Motherhood has been the most challenging experience of my life, but also the most rewarding. I became a mother in my early twenties in a chaotic, fear-based relationship. That was the first time I asked myself if God was real and if I have faith in His plan for my life. Choosing to be a mother was the first decision I ever made towards honouring my spiritual self – enough to make a tangible step towards trusting in a plan unfolding for my life.
Becoming a mother was not a logical choice, it was a choice based on faith. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and intuitively, I knew the relationship with his father would not last forever. I did hope that if I tried my best, I could be a happy, healthy and loving mother. For me, becoming a mother was a catalyst for change in my life, but change never lasted until I quit drinking alcohol and developed a personal relationship with God. I didn't know it then, but my decision to pursue sobriety was the first concrete step of making a committment to my own recovery process.
In 2005, after a spiritual experience of God's love, I came into recovery with a resolve to follow God's will and change my life. The only sense of direction I had about following God was through my Catholic religion. So, I went back again and again to my fear-based relationship trying to “fix it” convinced that God's will was for us to be a nuclear family. Today I know that I was also being subconsciously driven by my family values, perfectionism and playing God versus trusting God. In 2006 & 2007, we had two more beautiful children together, but no matter what I did, their father would not/could not love me. Without hope & love, I never had any peace. And I could not raise my children without it.
Through much soul searching, I realized feeling unloved for the rest of my life was not the plan of a God who loves me. There are no mistakes in God’s world, but I needed to forgive myself for my old ideas and realign myself with the loving power that made me want to change my life. I needed to get to know a God of my own understanding to begin again.
I decided if God made me a single mother of three children, He must believe I can do it. So I would try to be the best single mother of three children ever. I approached motherhood as a learning opportunity. I learned to trust God and allow Him to reveal His will to me - in His time, not mine. My "mother work" became to provide a stable, loving home despite all my personal challenges with poverty, mental health and my recovery. As a mother, I had moments of pride and success. I also had heartbreaking moments of personal failure. But, no matter what happened, I never gave up.
Fast forward ten years and one of my children started facing significant problems at home and school. I was worried about their friends, school and relationships with each other. I worried that if I did nothing, all of their futures would be at stake. I finally surrendered that I was not the best person to guide them on this part of their journey. I did not want to separate my children from each other, so they all moved in with their father. The result was that life as I knew it with my children, fell completely apart. To say this broke my heart would be an understatement. I gave up my life for my children. Then they became my life. Then I had to give them up again. If you don’t know that particular pain, I pray you never do.
My grief, loss and idle hands led me to investing my time and energy in building Mother’s Recovery Tribe Society (now Mother's Recovery Society) from a Facebook group into a nonprofit organization. I needed a way to turn my pain into purpose. These mothers on their individual paths of recovery and motherhood - gave me exactly that. The MRS community gave me the self-acceptance, compassion and clarity I needed to move forward in this new life. As a recovering perfectionist, I began to understand that motherhood can look different for different people. I started to validate myself as a good mother doing the right thing for my children. With their love, support and encouragement, I moved away from my recovery community to live closer to my children, as I reinvented myself as their Mom.
The next few years were the hardest years of my life. I cannot begin to explain the awkwardness of visiting with my children in restaurants and the nights of going to sleep asking God —Why? when I worked so hard to be a good mother that He took them away. I struggled financially and endured judgement, shame and assumptions made by people that knew absolutely nothing about me and my children. As a single mother of three children, this was not my first time rising above the gossip, rumours and whispers of people with nothing better to do than talk about other people, but it still hurt me profoundly to have the deepest part of my heart, the love I have for my children, be in question. I knew from experience that if I tried to argue and prove them wrong, I would only serve to give their point of view my energy and attention. I needed to trust that I was doing the right thing by God and let Him prove them wrong with the outcome of my life. In my experience, that is really the only thing that ever works.
After walking through and maintaining my sobriety through that season of my life, I truly believe that I can get through anything sober. Those challenges gave me the priceless gift of making peace with being alone and a profound sense of gratitude in being their mother. I learned that being a good mother is not about what other people think of me, but about doing what is best for my children. Now, because of the Mother's Recovery Society community, I know I am not alone on my individual path of motherhood.
Today, Mother's Recovery Society has 1.5K mothers in recovery in our private Facebook group. Through funding provided by Red Cross Canada, we have been able to offer online relapse prevention programming during COVID-19 that has empowered our community. We have also been able to offer a podcast of our speaker meetings, direct aid, programs, services and learning opportunities to our members such as The Canadian Trauma and Addictions Conference: Helping Individuals Heal and Recover | Mental Health and Education Professionals Presented by Gabor Maté, M.D., Stanton Peele, etc. These opportunities will help us achieve our MRS mission to engage, educate and empower mothers in recovery from the effects of drug and alcohol misuse by increasing access to community, education and resources that decrease intergenerational trauma, develop recovery capital and support the maintenance of long-term recovery.
I am so proud of the work we are accomplishing in our MRS community through mothers empowering mothers. I have never before experienced the level of vulnerability, strength and hope that is shared in our meetings. I know when we share, we are healing the stigma, shame and despair of isolation, poverty and addiction. I am equally thrilled that this work has begun this year with creating a private Facebook group and Speaker Meeting for Dad's Recovery Society. I have had the honour of hearing the stories and seeing the connections being made by dads in recovery and I am in awe of the impact this group of sober dads are having on each other already. This is how we recover, rebuild and renew our lives - together.
These recovery communities are changing the lives of mothers, fathers and their children in Canada. I know that I would not have been able to invest the time and energy that was required to build these societies, if I had been living full time with my children. I invested my love in my community. This reality builds my faith in God that I can trust Him with my life because each and every time I surrender and trust in God's plan, I am grateful that I did.
I have become the mother I had hoped I would be – happy, healthy and loving. Although life looks different, my children know they are loved unconditionally by both their parents. They have also had the opportunity to have a closer relationship with their father, which has always been important to me. That was something I did not have for myself. Honestly, I did not see my life unfolding this way. Outside of my community, I still feel judged, but with their support, I am getting better at letting go and trusting in the greater plan, the one only God can see. Today, I don't let shame, stigma and the ignorance of others hold me back. They simply don't understand, and that's okay. They don't need to. I understand. I don't need their validation. I have my own. I know I am doing my very best, to be the best mother I can be.
Today I know that my life is aligned with my Higher Power's because I have peace. I’m not perfect, my family isn't perfect and we don’t need to be – I love all of us as a beautiful work in progress. If you are going through hard times, I hope my story will build your faith that God will use everything in your life for a purpose, as He has in mine. It is critical for our spirits to connect with inspiration on a daily basis (especially now) so I will leave you with this inspiring passage by Martin Luther King from his sermon, Shattered Dreams:
What, then, is the answer? We must accept our unwanted and unfortunate circumstance and yet cling to a radiant hope. The answer lies in developing the capacity to accept the finite disappointment and yet cling to the infinite hope ...This means sitting down and honestly confronting your shattered dream. Don't follow the escapist method of trying “to put it out of your mind.” This will lead to repression which is always psychologically injurious. Place it at the forefront of your mind and stare daringly at it. Then ask yourself, “how can I transform this liability into an asset?” ... Almost anything that happens to us can be woven into the purposes of God. It may lengthen our cords of sympathy. It may break our self-centered pride. Even the cross, which was willed by wicked men, was woven by God into the redemption of the world.
Thank you for reading,
Please follow Frances on Instagram for updates on her 2021 release of her self-published memoir on her motherhood journey, (tentative title) Mother in Recovery - From Poverty to Purpose. If you are a mother in recovery looking for support, please join our online Facebook group here! If you are a dad in recovery, looking for support, please join the Dad's Recovery Society Facebook group here! If you would like to donate to our community, we will gratefully accept your donation: firstname.lastname@example.org