten’s age, and I talked to her about that. Neither one knew for a long time that I was having difficulties, but it passed the time and connected me to them.
I kept my meetings, and once a month I traveled for an hour to the meeting I had attended two moves previously. I kept up with the AA folks from home from before I had moved away.
I made practical plans. I bought a new car with money from our savings, because the car I was driving wouldn’t support lap/shoulder belts in the back, and the kids were getting bigger. I made plans to move back near my family and to work on a Master’s degree there. I got all this written into the seperation agreement and my plan was to move back, get a Master’s, and go work when the kids were schoolage.
Sometimes, in my most panicky moments, I considered drinking briefly. A few things kept me sober through this. Mostly, I believed and had experienced that if I went back to drinking, it would be as bad as it had been before, and then get worse. I understand that I couldn’t get or stay sober for someone else, but I also knew that if I drank, I couldn’t function as a mother. I “thought it through” in a big way, picturing my daughter, at six, trying to get up and get ready for school on her own or while trying to take care of her brother. I knew she would do this, and the image was unacceptable to me. It still chokes me up to think about it, even though I know it will never happen.
I had known a woman who attended a meeting I attended several years before that. She had a daughter my daughter’s age. This woman was out of jail while waiting to be sentenced for driving drunk and causing someone’s death. She had to make arrangements for someone to take care of her daughter, maybe for years. I knew and believed that this also could and would happen to me, along with every other awful thing I had ever heard about.
In the relationship breakup that I had suffered through before, my choice was drink or die. This time it was more like drink or live. I pictured my kids telling their “story” when they were grown (the result of listening to thousands of stories through the years). I saw them say, “And then my father left, and then my mother fell apart.” Again, not acceptable to me at that time.
I don’t know why I was blessed then with the ability to still believe in the program and the people, to really know that drinking would make things worse, and to believe that I would get through the hard parts and that they wouldn’t last forever. I understand that these things are impossibly hard for some other to believe and that I, like them, had often found the world to be intolerable and had taken refuge in a chemically altered mind. The gift of that ability to believe is something I often wish I could give to others when I care about them and see them reject all or part of the program. Just last night someone I care about said that she had been out drinking, and that it was OK, that AA had taught her moderation. I guess that works sometimes, but I don’t think it would work for me. Just the fact that somone says that screams to me that they are alcoholic. I also wouldn’t do it now, even if I could. I wouldn’t, not hardly ever.